From the 30th of May to the 2nd of June I had the privilege of attending and working at the African Conference of Reformed Churches in Kampala, Uganda. We had some wonderful experiences in and outside of the meeting. We had a wonderful time visiting the poor and rich sides of the city and experiencing the friendliness of the Ugandan people. We were also impressed with the cleanness of the streets and the people cleaning it with a very friendly and good attitude.
The meeting of about forty passionate delegates from different Reformed denominations in Africa addressed the theme “God of life, lead Africa to peace, justice and dignity”. Having so many people who are passionate about their religion and the well being of their continent in one room can be a very challenging situation. When one only keeps in mind that most of these delegates comes from different backgrounds speaks different languages and have different cultures it can truly be a challenge.
When reflecting on the meeting now one day after all of the proceedings I must admit that one can only thank God for the wonderful spirit and enthusiastic fashion in which the meeting took place.
I must share one wonderful story which I believe changed the whole atmosphere of the meeting in an exceptional way to a more inclusive vibe in the meeting.
After the opening worship service one of the delegates, Prof. Jean-Samuel Hendje Toya raised a serious concern regarding the exclusive use of English language in which the meeting is taking place. Everybody was stunned with silence as nobody really had an easy answer to his question. The local committee apologized and said that they would have made some efforts to get a translator but getting a French/English translator in Kampala is a big challenge. Prof. Toya offered to translate everything to French from English and from French into English for the delegates in the meeting. The acting President (At that stage, later got confirmed as President) of the meeting Lydia Adajawah suggested that the French speaking delegates should sit between bilingual delegates and then everything can be translated for them. The suggestion was based on previous experiences and efficiency.
The participants decided that this was a very important matter for the meeting and that they needed to open the floor for discussions. After some discussions the meeting decided that if they want to be a Communion who includes everyone and wants to give everyone a valid and equal voice it is important to have all of the proceedings translated to French.
It was a wonderful experience to see how people used their mother tongue and could confidently speak their thoughts because they were not afraid of being misunderstood.
I was amazed by how much emphasis and sensitivity were focused on understanding one another and communicating with clarity. I appreciated the fact that the Communion could really make their views and beliefs practical in their acts during this meeting.
When I left the Green Valley hotel today I realized that everybody is truly leaving with a great and positive heart and a lot of new energy. In this meeting a lot of positive steps were made and the delegates got a lot closer to one another. I am blessed to say that I left today with 33 new sisters and brothers in Africa and that we will certainly support and I will keep supporting one another for the betterment of the continent.
Even though I am very positive I must be realistic and would keep on reminding myself and my sisters and brothers in the communion that we still have a lot of challenges. Among them is including other languages such as Portuguese in our communication set up in the near future.
Frans du Plessis