Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Partnership of African Christian Communities in Europe

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Partnership of African Christian Communities in Europe

Article excerpt

MILLENNIAL CONFERENCE: "OPEN SPACE: THE AFRICAN CHRISTIAN DIASPORA IN EUROPE AND THE QUEST FOR HUMAN COMMUNITY"

From 16 to 20 September 1999, Westminster College, Cambridge, hosted the millennial conference on Open Space: The African Christian Diaspora in Europe and the Quest for Human Community, organized under the auspices of the Partnership of African Christian Communities in Europe. The steering committee, Roswith Gerloff, Carrie Pemberton and Westminster College deserve special commendation for the success of the conference. This was a remarkable meeting because the over eighty attendees represented African countries and those of the Diaspora from Europe and the Caribbean. This epochal forum was unique in the sense that scholars, church leaders and practitioners of African Christianity in and outside Europe came together to deliberate on a whole range of issues centring on the status, role, challenge and hopes of African Christian Communities in Europe in a new millennium.

Such a theme was most expedient, timely and rewarding at a time when the world was awash with anxiety and speculation about what the new millennium would usher in.

The lofty objectives of the conference that engaged the full attention of participants included:

* ways and means of strengthening unity and understanding between the variegated African Christian communities separated by geography and language;

* waging a full-blown war against racism from a socio-political standpoint as well as a spiritual tradition of community and incorporation;

* the identification and adoption of immediate and practical strategies towards the upliftment and a sustained empowerment of black/ethnic minority women;

* seeking ways to support young people in transition between the secular state and traditional values;

* how to formulate and convey a spirituality which defies a bureaucracy and fosters communication.

All these culminated in what stood glaringly as the primary intent of the meeting, viz. the inauguration of an organization to be called The Council of African Christian Communities in Europe. This was borne out of the desire to facilitate such meetings, to affirm a sense of belonging, to encourage networking in order to support ways to enhance further cooperation and build supportive relationships across the continents.

A warm, friendly and open atmosphere pervaded the entire conference. Delegates and participants with varied religious, national, cultural, linguistic and professional backgrounds were drawn from European countries such as Britain, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland. The Afro-Caribbean 'voice' was conspicuous at this conference more than in previous similar meetings. Delegates from France, Sweden and the Netherlands were unavoidably absent. The African continent was represented by delegates from Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. This cultural variety enriched discussions as participants offered useful contributions from their own backgrounds.

The four-day consultation had four plenary sessions including regional reports and workshops. Each plenary addressed a specific theme, and other short presentations and workshops in the sessions were carefully selected with related topics drawn from the major theme. In most of the deliberations, a conscious attempt was made to provide simultaneous translation, though not without hitches. To the extent to which it worked, the translation helped to mitigate the artificial gulf that existed between the anglophone and francophone attendees.

Regional reports from both anglophone and francophone African communities were presented by delegates from Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Britain. These reports highlighted peculiar situations faced by Africans in their respective contexts. The reports included historical overviews of the emergence and growth of African Christian communities, the typology of these groups, their hopes, aspirations, ecumenical initiatives, networking, and relationship with other faiths, as well as the government and the wider society, and problems encountered in each context. …

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