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African–Christian Leaders' Gathering held in November

September 1 2004:

A meeting to be hosted by ARC in November will bring together senior Christian leaders from Africa and beyond – as well as African Christians in senior leadership positions and government agencies working with Africa – to help widen the role the Churches play in creating better livelihoods for communities across the continent.

Participants at this inaugural meeting in London will explore practical ways in which partnerships between the Churches and civil society can be increased and used to develop of joint priorities and projects.

“The role of the Churches in the development and care of the peoples and lands of Africa is a well kept secret,” said secretary general of ARC, Martin Palmer. “Sometimes it is so well kept that the central offices of the Churches themselves do not know the extent of their own work and influence.”

The Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative in Africa was set up in 2002 by African churches, Northern churches, agencies and the World Council of Churches.

It gives African Churches access to the information, training and funding they need to help cope with HIV/AIDS in their communities. It defines an "AIDS-competent church", as one that teaches that discriminating against people with HIV/AIDS is against God’s will; finds a role in preventing HIV/AIDS; and uses its resources to provide care, counselling and support for people affected.

This – and similar initiatives – are important models for how churches can and do work to improve people’s lives in Africa.
Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, the Churches provide a network that reaches to almost every village and which has - over the years and through times of warfare, strike and social collapse - often proved to be one of the most enduring of social structures.

Traditionally this network has been given little attention by those concerned with development. However the recent rise in attention to ‘civil society’ has led to many secular agencies in Africa deciding to explore further the idea of working with faith communities as partners in social and ecological issues.

These secular groups, which include inter-governmental agencies, national Development Agencies and activist NGOs, are increasingly recognising that the Churches often have a better grasp of what is actually going on and what really needs to be done than almost any other sector of local, national or international society. At the same time, many Churches are now looking to create partnerships with secular organisations and governments to make use of their skills and networks.

By the end of the meeting participants hope to have identified several model projects to be funded over the next 18 months. It is intended that these model projects will then create even wider interest in supporting, partnering and developing the role of the Churches in tackling the issues of poverty and the environment in Africa.

This inaugural Africa-Christian Leaders Gathering has been developed between ARC and the World Bank. It is being held in association with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, and is in partnership with the Bank Netherlands Partnership Programme of the World Bank.

The event, which runs from November 15 to 17 is one of two parallel faith initiatives for Africa taking place this year. In December, ARC and the Bank Netherlands Partnership Programme are hosting an African-Muslim Leaders’ Gathering in Mombasa, Kenya.

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