AACC President Emphasizes Church-State Complementarity

( [email protected] ) Nov 26, 2003 09:48 AM EST

Churches need to understand and take advantage of the need for complementarity between church and the State in Africa and, if the people of Africa are to progress, be prepared to denounce irregularities, said the President of the All Africa Conference of Churches, Professor Kwesi Dickson.

Addressing the over five hundred delegates from all states in Africa at the AACC General Assembly in Yaounde, Dickson said that the political power will continue to be abused until and unless the church does more than denounce the abuses.

"While the church should not abandon or compromise its prophetic responsibility, the Church in Africa also needs to be assisted to understand the principle of complementarity in areas such as economic renewal," he said, adding that the witness of the church in any country, represents a collective witness and any assault on a Church leader in any country, is an assault on the church in Africa.

In terms of democracy, Kwesi posed the question whether democracy should be extended from the political to social, economic and even familial realms or remain a question of political decision making, election and governmental institutions as the case currently appears to be? He also asked whether democracy can be turned in a society that is pluralistic as African nations are.

"I believe democracy should, essentially, be home grown. It should provide a means of transforming, not just political power, but also social, economic and even psychological aspects of power to create a truly equitable order. The African experience has been that when communities are excluded from power or when changes in ethnic power base occur, then conflicts break out," he said.

Dickson affirmed the Kenyan experience which is based on the formation of a coalition as a way of conducting politics and which recognises the multicultural nature of African societies, ensuring representation of various ethnic segments.

"We hope in time we will see most if not all nations of Africa having in place constitutions, which recognise the people as the repository of sovereign power. Churches should not tolerate bad governance; they should oppose it in no uncertain terms."

Dickson said that now that peace has been restored in many countries which were locked in civil wars in 1997, the challenge is to help former child soldiers restore their lost childhood. As an example, he cited the need for traditional cleansing ceremonies to be performed in northern Uganda, where the Lord's Resistance Army is said to have abducted 10,000 children.

"The rehabilitation and counselling of former child soldiers who were turned into killing machines, are crucial, they need to be given hope and a sense of purpose for the future", he said adding that according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, about one third of the world's child soldiers amounting to 120,000 children are in Africa.

Referring to the proliferation of arms in Africa, Dickson said that some 10 million small arms and light weapons were said to be in the hands of insurgents, local militias and a network of criminals in Africa and that the most popular brand of small arms is the AK 47 rifle.

If small arms were edible, no one would go hungry in Africa. As the supply increases, so does the price drop so that one rifle can be traded for a chicken in some parts of Africa. According to some studies, small arms alone have taken the lives of 8 million people between the last Assembly (five years ago) and now.

In terms of the cultural significance that the AK 47 has gained in Africa, Dickson said that while it represents power and even if not used, the gun threat is intimidating.

"Once small arms are in the wrong hands, they tend to outlive any peace agreements," he said.

The term "globalisation" and "global village" Dickson said, have in reality limited significance in that they apply to one fifth of the world, excluding five billion of the six billion human population on earth. At the economic level, Africa remained a mere subservient appendage to the global village, supplying a pool of cheap labour and cheap raw material and in return, it provided markets for imports of unsophisticated products.

In the filed of communication, the era of globalisation found the index of adult literacy in sub-Saharan Africa amounting to an average of 50 percent. University enrolment of high school leavers averages 2.5% compared to 77.3 percent in North America.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic which continues to decimate thousands of lives in Africa, was a topic that was high on the agenda of the AACC Assembly. Stating that the disease has become the most lethal scourge to the development of Africa, Dickson who said that it does not occur by chance but when circumstances offer a favourable breeding ground. He questioned whether Africa lacked the moral authority to deal with the epidemic.

The deployment of military personnel in conflict zones he said, added another dimension as troops increasingly become significant carriers of the virus to areas previously unaffected by the syndrome. Dickson called for an integrated and regional approach to tackle it as he believes that the crisis is an ecumenical challenge.

Referring to the plight of African children, already trapper by poverty, disease, war and insufficient aid Dickson said that they are more likely to die before the age of 5 years than children in other regions of the world. He cited statistics which bear grim witness in that Africa today has 12 million orphaned children left behind by 17 million, mostly their parents who have died of HIV/AIDS. The shocking revelation of the facts surrounding the plight of the people in Africa whose lives were being decimated by HIV/AIDS and whose quality of life was a travesty, Dickson urged the Church to be in the forefront of finding a way to turn rhetorical conviction into action.