United Methodist church leaders were challenged to be intentional about making peace in conflict areas in Africa during a mission visit to Kenya and the Central Africa Republic, where The United Methodist Church has its newest mission stations.
Six members of the Council of Bishops, representing Africa, the Philippines and the United States, along with three staff members of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, took part in November.
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Before embarking on the trip, the church leaders met with leadership of the All Africa Conference of Churches, a fellowship of Christian churches in Africa representing more than 120 million Christians across the continent. It is the largest association of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox and indigenous churches in Africa and is a member of the worldwide ecumenical network.
Dr. Bright Mawudor, deputy secretary general of the All Africa Conference, cited prevention, mediation, humanitarian assistance and post-conflict development as roles of the church.
He cautioned the visiting United Methodists leaders about how most of their members were counting on them to help resolve the conflicts in their countries, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central Africa Republic.
He named ethnicity, political transitions and corruption as the main drivers of conflicts on the continent of Africa. He also pointed out that while religious intolerance and radical extremism are often projected as the cause of most conflicts in Africa, the real reason for persistent conflicts is corruption.
"The leaders in these conflict spots just need people or institutions like the church to engage them in a dialogue," he stressed.
Mawudor noted that the All Africa Conference of Churches is a movement and as such, it is reaching out to African leaders to tell them the needs of the people.
South Carolina Area Bishop L. Jonathan Holston said the church is interested in strengthening its ecumenical relationship with the All Africa Conference of Churches and other religious institutions that are involved in bringing peace to the world.
He also indicated that the Council of Bishops, through its ecumenical commission, needs to collaborate with the All Africa Conference in order to train young United Methodists in ecumenism.
Mississippi Area Bishop James Swanson said The United Methodist Church needs to engage leaders on both sides of the divide.
The five-day mission trip was organized by the church's mission agency. Representatives visited United Methodist churches in Bangui while other members of the delegation led discussions with members of the church in Central Africa Republic.
E Julu Swen and Isaac Broune, communicator, Liberia.
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