By Fiona Imbali
The OAIC held its Enlarged Executive Committee (Ex-Com) meeting and consultation in Dodowa Ghana from 28th November – 2nd December 2016. The enlarged Ex-com brings together OAICs church leadership, youth and women representatives from across Africa to deal with the policy issues of OAIC and to enable the member churches to engage with the pertinent issues across the globe affecting member churches.
The theme of the meeting was Listening to the Holy Spirit Afresh. This enabled the OAIC community to evaluate their mission in relation to social, political and economic realities facing Africa whilst looking at Africa’s resourcefulness to address them. Pertinent issues that were discussed included but not limited to strengthening the OAIC structures in all regions, food security and sovereignty in Africa; Africa’s young people and the potential they hold to spur growth and development; OAIC member churches resourcefulness and sustainability for the OAIC.
In the meeting, OAICs new constitution was adopted by members. This will help to enhance good governance and accountability in the organisation’s structures. The other instrument that was approved by the meeting is the governance charter which is particularly important as it provides the OAIC with a shared value framework for proffesional and ethical behaviour at all levels of the organisation.
“The theme Listening to the Holy Spirit Afresh is key as AICs draw their inspiration from the work of the Holy Spirit who moves common people to bring transformation in society. This is what has enabled AICs be major actors in the different eras of Africa’s life by being pastoral and prophetic from the sidelines of society,” noted Reverend Nicta Lubaale.
In his address to the General Assembly, the international chairman the Most Reverend Dr. Daniel Okoh noted that OAIC had come a long way and that it was a vessel that the Lord had instituted himself. He applauded the process of Organisational Renewal that the organisation had undergone as the turning point for the organization where many positive results have been actualized in the governance and management of the organization. He also acknowledged the OAIC’s participation in global church bodies such as the World Council of Churches, the Global Christian Forum and the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions.
Nevertheless, Dr. Okoh noted that challenges abound in any organisation even as it seeks to enhance development. “Growth and development comes with new challenges. Nations of the world are working towards self-sufficiency, we need to move forward. At 38 years OAIC has overstayed in the hands of donors. There’s something new coming to Africa, OAIC needs to be in the forefront. OAIC has always had a vision and is ready to occupy its rightful position in Africa. OAIC is still alive; we made our mistakes but come out even stronger. We’re ready to actualize what the Lord is planning. We need to utilize whatever little resources we have for out betterment. If God gives you a vision, he has a way of reminding you,” noted Dr. Okoh.
On issues regarding OAICs sustenance and self sufficiency, Dr. Okoh noted that it was prudent for OAIC member churches to submit their annual contributions to the international office to enable it run its programmes effectively.
“OAIC leaders must come together and restore the dignity of Africa. Leaders must own OAIC with a clear financial commitment that is the only way to be a credible member. It’s unfortunate that less than 5% of the churches pay their annual subscription. Where is our credibility as leaders? Where is our boldness, that the church in Africa is growing yet we can’t come together to support OAIC? How can we say that we are doing mission and are united? We should listen to voice of the Holy Spirit afresh. We see AIC churches constructing big buildings but it’s very difficult to get funds from them to make an investment to rebuild the international head office,” noted Dr. Okoh.
He further added that merely paying subscription was not sufficient at OAIC plans to roll out major projects which requires contributions from its members. “What can we people of this generation say God has used us to do? Christ Holy Church (CHC) has never asked for donor funding since it was founded. We are not building Nairobi for anyone but for everyone. Storms are coming and we have to be self-sufficient in order to make a difference for the future generations. We should be like a community that plants olive trees for future generations. What we plan for the future is important as we can’t rejoice in a legacy of an office plot in Nairobi. My question is what have we done with what we have? We have great potential and are a formidable force when we come together in unity. Outsiders see it but we have seen it too and refused to do something with it. Self sufficiency is key for the growth of OAIC,” he noted.
Grace Lubaale an Organisational Development specialist in his presentation to the G.A noted the importance of AICs to invest in OAIC while noting the importance of Christianity for the development of the Church. “Mainstream churches after independence were not dissimilar to what OAIC is currently facing. But after 50 years, they are developed and are even distinguished as the churches of the rich. If OAIC is clear on what is important to them, the members will be able to give resources to these things so that other people can join us and not tell us which direction to take. We have to put our money where our mouths are. If you don’t do something about your organization, somebody else will,” he noted.
He pondered on the current state of affairs in the continent where Africa isn’t able to produce sufficient food while schools started by churches during independence are no old and dilapidated, same to hospitals and water sources that are depleting and noted the importance of AICs in this dialogue as they continue to minister to both the physical and spirituality of the poor.
“There’s an assumption that since OAIC member churches are young, poor or perhaps unemployed, the churches may not be able to have offering. Churches need to learn to develop organisations and companies to substitute tithes. It imperative for these churches to be dependent on themselves rather than wait for outsiders. Where there’s a will there’s a way. If you have an interest in something, you would show it and demonstrate commitment,” he added.
In 2018, OAIC will be celebrating its 40th anniversary and is currently strategizing on how to effectively represent Africa through celebrations to mark milestones in its 40 years of existence and ensure that the next 40 years are greater than the former.
While addressing the G.A, Dr. Manoj Kurian from the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance of World Council of Churches (WCC) noted that Jesus responded to the needs of his people through interactions with common people as OAIC does. He spoke on the importance of advocacy on policy formulation in food and nutrition security. While acknowledging the Livelihoods strategy- redeeming the harvest-, he stated the importance of engaging relevant authorities on issues of food security.
“1 in 10 people still go bed hungry in the world. In Africa, 1 in 4 people go to bed hungry. International systems are built to protect their own interests at the expense of poor farmers from Africa and other parts of the developing world which have been largely relegated to being exporters of raw materials. The systems strategically lock out Africa and make it near impossible to export agricultural products with added value. African markets have also been a dumping ground for products in the developed world for a long time,” he noted.
He reiterated the importance of understanding trade policies so as to participate effectively in the ongoing debates and policy formulation processes that consequently affect the small-holder farmers, “We need to understand policies. Dr. Kurian gave an example of the 4 major cotton producing countries in West Africa that are dependent on cotton industry yet they are not able to compete effectively in the international markets due to the impact of the distortions caused by the subsidies given to cotton farmers in America.
Whence churches understand these processes, they can engage effectively with leaders in and lobby for change in some of the international policies that continue to drain small-holder farmers. The imbalance in the world could be changed if faith communities organise themselves and seek change.
Nicta in his address to the General Assembly noted that the 85 richest people own as much as the bottom half of the world’s population is 3.5 billion people. “AICs entered the 21st century with their resourcefulness but also with gaps that curtail their ability to work in a rapidly changing environment in which socio-political and economic challenges are becoming more complex. What however, has remained constant among the AICs is their resourcefulness in building communities in the harsh environments of urban centres and rural areas where people are struggling for fullness of life, “he noted.
By 2050, 50% of all young people in the world will be African. Africa will thus be the hub for production; consumption and the rest world will be positioning themselves to take advantage of this demographic reality. “Africa is endowed with natural resources, cultural resources and a young population whose mean age is 19 and a rapidly growing church yet in the midst of all these opportunities the continent is still held back by dependency, hunger and poverty, high rates of unemployment among young people and conflicts that have devastated communities, ’Nicta Noted.
Natasha Uwimanzi from Aegis Trust noted the relevance of the church in engaging the young people for the betterment of the continent. She noted that young people even in disadvantaged backgrounds in the informal settlement areas are hopeful of the future and this needs to be tapped into something productive. “They need to be engaged in shaping policies and should be constantly bombarded with information,” she noted.