26 Teams Compete in African Peace Cup

Sports Seen as Way to Build Multicultural Relations

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ATTERIDGEVILLE, South Africa, JUNE 15, 2010 (Zenit.org).- As the FIFA World Cup progresses in South Africa, another international soccer tournament is also under way: the 8-week Peace Cup.



The South African Peace Cup, which began June 5, has gathered 26 teams from different nations in Atteridgeville.

The tournament is being organized by the Damietta Peace Initiative and Caritas, with the sponsorship of the South African bishops' conference.

A press release on the conference's "Church on the Ball" campaign Web site explained that "sport allows spontaneous mixing that brings about uncomplicated recognition of a common humanity out of which respect and friendship can grow."

It added that the Damietta Peace Initiative has already had success in using these soccer championships between teams of different nationalities "as a peaceful mechanism that can break down prejudicial boundaries," as it has seen in "strife-torn Jos, Nigeria, where mixed teams of Muslims and Christians learned to build up solidarity across communal divides."

The peace initiative, a Franciscan, interfaith organization, works throughout Africa to build peace based on the values of nonviolence, reconciliation and respect for creation.

Martin Mande, a field worker from the peace initiative, opened the event along with Capuchin Father Kees Thönissen.

Father Thönissen addressed the athletes, underlining the importance of mutual respect to combat xenophobia.

He noted the aims of this tournament to "bring about value change through the immediate experience of the 'other' as a human being with unique qualities and skills."

The priest expressed the hope "that the ties of unity and understanding built up in the teams of this Peace Cup will spread as a leaven into South Africa's burgeoning multi-ethnic society so in need of real examples of peacefulness."