The Denis Hurley Peace Institute named after South African Catholic Archbishop Denis Eugene Hurley, a critical voice of the church during Apartheid, would like to be associated with his stance that the church (its people and organizations) must become a community serving humanity. The Institute hopes to do this by serving people in conflict situations ensuring that building peace addresses the root causes of conflict and the processes by which the peace is achieved, respects the human rights of people.

The vision is that the Denis Hurley Peace Institute will be a credible and respected peace-builder in Africa and internationally, actively upholding the social teaching that peace is much more than the absence of war.

Its mission is to build and co-labour for peace in Africa and internationally through solidarity with and service to humanity in conflict through the promotion of dialogue, justice and reconciliation.

The goal of the Denis Hurley Peace Institute (hereafter Hurley Institute) is the enhanced capacity for an informed and appropriate response to conflict by the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) in particular and faith-based leadership in general, acting in solidarity with other civil society partners for the benefit of humanity.

Strategic Objectives and Approach

As an ally in the advocacy for peace and justice, the Institute is established as a professional and independent organization with the following three strategic objectives:

  • Enhanced capacity of Catholic and faith-based leadership in their peacemaking in Africa
  • Increased successful advocacy for an end to violent conflict
  • Established, effective organizational and administrative support structure in the form of a peace institute

The strategic approach is to make a difference in the lives of communities through enhancing the capacity of faith-based leadership to represent and support communities achieving their needs at national and international peacemaking and peace-building efforts in countries in conflict. A further element of the strategic approach is to work with networks including non-governmental organizations and other civil society groups to influence multi-lateral government organisations such as the United Nations, the African Union and national governments to ensure that justice and peace is people-centred and benefits communities not just political or military elites.

The strategic approach of the Institute works on the premise that Catholic leadership in particular and faith-based leadership in general has a substantial influence on and presence in communities in Africa and is therefore well positioned to initiate and shape dialogue for justice and reconciliation and building communities shattered by structural violence and war.

The Institute will be both responsive i.e. acting on requests and invitations from partners as well as proactive in its approach to peacemaking, peace-building and collegial encounter informed by its research and monitoring of conflict situations and innovative experiments in mediation and reconciliation.

While it is an aspect of its goal to enhance the capacity of Catholic leadership (clergy and laity) in particular and faith-based leadership in general, the impact of informed action and direction by leadership, is intended to be more widely spread to include a positive impact on communities in need at local level irrespective of faith, ethnic, economic, social or political identity or affiliation.

Further, while the Institute will offer particular support to the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) and while the requests from in-country partners have been, in the main, to share the South African case study of struggle, negotiation and transition to democracy, the Institute aims to be a resource for Africa and to model the pan-African focus in the structure of its Board and focus of its programmatic work. It aims to be gender balanced, multi-faith and regionally representative within the three years of its establishment i.e. 2008.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DENIS HURLEY PEACE INSTITUTE (DHPI) update date: October 2020 by Jeanette Lesisa 



South Africa for historical reasons commanded world attention for decades. The word that best describes this attention is the word ‘apartheid’, a form of constitutionalised racism. Few political structures have captivated world attention in the way apartheid did.  It united socialist and capitalist countries against it; it brought about a unity of purpose between rich and poor, East and West, in their opposition to it.

Rather than being an ugly aberration, South Africa was really an extreme parable of an entire global system.  It was, and to a certain extent still is today, literally the First World and the Third World living side by side in the closest proximity – with one literally killing the other for the sake of its own wealth and privilege, and the other suffering and dying, just out of sight and hearing of its executioners.  This bleeding land was  a microcosm of the oppressive dynamics which now govern the world order. [1]

South Africans did not stand alone in their struggle against Apartheid, the world stood with them and not least their African neighbours who received, sheltered, educated and helped train thousands of young South Africans to return home and take up the fight.  This was done at enormous cost to their own countries that paid a heavy price for this solidarity and support. It is a scandal that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC, 1996 to 1999) did not investigate gross human rights violations in neighbouring African countries that bore the brunt of the vicious South African regime’s capacity to strike back with impunity in foreign soil. Somehow those innocent people killed for offering a safe haven to so many South Africans, did not seem to count.

Since the democratic transition in 1994, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has received numerous requests for assistance in the area of conflict management from the Catholic Church across the African continent. South Africa owes a huge debt to its African neighbours for the support they gave to the country during the dark days of Apartheid. The Bishops felt the need to repay that debt by responding as best they could to the requests they received. Therefore, the Bishops  decided to establish a Peace Institute as an Associate Body of the SACBC, which would have the specific mandate to respond to the call of Africa.

DHPI has responded to African requests that are pertinent precisely because of the South African experience.

[1] Jim Wallis & Joyce Holliday, Crucible of Fire: The Church Confronts Apartheid (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1989) p.5.

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