Wednesday, March 26, 2014

More than 120 African leaders from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other African countries gathered in Kampala, Uganda, Jan. 12-18, 2014 for the Great Lakes Initiative (GLI) Leadership Institute.

2014 GLI Leadership Institute participantsNow in its eighth year, the GLI Leadership Institute provides a focused week of theological study, communal worship, rest, and opportunities to partner with leaders of ministries of reconciliation throughout East Africa.

The GLI is a partnership of Duke Divinity School’s Center for Reconciliation (CFR), African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries, Mennonite Central Committee, and World Vision, but this year the East African partners took a more strategic role than ever before in leading the institute. In addition, partner organizations contributed more than $42,000 of the required $102,000 to run the institute and to provide scholarships for participants.

Focusing more on East African leadership in the GLI is part of the partners' collaborative plan to make the GLI a movement informed and inspired by African leaders in the region. It also marks a great shift in the initiative, said GLI ambassador Wilfred Mlay.

"What will the new chapter of the GLI look like? Regional partners, working with CFR and a selected transition team will take responsibility for establishing the GLI more firmly in the region,” said Mlay.  “At the end of the transition period culminating in the 2015 GLI Institute, the GLI will become a regional entity with adequate capacity and resources to serve the needs of the movement and its members. The regional partners, working through a governing board, will take responsibility for coordinating, resourcing, and managing the annual institute and stewarding emerging programs supported by partners at country level.”

As in past years, the GLI Leadership Institute continued its teaching partnership with classes co-taught by Duke Divinity professors and academics from across East Africa. Ellen Davis, professor of Bible and practical theology, co-taught a class on theology and the land with Ghanaian author Femi Adeleye.

New to the GLI Leadership Institute was the presentation of a Scholar of the Year award by the non-profit ScholarLeaders International (SI). SI provides assistance for leaders in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America to attend seminary. The 2014 award was presented by David Kasali, founder of the Bilingual Christian University of the Congo, for his commitment to providing new opportunities for Congolese students to pursue their academic dreams following war in the country.

Katongole with Kate Davelaar, CFR international programs coordinatorAt the 2014 GLI Leadership Institute, CFR co-founder Fr. Emmanuel Katongole returned after a two-year absence to teach and to experience the GLI with new eyes.

"If there is any lingering question of African leadership, the GLI is both the case and evidence," he said. "It is amazing to see the quality and style of leadership that has come to carry forward the GLI in a truly shared mantle of African leadership. I could not but be extremely proud and humbled to sit back and watch the fruits of our efforts multiplied."

Alex Treyz, M.Div’16, took a class on practical spirituality led by Violette Nyirarukundo Mwenedata, founder of El Ezer Counseling Ministry in Rwanda. This year was Treyz’ first experiencing the GLI community.

“Observing through the week, I could tell why people have returned year after year to the GLI,” she said. “At GLI people are supported in community. They are free to lament, to share stories of pain and hope, to worship the God they love freely and joyfully, and to learn. I'm so grateful to have been a part of it and will continue to reflect upon my experience there throughout my time at Duke.”