By Collins, Carole
National Catholic Reporter , Vol. 31, No. 1
PITTSBURGH - What were nine African bishops doing on a bright-yellow school bus in Pittsburgh?
Temporarily freed from the pressures of conflict and poverty at home, they were commuting to a weeklong "school" to share experiences in reconciliation and justice and to develop peacemaking skills.
Like students across the globe on school-bus routes, the bishops exchanged lively banter and jokes on their daily rides. The activity was tempered with periods of quiet meditation and thoughtful, even passionate, discussion. And occasionally some almost missed the bus.
NCR spent three days in this hilly industrial city with the bishops, on and off the bus. There were discussions of Islamic fundamentalism over breakfast; reflections on Rwanda as the bus wended its way to dinner at a church school basement; prayers at a campus Mass led by Mozambique Bishop Jaime Goncalves, dressed in vivid orange kente fabric vestments; and discussions of South African elections on a riverboat cruise as Dixieland jazz played in the background. All this before a long bus ride to Washington, where the bishops addressed the Africa Faith and Justice Network's annual meeting. (See accompanying story.)
This African Church as Peacemaker Colloquium, called "one of a kind" by Zimbabwe Bishop Patrick Mutume, was cosponsored by the U.S. Catholic Conference, Catholic Relief Services and Duquesne University. It aimed to create a "sacred space" for reflection by the bishops from Angola, Benin, Burundi, Eritrea, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Noting the "culture of violence in Africa as in the United States," the conference was intended "to mutually encourage each other" and help the bishops "to together find in Africa a common path to peace," said Burundi Bishop Bernard Bududira.
Funded by Catholic Relief Services, the Dominican Sisters of the Sick Poor and the Holy Ghost Fathers, the meeting - conducted in three languages - also served to mobilize a diocesanwide month of prayer for the bishop's efforts and for peace in Africa and the world. At meeting's end, Duquesne University presented to each bishop a full-tuition scholarship for an African student from that country to pursue a master's degree in the university's new peace studies program.
After the were warmly welcomed by Pittsburgh's Bishop Donald Wuerl at a concelebrated Mass Oct. 2, the bishops plunged into two days of presentations on conflicts in their homelands and the peacemaking role played by the church and other groups.
U.S. Catholic Conference African affairs adviser Roburt Dumas, an organizer of the event with Holy Ghost Fr. …