Updated January 2006
The Africa Office achieved much this year in spite of there not being an area executive from April until July 15, 2005. Much gratitude is owed to the Africa Office staff, under the guidance of Indianapolis-based executives, for the hard-work required to maintain the office in the absence of an executive. Without that sense of professionalism, it would have been extremely difficult for the new executive to make a smooth transition into the position.
Considering that the new executive has only been in office a short period of time, this report will give some highlights of what has been happening with some of our partner churches over the past few months. A travel report on the eight African nations visited will be given at the next meeting, as at the time this report was due, the actual travel had not been completed.
Significant Events in Africa
There were at least three significant events that preoccupied the Africa Office and each reflected an understanding of critical presence in the relationship with our partners.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
On July 2-3, hundreds of soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo went on a rampage after finding one of their colleagues brutally killed by angry townspeople in Bolenge and Mbandaka, where the majority of our partners in the Congo are located. In an act of revenge, fellow troops broke into the armory, stole the weapons and started pillaging. The rampaging troops used to belong to one of the militias fighting in the northeastern region and had been integrated into the army at the end of the civil war – a war that involved most of the surrounding nations. The troops went through the towns of Bolenge and Mbandaka beating up civilians, looting homes and institutions. The Bolenge hospital and nearby homes were pillaged. In some cases, patients at the hospital were even forced to help the perpetrators carry away the items looted – mattresses, beds, medicines. There were several illness-related deaths. In an effort to stand with our partners, the Africa Office wrote a letter to the regional governor calling for an investigation and bringing those responsible to justice. A letter was also written to the US Embassy calling for an investigation and protection for our partners and missionary personnel. There was an outpouring of concern and sympathy by individuals and organizations in the US for those who lost everything they owned. One Great Hour of Sharing and Week of Compassion have been responsive to the critical need for medicine. A resolution was passed at the General Assembly calling attention to the plight of our partners.
On July 19th, there was a very unfortunate incident involving a young lady from Elmhurst College who traveled to South Africa with other UCC students to visit several projects supported by Global Ministries through our partners in South Africa – United Congregational Church of Southern Africa. Another American – totally unrelated and unknown to those in the group from Elmhurst — stabbed the young lady. She was in critical condition for several days and was not able to travel for at least six weeks. We are grateful to our volunteer on site who was available to offer care, and to our missionaries who kept the line of communication opened. We are equally grateful to our UCCSA partners who immediately embraced the concept of “critical presence” by providing assistance, pastoral care and guidance to the father of the girl at the point of greatest need, even though this was not a Global Ministries related trip, as well as to the group members who continued their in-country travel. The father and daughter stayed with Scott and Susan Couper Valiquette at Inanda Seminary for one month while the daughter recuperated.
The third significant event was the arbitrary and senseless displacement of Zimbabweans by President Mugabe and his government. Our partners of the United Church of Christ –Zimbabwe and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa were both seriously affected by this unthinkable cruelty which saw thousands of people displaced in what the government termed “Murambatsvina” (drive out filth), Operation Cleanup. Again, Week of Compassion and One Great Hour of Sharing generously responded to this human tragedy at a moment of critical need.
Advocacy has not suffered this year as the Program Associate has been very active in terms of advocating “water for all,” especially in places where water is still a luxury commodity rather than a necessity. HIV/AIDS has continued to be a major focus of advocacy.
The Africa Office’s priorities continue to be focused on debt and HIV/AIDS. There is continued support for Jubilee USA’s focus on debt cancellation and we celebrate the G8 Nation’s (top eight industrialized nations) approval of the cancellation of debt for some of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC),as we push for the cancellation of debt for countries outside of the HIPC designation.
The office continues to support the HIV/AIDS projects throughout the region. Through the work of our HIV/AIDS coordinator and CGMB missionary in southern Africa, Rev. Adora Lee, the office is enabling local churches in seven countries to both scale up and coordinate projects while learning best practices from brothers and sisters working in the field. Our emphasis continues to be on women and children, as well as on development and the fight against malaria and tuberculosis. In both West and East Africa, the office continues to work with our partners in creating culturally and contextually relevant programs and projects that will give aid and support to those made most vulnerable by the disease.
The office has added “water” to its advocacy priorities and launched the Global Ministries’ “The Race for Water” campaign at both Synod and General Assembly. Through the efforts of the Global Education and Advocacy Team, both national events featured presentations, contests and “College of Missions” moments where the issue of access to, and privatization of, water were highlighted. The Africa office joins Church World Service, Week of Compassion and One Great Hour of Sharing in focusing on water. As part of that focus, the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and its “Water for Life” campaign is also part of the office’s emphasis on water.
In all that we do, the primary goal of the Africa office is to “love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” 1John 3:18