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African forum focuses on women and the young

19 October 2018

Andrew Boyd/Bible Society

Young people celebrate the Bible at last year’s forum, in Cameroon

Young people celebrate the Bible at last year’s forum, in Cameroon

OVERCOMING corruption and finding means to harness the wisdom of women and the energy of young people were central themes at a Christian leadership conference held late last month in Africa.

The eighth African Biblical Leadership Initiative (ABLI) forum was held in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). Delegates came from all over Africa to develop strategies to transform their continent. The Forum is an initiative of the Bible Society.

It concluded with a declaration, setting the course for Christian leaders for the coming year.

One of ABLI’s main themes was corruption. “The Church is plagued with corruption as much as any other institution. ABLI is calling on the Church to continue to be the prophetic voice and moral compass of society,” the declaration said.

“Huge resources are invested in the fight against corruption, and the battle is not easily won,” the CEO of the Bible Society of Eswatini, Ngcebo Mbuli, said. Young leaders, he went on, were born into an atmosphere of fraud and corruption: “The Bible is the only book which can bring change and conviction from within a human being — change that will transform institutions and nations.

“The Bible has what the world needs to curb corruption, and the Bible has what it takes to bring up leaders full of truth and integrity.”

Another theme was gender inequality, which is said to hold back social and economic development in Africa. It costs sub-Saharan Africa some US$105 billion, an ABLI Forum speaker, the Revd Mfanaleni Mkhatshwa, said.

In African patriarchal societies, he went on, privilege and authority were reserved for men in family and society; women were still seen as second-class citizens. “Gender equality is essential to economic development,” he said. “Closing the gender gap would set Africa on track for double-digit economic growth.”

Another theme was young people, who were described as being at a crossroads, torn between globalisation and tradition. Six out of ten Africans are under the age of 25, and more than 40 per cent are below the age of 15.

The declaration urges Churches, Christian organisations, and governments to help young people in Africa to take their place as global citizens, without undermining their cultural identity: “The energy of youth must be harnessed to build, rather than burn, the continent.”

Other ABLI declarations addressed the need for integrity in eldership in Africa, and for Christians to make a commitment to act as agents of change. “We really want to see transformation through the word of God,” Mr Mbuli, said.

“In academia, business, Church, and politics we need the word of God and its values. We want to see the Bible assume its rightful place everywhere in society, and in the kingdom of Eswatini.”

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