Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

Young African clergy, theologians and laypersons are eager to engage with the challenging issues facing their continent and the world. This became clear in a recent essay competition for authors below 35 years by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in partnership with the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC).

The essay competition, part of the WCC Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, focused on the African context.

The competition linked to Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want and the AACC response The Africa We Pray For. It encouraged young authors to not only pray but to also do social analysis and suggest solutions for the challenges of the region around the pilgrimage themes of Truth and Trauma, Land and displacement, Gender justice and Racial justice.

The selected essays will form part of an African regional publication on the pilgrimage which will be launched later this year. Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary for Public Witness and Diakonia and Collins Kudakwashe Shava, executive secretary for Youth of the All Africa Conference of Churches will be the editors working with the talented young people.

Results of essay competition announced

Many responses were received and evaluated. Phiri announced the results on 8 January 2020. She lauded the high standard of contributions: "We received many well-written essays, which in itself is a sign of hope in the African youth's ability to articulate the signs of our times in Africa and propose solutions."

The essays celebrate the diversity of the continent and reflect the authors' church traditions, contexts and perspectives. Entrants were not only from the WCC member churches, and members and clergy of the Roman Catholic Church and charismatic churches submitted strong contributions. No contributions focussed directly on racism. However, issues around land and displacement received much attention.

The selected authors (alphabetically, by first name) and their countries are:

Agnim Valery Bitchatou                         Togo
Damon Mkandawire                              Zambia
Elie Sango Nyembo                               DRC
Emmanuel Kwizera                                Rwanda
Godfrey Owino Adera                            Kenya
Grâce Pericles Mongo-Bouya                 DRC
Iliya Ogidis Moses                                 Nigeria
Malebona Makoetje                              Lesotho
Mberikwazvo Ian Chitambo                   Zimbabwe
Moti Daba Fufa                                     Ethiopia
Ntobeko Dlamini                                   South Africa
Niyonsaba Francoise                             Rwanda
Tendaishe Tlou                                     Zimbabwe

WCC will invite the strongest contributor in each of the thematic areas to similarly themed ecumenical conversations at the WCC 11th Assembly planned in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 2021.

Stories of challenges and hope

Stories are central in recording and remembering the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. Although some of the essays provide robust academic analysis, stories – stories of visiting and re-visiting of wounds, but also stories celebrating life together and of opportunities for engaging in transformative action – were central.

Shava is enthusiastic about the role these particular stories and essays can play in transformative action on the continent. "I am excited with the level of participation in this competition, the number of young people who are willing to tell their African stories," he says. "Africa is our home, our future as young people - we need to tell and write our stories as we shape our future."

Advocates for dignity

The Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace calls on churches to be advocates for justice and peace and to protect the dignity of human beings.

The results of this essay competition make it clear that the young people of Africa listened to this call. The publication of these essays in "The Africa We Pray for on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace" will continue to amplify this call – in Africa and internationally.

Learn more about the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace