The first Christian Witness in the Public Arena Seminar of the Institute for Christian Impact (ICI), was held on the 10th of July to the 16th of July 2016 at the Hephzibah Christian Centre in Kitase, Aburi, Ghana. Hephzibah Christian Centre, in partnership with ICI, provided accommodation and all necessary meals for all the participants. 64 persons in all, including delegates and speakers from twelve different nations, participated in this preliminary seminar with West Africans being the most predominant group represented. ICI was deliberate at bringing together delegates from Francophone and Anglophone West Africa to reflect on issues confronting the continent. Countries represented include Benin République, Burkina Faso, La Côte D’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo. Speakers and facilitators were from Burundi, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, USA and Zimbabwe.
There were about 41 male and 21 female delegates, with 47 being from Anglophone nations and 17 from Francophone nations. Registration for all participants began Sunday 10th of July where delegates paid for their registration, received their name tags as well as folders containing all necessary information for the seminar. The participation of the 17 francophone delegates made the Institute contract the services of a professional translation and interpreting firm headed by Mr. Martin Matrevi to perform all necessary interpretation from English-French and vice versa during all the sessions.
Welcome & Introductions
During the welcome and introductions session on July 10 Rev. Dr. Femi Adeleye, the Director of ICI introduced and explained the mission and vision of ICI and the purpose for the July event. He explained that the theme for the week-long seminar, Mission for a Bright Africa was chosen to address the pressing challenges that our continent, Africa, faces. These include but are not limited to corruption, politics and good governance or lack of it, ethnicity, race, job creation and developing agendas for further Christian and Church involvement in society. The anticipated outcomes of this seminar are to equip professionals and younger people from all work fields with knowledge skills to apply their Christian minds to bear on issues within their sphere of public engagement.
On the first two morning of the seminar, Bishop David Zac Niringiye, a Ugandan political activist and anti- corruption advocate led delegates through Biblical reflection on the topic Mission for a Bright Africa: Biblical & Historical Mandate. He pointed out that God is very much concerned with the issue of justice administration. He stated that the three crises Africa is faced with are: Seemingly thriving Christianity, a thriving system of injustice, and a thriving element of greed. He challenged the hypocrisy that characterizes Christianity today by encouraging all delegates to be genuine in our walk with God. Furthermore, Bishop Niringiye bemoaned how Christians have consistently separated their faith from the rest of their lives.
On the fourth day of the weekly seminar, Rev. Laura Truax from Chicago, Illinois used the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17 to teach her lesson on Bearing Witness Changing Nations to help delegates appreciate how God could use simple people to transform nations. On the morning of the last day of the weeklong seminar, Rev. Dr. Femi Adeleye, delivered a session titled Changing Nations, One Sphere at a Time. He stressed that God has placed us in our various contexts according to Acts 17:26 for a purpose. He however expressed concern on how Christians compartmentalised worship and Church into a box and the rest of life in another, limiting the impact we are called to make on society. Dr. Adeleye emphasized the need to engage with all of life in the public arena as witnesses.
Plenary & Interactive Sessions
Several plenary sessions were led on relevant topics by various speakers during which delegates interacted actively. They include:
- Integration of Faith and Life: Lost ground and path to Recovery: Bishop Zac Niringiye (Uganda)
- What Kind of Leadership: Public and Private?: Professor Stephen Adei (Ghana)
- Between Worship and Witness: Contemporary Issues Facing Professionals in the Public Arena: Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam (Nigeria)
- Money Matters and Corruption: Mr. Mahama Baba (Ghana)
- Ethnicity, Race & Christian Identity in Contexts of Conflict: Mr. Emmanuel Ndikumana (Burundi)
- Community Organizing: Rev. Laura Truax (USA)
Elective Seminars & Small Groups
Several interactive elective seminars were used to address pressing issues:
- Between the Pulpit and the Public Arena: Issues facing the Church in Africa Today
- Ethical Issues in Medical Practice
- Financial Management & Integrity
- Integrity in the Business Arena
- Justice and Injustice as related to the most vulnerable people in our Context
- Maintaining spiritual vitality and relevance in the Political Arena
- Speaking Truth to Power in contemporary Africa
What Are You Angry About?
The Seminar also hosted a session for younger professionals, titled What are you Angry About? (Matters of Deep Concern): This session gave opportunity for young people to present in few words what actually makes them angry as far as their countries and Africa as a whole was concerned. Five young professionals from Burkina Faso, Ghana and Togo spoke on the issues of poverty, injustice, unemployment, corruption, and erratic power supply among others. Delegates were given the opportunity to respond to the various presentations in form of questions, comments and ways forward from a Biblical Perspective. Rev. Dr. Victor Nakah led the last plenary session of the week by administering a session titled How Then Shall We Live and Act? Using Matthew 5:1-16 as a basis for his reflection, Dr. Nakah explained how Christians have power and influence in a decaying and dark world. He highlighted that loving our enemies, sharing resources with the poor and underprivileged, and seeking for others what we seek for ourselves are some characteristics that Christians ought to possess if we would be the salt and light of this world.
Country Meeting Times and Action Plans
Delegates met daily in their country groups teams to reflect on the issues raised and deliberate on practically ways to address them in their respective contexts. Out of these meeting, delegates were made to report back to the whole assembly on action plans arrived at in their country groups that could be rolled out as part of a transformative agenda for their nations.
The seminar ended on 16th of July 2016 having made great impact on the lives of all participants. Professionals who attended the seminar came from various spheres of public engagement, including Education, Legal Affairs, Economy, Business and Enterprise, Politics, Sociology, Civil Engineering, Habitat and Environmental, Telecommunications, Arts and Creative Industry as well as some in various forms of Christian ministry.
Delegates however left bearing in mind the emphasis that the end of the weeklong seminar is only the beginning of the action plans, to which they have made commitments. The Interpreters and Translators did an exceptional job of interpreting the talks and conversations into French and English as needed. Most of the participants left Ghana to return to their respective countries however, the evening was climaxed with a ladies’ concert and gathering event. Rev. Dr. Joyce Aryee was the chair of the occasion whilst Pastor Laura Truax used the story of Esther to encourage ladies on how they could be used by God to transform their nations. Delegates left the seminar with much enthusiasm to engage their contexts with the truth that they had gleaned from the various presentations during the week.
Some Feedback/Testimonies from Participants at July 2016 Seminar
- “I have learned that I am not an African and specifically a Burkinabe by chance. But God has placed me there for a purpose” (Ini Dorcas Dah, Researcher, Akrofi- Christaller Institute, Ghana).
- “The rich experiential knowledge of the various speakers made the sessions very practical in real life context that I could identify with in one way or the other” (Ibrahim Baidoo, Research Assistant, University of Ghana)
- “The Scripture engagement sessions and the bond of love among the Francophone and the Anglophone nations were really great” (Kallow Christian Samuel, Civil Engineer, Sierra Leone).
- “What I found useful was the quality of speakers and the themes discussed as well as the church’s involvement in social matters” (Takore Aristide, Teacher, La Côte D’Ivoire).
- “I found the country team discussions useful. They enabled us each day to connect the teachings to our reality in our countries” (Jocelyne Houndebasso Ahoga, Independent Consultant, SIG, Benin).