The Cross of Bullets

by Gerry Lynch last modified 23 Jul, 2014 03:16 PM

Mozambican Bishop who played instrumental role in ending his country’s lengthy civil war revisits Salisbury, where he trained in the 1970s.

The Cross of Bullets

Bishop Dinis presents the Cross of Bullets as a gift to Bishop Nicholas

A Mozambican bishop made a trip down memory lane in Salisbury recently – and presented Bishop Nicholas with a very special gift.

The Right Revd Dinis (pronounced ‘Dinnish’) Sengulane presented Bishop Nicholas with a pectoral cross made from two bullets and the firing bolt of a rifle – deadly artefacts of Mozambique’s 15 year civil war from the 1970s until the 1990s, now turned through creativity into symbols of peace.

The cross is a product of one of Bishop Dinis’ proudest achievements – the ‘Swords into Ploughshares’ initiative. When Mozambique’s civil war ended in 1992, the country was awash with weapons, much productive farmland was strewn with mines, and the younger generation had grown up knowing nothing but war.

Bishop Dinis created a scheme where more than 600,000 weapons were anonymously exchanged for items useful in civilian life, such as books, bicycles, building materials and sewing machines.

While some weapons were broken and melted down for useful metal, others were recycled into pieces of art, some of which have been displayed internationally, including at the British Museum.

Bishop Dinis retired earlier this year after 38 years as Bishop of Lebombo, which made him the longest serving bishop in the Anglican Communion. The Diocese of Lebombo covers the southern part of Mozambique, including the southern African nation’s capital, Maputo.

Bishop Dinis trained at Salisbury Theological College in the early 1970s, and was catapulted into high office at a young age – he was made a deacon in 1974, ordained in 1975 and consecrated as a bishop in 1976. That was a year that would prove to be part of a pitifully short two year interlude between his country’s nine year long War of Independence from Portugal and the outbreak of its Civil War.

In the face of destruction and mass displacement of people, the Anglican Church grew enormously in Mozambique under Bishop Dinis’ leadership.

Mozambique’s Civil War was used as a proxy war by outside powers, with what was then the USSR funding and arming one side and apartheid South Africa, and in the early phases Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, funding and arming the other. In the late 1980s, Bishop Dinis led an ecumenical group of church leaders who brought representatives of the parties to the Civil War together and led to an agreed set of principles by which the war could be brought to an end.

This helped ensure that the Civil War came to an end relatively quickly, and led to a durable peace, when the contemporary regimes in both Moscow and Pretoria fell in short order.

See Mozambique's amazing transformation of weapons into art: both the Tree of Life and the Throne of Weapons have been displayed at the British Museum.

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