“Even though Africa and the world are broken by impacts of COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges, God’s love has remained at the center of our hope, healing and source of unity,” said Bishop Jonah Katoneene Mwesigwa of the Church of Uganda.
The gathering took time to explore the challenges facing the continent. “Human rights abuses, COVID-19 vaccine injustice, conflicts in countries such as Ethiopia, Libya and South Sudan, rise in coup d’etats in Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali, militant activities in Nigeria, unemployment, climate change impacts and poor quality of spiritual life as a result of COVID- 19,” they named.
“What can the church do?” they asked. “It is time for the church to raise its voice and condemn all forms of undemocratic rules, address injustices and call for social cohesion,” said Rt. Rev. Arnold Temple, representing the Methodist Church in Sierra Leone.
Mwesigwa added: “We must speak with one voice and be a source of healing among the traumatized. The church needs to promote hope in despair.”
Signs of hope
The gathering observed that that amidst the challenges facing the continent, recent happenings in several countries have given hope for the future. “The South Africa government is considering lifting the state of emergency that has been in place since the outbreak of COVID-19. We have seen policies developed to address gender-based violence and in some cases perpetrators given harsh punishment. Churches and civil society organisations are now coming together to address concerns affecting people. These are signs of hope,” said Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay, representing the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa.
Strong presence at the assembly
As the WCC 11th Assembly approaches, the gathering felt there is need to have a strong African presence and impact the assembly. “The assembly theme ‘Christ's love moves the world to reconciliation and unity’ is apt and timely even as we reflect on the issues of our continent. How does the African agenda impact the assembly? We need to prepare ourselves to ensure that our issues are effectively discussed at the assembly,” said Temple.
They further called on the WCC central committee to stand in solidarity with the church and people in Nigeria.