From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
[WCC News] Ecumenical delegation on Africa's dilemmas,
"WCC Media" <Media@wcc-coe.org>
Wed, 21 Apr 2004 11:50:01 +0200
World Council of Churches 7 Press Update
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 21/04/2004 - pu-04-23
WCC representatives speak on Africa's dilemmas and genocides of the 20th
Free photos available, see below
Cf. Press Update PU-04-22 of 19 April 2004
Cf. Press Update PU-04-21 of 19 April 2004
Cf. Press Update PU-04-20 of 16 April 2004
Cf. Press Update PU-04-19 of 14 April 2004
Cf Press Update PU-04-18 of 8 April 2004
"We are often unable to live like neighbours in mutual respect and
affection in spite of humanity's enormous scientific and technological
progress," said Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia in Kigali, Rwanda.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary was speaking at a
Kigali workshop on "Hope for lasting peace in Africa", while heading an
ecumenical delegation visiting Rwanda from 16-18 April 2004. Attended by
church and ecumenical leaders from some 20 African countries, the
workshop was convened by the Protestant Council of Rwanda and the
Alliance of Evangelical Churches in Rwanda, the All Africa Conference of
Churches (AACC) and the WCC.
Kobia suggested that for Rwanda the challenge is how to transform the
genocide into a new spirit in which neighbours are seen as fellow human
beings whose life must be protected. The memory of the genocide will
remain imprinted in people's minds for a long time; this memory must
become morally able to interpret the events and identify what was lost
without forgetting God's promise, he said.
The question "Where was the church during the genocide?" needs to be
asked, and a second closely related question is "What is the church?"
Kobia said. As to where the church is today, he cited the example of
Sierra Leone, where peace education is beginning, and said that the WCC
sees its role as helping to set up such education programmes so that
peace can become rooted in people's minds and hearts.
The WCC general secretary offered workshop participants six principles
whose observance, he said, could help restore legitimacy to Africa's
institutions and bar the way to murderous ideologies.
The continent, he said, must learn to live with its history and
understand the causes of its various conflicts, including the Rwandan
genocide. It must learn to transform painful memory into a positive
memory of God's promise. It must reaffirm human dignity based on the
biblical understanding of the sacredness of the human being and the
promise of a re-created society.
Further, Africans should relativize identity issues and learn to see
people from other ethnic groups as a richness rather than as rivals or
dangerous opponents. Citing Europe as an example, he said they should
understand that people can communicate well across barriers. And
finally, because most conflicts on the continent are caused by bad
governance, Africans need to strive for good governance, Kobia said.
Justice is needed for reconciliation
The conclusions of the ecumenical workshop were summarized in a document
- the Kigali Covenant - read at a service at the Kigali stadium on
Sunday evening 18 April. In a message delivered during the service by
his representative, Father Krikor Chiftjian, the moderator of the WCC
central committee, His Holiness Aram I, emphasized that justice must be
part of the process of peace, reconciliation and forgiveness.
Underlining that the 20th century was the most violent century in human
history, marked by genocides and mass killings, he called on the
churches and the international community to ensure that genocides of the
20th century were properly acknowledged and justice offered to the
On its arrival from Nairobi the ecumenical delegation was received by
Bernard Makuza the prime minister of Rwanda. The delegation told the
prime minister that it had come to his country to convey the ecumenical
community's solidarity with the people of Rwanda, and to ask for
forgiveness for having failed to denounce the genocide with enough force
while it was happening.
A speaker at the ecumenical workshop, Rwanda's minister of Justice Eda
Mukabagwiza said that while the government has set up mechanisms of
rehabilitation and reconciliation, the country needs support in order to
regain its "lost humanity". The international community must counteract
genocidal ideologies and establish international mechanisms capable of
rapid intervention when necessary, she said.
Speaking at the service at the Kigali stadium, Rwanda's minister of
Foreign Affairs, Charles Murigande, praised the participants'
determination to oppose genocidal ideas on their return to their home
countries, their willingness to admit failures regarding the genocide,
and their commitment to support the survivors.
Full text of the Kigali Covenant:
Free high-resolution photos of the visit available at:
For more information contact:
Media Relations Office
tel: (+41 22) 791 64 21 / (+41 22) 791 61 53
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in
more than 120 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, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by
general secretary Samuel Kobia from the Methodist church in Kenya.
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