From the Worldwide Faith News archives

WCC general secretary to visit the Horn of Africa

From "Sheila Mesa" <>
Date Fri, 28 Jun 2002 14:06:33 +0200

World Council of Churches
Press Release, PR-02-17
For Immediate Use
28 June 2002

Horn of Africa visit:
WCC general secretary to address conflict and Christian-Muslim

Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of
Churches (WCC), will lead a delegation to the Horn of Africa,
1-16 July. The main purpose of the visit is to learn more about
the ongoing conflicts in the region and the peace-building role
churches can play. Raiser notes that a major need is "to reflect
with the churches on the challenge of Christians and Muslims
living together without their differences turning into sources of
conflict". The delegation will visit northern and southern Sudan,
Ethiopia and Eritrea, Tanzania and Kenya.  

Ethiopia and Eritrea

The bitter border war raging since 1998 between the two
countries appears to have been settled via a recent agreement.
Although each country is more peaceful now than at any time over
the past four decades, enormous problems of poverty, economic
instability, governance, health, internal displacement and risk
of famine remain.  

The WCC was intensively involved behind the scenes during the
border war. Raiser notes that the WCC, through Norwegian Church
Aid, facilitated contacts between religious leaders on both sides
to strengthen their capacity to contribute to ending the
conflict. "Now is the time to analyze the current situation, and
refocus their role in a new relationship between Ethiopia and
Eritrea," Raiser says.  

The WCC has two member churches in Ethiopia: the Ethiopian
Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus and the Ethiopian Orthodox
Tewahedo Church. While the present WCC general secretary has
visited Ethiopia before, it will be the first official WCC visit
to Eritrea since its independence.  

Northern and Southern Sudan

The largest country in Africa, Sudan has been longer at war than
at peace since its independence in 1956. There is a long history
of WCC involvement in trying to resolve the conflict, including
helping to broker a peace agreement in 1972. Raiser notes that
the WCC has been repeatedly invited to play a mediating role by
both the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army
(SPLA). "We have been reluctant," he explains, "because we
believe IGAD (the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development) is
the necessary political platform, and we don't want to create a
second and competing platform."   

The visit to both parts of the country is intended "to express
solidarity and encouragement, and to find out in what way the
ecumenical family can offer concrete support and help the halting
process for political solution". The WCC in 1994 set up a Sudan
Ecumenical Forum (SEF). This brought representatives from the
Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), based in Khartoum, and the New
Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC), based in the south, together
with overseas partners for monitoring and strategizing on
"appropriate forms" of ecumenical support.  

During a recent meeting of the SEF core group at the WCC offices
in Geneva, Rev. Enock Tombe, SCC general secretary, and Rev.
Haruun Ruun, NSCC executive secretary, reflected on the upcoming
ecumenical visit. Tombe expressed the hope that the visit would
help find a way for the churches to participate in the peace
process. "We want peace to come, peace which is lasting, peace
with justice." For this, he states, "the people must be involved,
the victims must be involved" in the peace process.  

Ruun notes that the international community is taking more
notice of Sudan since the attacks of September 11, and hopes that
such attention will bring more opportunities for a solution to
the long-standing conflict. Such attention, he says, means the
churches must get more involved. "The fact that the WCC is
visiting Sudan at this time is important. Do we have an
opportunity to say more about Sudan? Has the time come? What can
we do? Dr Raiser's visit is meaningful and useful to help all of
us learn how these opportunities can be taken."  

The Episcopal Church of the Sudan and the Presbyterian Church of
the Sudan are members of the WCC. This will be the first official
visit of a WCC general secretary to both parts of the Sudan.  


Despite  the relatively peaceful and democratic processes now
underway in Tanzania, economic growth is limited and the country
faces spillover effects from the crises in Burundi, Rwanda and
the Congo. The ecumenical delegation will visit the International
Tribunal on the Rwandan Genocide at Arusha, with a particular
focus, Raiser emphasizes, on "restorative justice". The visit is
also intended to renew links with the Christian Council of
Tanzania and look at relationships between the Christian and the
Muslim communities in the country.  

WCC member churches include the Anglican Church of Tanzania,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, and the Moravian Church
in Tanzania.  


Kenya has the strongest economy in the region, but faces
continuing political challenges, poverty, and health and HIV/AIDs
concerns. In visiting the churches, the delegation will look at
ways to increase the effectiveness of Christian witness in Kenyan

WCC member churches in Kenya include the African Christian
Church and Schools; the African Church of the Holy Spirit; the
African Israel Church, Ninevah; Anglican Church of Kenya; Kenya
Evangelical Lutheran Church; Methodist Church in Kenya; and the
Presbyterian Church of East Africa.  


Sudan, Khartoum: 1-3 July
Tanzania: 4-7 July
Southern Sudan: 8-9 July
Ethiopia: 10-12 July
Kenya: 12-14 July
Eritrea: 14-16 July

Delegation members:

Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, WCC general secretary
Dr Agnes Abuom, WCC president (Sudan, Kenya, Eritrea portions of
Ms Karimi Kinoti, former coordinator of FECCLAHA, All Africa
Conference of Churches
Mr Stein Villumstad, East Africa regional representative,
Norwegian Church Aid, (Sudan-Khartoum, Ethiopia, Eritrea)
Mr William Temu, WCC regional secretary for Africa
Mr Mitch Odero, head of Information & Communication Department,
All Africa Conference of Churches
Mr Peter Williams, WCC photographer and videographer (Southern
Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea)

Contacts for the delegation during the visit: 
Sudan:  Tel +249 123 03174 (Rev Enock Tombe)

4-5 July
e-mail: and/or 
Tel + 255 27 250 8855/6/7, mobile:+ 255 744 293 450 (Rev. Dr
5-7 July 
Messages on mobile no: + 255 744 291 815 or + 255 741 338 752

Ethiopia:  e-mail: (Rev. Dr Habte)

Kenya :  e-mail   Tel + 254
2 571 080/ 567 225;  Fax: + 254 2 562 385

Whole visit: mobile + 41 79 776 6880 (William Temu)

For further information, please contact Media Relations Office,
tel.:  (+41.22) 791.61.53

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a fellowship of churches,
now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from
virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is
not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The
highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately
every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in
Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general
secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.

World Council of Churches
Media Relations Office
Tel: (41 22) 791 6153 / 791 6421
Fax: (41 22) 798 1346

PO Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

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