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WCC Calls on Africa to arise with Vigour
by Mitch Odero
CAPA 040504-5
May 4, 2004

[CAPA - Kenya] Africa must arise with renewed vigour to reclaim her place in the world, the President for Africa of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Dr. Agnes Abuom said at a public lecture in Nairobi, Kenya.

Representing the WCC Moderator, His Holiness Aram I, Dr. Abuom noted that for Africa to move on, the ecumenical movement would be an invaluable instrument, particularly in the endeavour “to provide space for moral replenishment and recovery from contemporary social and political traumas”, which ”have invaded” Africa and its institutions. His Holiness Aram I could not travel to Nairobi, having been taken ill.

Dr. Abuom, a staunch Anglican who formerly worked with the Anglican Church of Kenya, noted that the ecumenical movement would also need to be transformed to effectively provide space of reflective dialogue among leaders and policy makers in Africa.

She expressed her appreciation that the visibility of the African continental ecumenical movement was being mirrored and articulated through the programmatic vision of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), which should “reflect the intrinsic value of theologies of Africa”.

Calling for ecumenical unity, Dr.Abuom advised that it would be necessary for the various languages and cultures of African people to be in dialogue beyond the “colonial identity motifs, which they tend to represent”.

“The ecumenical movement should also be engaged in discernment, moral formation and peace building in its work in social and political transition in Africa,” Dr. Abuom went on.

She pointed out that the current challenge of the ecumenical movement “is to develop alternative measures and methodologies for comprehensive understanding of the prevailing conditions that lead to conflicts in the continent”.

Referring to the church’s role in healing, forgiveness and reconciliation, she stressed: “We at the WCC do not believe in cheap forgiveness and reconciliation. The truth must be told and accepted and then, and only then, memory shall be respected. The church has a very unique role in creating space for restorative justice, where the oppressors and the oppressed come together in a dialogue”.

Earlier the WCC General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Sam Kobia, told the audience at the public lecture that the 21st Century will be dominated by politics of identity from two sources, being the religious and ethnic identity.

In attempting to protect their identities, people tend to build walls around them, leading to conflicts on the boundaries of the walls. The 21st Century will also experience a clash of civilisation and a clash over faith, he added.

For this reason, dialogue between different faiths and civilisations should be encouraged so that people would regard their differences as positive resources. “Religions should not be the source of conflicts but platforms for forgiveness and reconciliation,” he added.

Dr. Kobia challenged the so called prosperity gospel “where Christianity has been turned into a commodity for quick money-making enterprise”.

He noted that Africa had been “invaded” by commercialisation of Christianity, urging that such “commodification” of Christianity should be discouraged.

WCC, he went on “affirms that the soul of Africa is part of the soul of the world.”

Dr Kobia, a Kenyan, is the first African General Secretary of the WCC.