Great Lakes Initiative Gathering, 2010
African leaders discuss “Politics, Leadership, and the Christian Calling” during annual Center for Reconciliation event
In partnership with African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries, Mennonite Central Committee, and World Vision International, the Duke Center for Reconciliation convened a meeting of 110 African leaders from eight countries from Jan. 12-15, 2010 in Bujumbura, Burundi.
Participants were practitioners in reconciliation and represented a variety of non-governmental organizations, church denominations, schools and universities, and grassroots ministries. During three days of plenary lectures, specialized seminars, pilgrimage, and rich conversation, they delved deep into issues of politics and Christian leadership in Africa.
Politics, Leadership, and the Christian Calling Photo Journal
See photos of the event, narrated by co-director of the Center for Reconciliation Emmanuel Katongole:
Guided by a workbook published by the Center for Reconciliation (pdf), each of the three days of the gathering focused on the biblical story of Esther as a model for political engagement. The first day focused on time and regional context. The second focused on Mordecai and the importance of mentors. Day Three centered on Esther and models of engagement.
Dr. Emmanuel Katongole, co-director of the Center for Reconciliation and a Catholic priest from Uganda, began by analyzing the political and social context of the African Great Lakes region.
“We gather at a critical time in the history of many of our countries,” he explained, noting that Burundi’s national and presidential elections happen in May and that Rwanda’s presidential elections are scheduled for August.
Uganda also is preparing for national elections in 2011 amid growing concerns of violence. In April, Sudan will hold national elections, setting the stage for a 2011 referendum that will determine the future of Southern Sudan and the nation as a whole.
The Government of National Unity in Kenya is maintaining a tenuous power-sharing arrangement while edging toward national presidential elections in 2012, with the post-election violence of 2007 still fresh in people’s memories. Since 1998, the fighting in Eastern Congo, one of the largest and richest countries in Africa, has left more than 3.5 million people dead, and 3.8 million more homeless, according to Amnesty International.
“This is a time when millions of our people feel expectancy and anxiety, frustration and anticipation, hope and despair,” Katongole said. “We can understand this time as a kairos moment, a moment of crisis and truth.”
Panelists went on to describe their countries’ contexts, highlighting this as “a time when God issues a challenge to decisive action.”
This gathering also provided an opportunity to name signs of hope, to identify and learn from inspiring leaders, and to rediscover each person’s calling as ambassadors of God’s reconciliation.
“Participants learned that the realization of God’s promise of peace is always intertwined with the social, historical and political developments of the places where we live,” said Chris Rice, co-director of the Center. “Therefore, a calling as ambassadors is a politically charged assignment. Leaders must understand the whole range of practices, mechanisms, and visions that shape and drive the politics of nations. Analysis of what is happening on the political front invigorates and sustains the Christian call by providing context for the strategies, models, vision and skills required for times of crisis and truth.”
On the second day of the gathering, participants traveled to Ruyigi, Burundi to visit, Maison Shalom Maggy Barankitse’s holistic ministry for the community. Maggy proved to be a mentor for many at the gathering.
“Like Mordecai in the book of Esther, Maggy reminded participants that mentors are challenging dreamers who are persistent and help us name our individual callings,” Katongole said.
The final day of the gathering featured Dr. Celestin Musekura, founder and president of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM). He focused on practices and skills for engaging politics, with Esther as a guide.
He expressed how Esther models an engaged faith that recognizes that extraordinary times call for leaders with extraordinary courage, commitment, and sacrifice. Participants then discussed practical models for community engagement and began to plan next steps in their own contexts.
“Participants left the gathering with new energy and determination to advocate for reconciliation in their communities,” Rice said. “New friendships and collaborations promise to nourish the seeds planted during these three days and to impact thousands.”