“The church is part of the larger society. Its members live in a society that is plagued with all sorts of challenges, contradictions and a penchant for negating all the values in the Holy Bible.”
With these words, Olusegun Obasanjo, president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, challenged the sixth assembly of the All-Africa Baptist Fellowship. The meetings were held in Nairobi, Kenya, Oct. 8-13.
Obasanjo, a Baptist, bemoaned the state of Africa, declaring, “Our continent remains challenged by critical development and humanitarian situations.” The leader of Africa's most populous country called for “careful and spiritually guided analyses [so] that we can extricate critical issues that affect the church in Africa and know where we are, where we should be, and how to get our established goals.”
Obasanjo suggested that leaders draw inspiration from Scripture to manage the political and economic concerns of the resource-rich continent. The church, he said, should reinvent itself “as a relevant progressive institution and a pro-active partner in the AU [African Union].” The AU is the continental organization consisting of 53 African states.
The head of one of the largest oil exporters in the world confidently declared that Africa is changing. “This is a new Africa,” he asserted. New movements in democracy, renewed accountability, and socio-economic reforms all will lead to growth, development and prosperity. He made special reference to NEPAD, New Partnership for Africa's Development, an economic development program of the AU. NEPAD's four primary objectives are to eradicate poverty; promote sustainable growth and development; integrate Africa in the world economy; and accelerate the empowerment of women.
He also referred to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), an instrument voluntarily acceded to by the member states of the AU as a self-monitoring mechanism. The mandate of the APRM is to encourage conformity in regard to political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and standards, among African countries.
Obasanjo declared that the challenge to “Christians today in Africa is how we can effectively be light and salt with the dark and tasteless corners of our communities and societies.” He concluded, “We can only do this with the grace of God through Jesus Christ.”