Church Must Find Ways to Address “new forms of violence”: Catholic Priest in Sierra Leone

The Executive Director of Caritas Freetown in Sierra Leone, Fr. Peter Konteh. Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh

The Catholic Church in Africa has distinguished herself as an agent of peace amid conflict, the Executive Director of Caritas Freetown in Sierra Leone has observed, noting that the Church must now adapt to what he describes as “new forms of violence”.

In his address at a four-day Migration Festival that was celebrated at San Carlo Theatre in Modena, Italy, Fr. Peter Konteh identified cybercrime, religious extremism, and human rights violations as some of the emerging forms of conflicts that the Church must find ways to address.

“In a rapidly changing world, the Church must adapt its approaches to address emerging conflicts and promote peace effectively. It must engage with new forms of violence, such as cybercrime, religious extremism, and social media-driven conflicts,” Fr. Konteh said at the event that ended on October 28.

He added, “The Church must also confront issues of social injustice, corruption, and human rights violations that can undermine peace and stability.”

The Caritas Freetown official was invited at the event to speak about the topic, “The Catholic Church as agents of peace, focusing on Sierra Leone and Africa”.


In his address, Fr. Konteh shared broadly on the Catholic Church's pivotal role in promoting peace and reconciliation in Sierra Leone following the West African country’s 11-year civil war that ended in 2002.

“As we gather here today, I am reminded of the immense significance of peace in our lives, especially in the context of Sierra Leone and Africa as a whole,” the member of the Clergy of Sierra Leone’s Freetown Archdiocese said.

He added, “Sierra Leone, like many African nations, has endured its fair share of conflict and instability. The scars of a brutal civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002 are still fresh in our memories. The effects of that conflict were devastating, resulting in the loss of countless lives, displacement of people, and the destruction of infrastructure. It is against this backdrop that the role of the Catholic Church as agents of peace becomes all the more crucial.”

He noted that throughout history, the Catholic Church in the West African country had stood as a beacon of hope, advocating for peace, justice, and reconciliation.

“The Church's teachings emphasize the sanctity of human life, the dignity of every person, and the pursuit of justice. These principles form the foundation for a peaceful society,” Fr. Konteh said, adding that in Sierra Leone, the Catholic Church has played a pivotal role in promoting peace and healing wounds inflicted by violent conflict.

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In West Africa, Sierra Leone is notably a peaceful country compared with her neighbors that are wrecked by religious-based violence. 

In his address at the event in Italy, Fr. Konteh attributed the peaceful coexistence in his native country that is only 22 percent Christian and 77 percent Muslim to an existing strong platform for interreligious dialogue and cooperation.

He noted that the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) is a testament to the Church's dedication to fostering unity among different religious groups. 

The award-winning Catholic Priest said that by bringing together leaders from various faith traditions, the Church in Sierra Leone had facilitated dialogue, built trust, and promoted understanding among communities. “This collaboration has been instrumental in mitigating religious tensions and contributing to the overall peace and stability of our nation,” he said.

He added that through Caritas Freetown’s Justice and Peace Commission, the Church in Sierra Leone had also actively engaged in mediating conflicts and promoting reconciliation.


Fr. Konteh said that through the commission’s programs, the Church had created spaces for dialogue, facilitated truth and reconciliation processes, and provided support to victims of violence. 

“By embracing peaceful means of conflict resolution, the Church has served as a bridge between opposing factions, promoting forgiveness and healing,” he said.

Fr. Konteh went on to laud the Church's commitment to education and social development as instruments of promoting peace. 

“Through its schools, universities, and social programs, the Catholic Church has given individuals knowledge and skills, fostering a sense of self-worth and promoting economic opportunities,” he said.

He continued, “Education plays a vital role in creating a peaceful society by addressing the root causes of conflict, such as poverty, ignorance, and inequality. The Church, through its educational institutions, has been proactive in equipping individuals with the tools necessary to build a peaceful and prosperous nation.”

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The Migration Festival was “born as a moment of study, protection and promotion of the right to travel”, according to information on its website.

It has been described as “a conscious voice expressed by civil society on migratory phenomena.”

“The basic idea was to contribute to the public debate on the topic, so as not to leave the discussion only to social and political forces which by their nature have legitimate specific (or partisan) objectives not directly linked to the profound reality of the phenomenon.

Speakers at the 8th edition of the festival explored a wide range of topics that were punctuated with testimonials and an array of other activities. 

Some of the topics included, “The Health of Immigrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers:  health aspects and inter-religious and inter-cultural aspects”, and “Generations and migrations: role and projects of the institutions”.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.