HOPE & PUSH
This year I had the privilege of attending the 2019 Great Lakes Initiative at Ggaba National Seminary in Kampala. Since 2006, the GLI has brought together Christian ministers, NGO activists, and other peacebuilders from across the Great Lakes region of eastern and central Africa. The week serves as part seminar, part retreat, part spiritual revival, and part networking opportunity, combining keynote addresses, thematic small group workshops, and frequent opportunities for worship, meals, and fellowship. Most of the attendees are grassroots community leaders working and ministering in some of the toughest social contexts of contemporary Africa, including South Sudan, Burundi, and eastern Congo. The international range is matched by ecumenical diversity: Protestants and Catholics, Evangelicals and Pentecostals, clergy and laity, men and women. GLI is completely bilingual with all talks simultaneously translated in French and English. In bringing together a "new we" out of such ethnic, linguistic, and denominational diversity, GLI offers a snapshot of Pentecost in today’s global church (see photo).
This year’s theme concerned “Christian Leadership for Reconciliation in the Context of Forced Displacement,” and participants had the opportunity to visit a major refugee outreach center in Kampala. I was struck by the stories of the GLI attendees themselves, many of whom had been forced to relocate for religious or political reasons. Especially moving were the testimonies of several Sudanese Christian ministers who found themselves ostracized by Muslim family members, persecuted by local government authorities, and rejected by local Christian churches (on the grounds of tribal suspicions). Such witnesses movingly embodied two of the theological acronyms shared in one morning prayer service: PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens!) and HOPE (Hold On, the Pain will End Soon!). GLI offered beautiful insight into the restless creativity driving so many ordinary peacebuilders in our conflict-ridden world.