Conversations can offer creative spaces for questions to be asked and the exchange or exploration of ideas. Conversations can also be fearful spaces where the flow of life, ideas, and questions is hampered. I want to share an example of each of these conversations: one open and creative and the other fearful and restricted.
A conference was held in Magalisburg, South Africa, from June 8-12, under the auspices of the "Amahoro movement ." Amahoro means 'peace' or 'shalom.' The mission of Amahoro is to provide space for conversations among emerging Christian leaders within and outside the African continent in a context of friendship and a common vision for transformation.
Amahoro does this through gatherings in different parts of Africa that explore new frameworks and ideas of what it means to be church in a continent beset with numerous challenges. These gatherings aim to build networks and provide forums for exchanging experiences of innovative projects that are transforming lives, as well as exploring new theological paradigms that can inform and direct these projects.
The theme of this gathering was "Reformation," a search for new ways of practicing the Christian faith that respond to concrete realities of the poor and oppressed. Participants came from Africa, Europe, Canada, Australia, and the U.S. My attendance and that of four Zimbabweans was made possible by the generosity of two Sojo readers, Matt and Joy Kauffman!
This was a conversation of life that was not afraid to face difficult questions such as xenophobia in South Africa and North-South relationships of power and dependence. The program was designed to allow for conversations, networking, and dialogue. Each participant brought a symbol of peace from their culture, and on the last evening there was an exchange of symbols.
The Zimbabwean delegation represented the diversity of ministries going on: children's work and outreach; healing, peace and conflict resolutions; HIV/AIDS in communities; and youth ministry. It was a sacred moment where we encountered each other and God as we sought to be 'church' in each of our different contexts.
The other conversation is in Zimbabwean society. Although there is promise of change, the atmosphere of fear is still there. But, the conversation of hope seems to cross these barriers and help to connect people. It is our prayer that with each passing day, fear and the conditions that create fear will recede. Your prayers as always are appreciated. May we all be initiators of life-giving conversations!
Nontando Hadebe, a former Sojourners intern, is originally from Zimbabwe and is now pursuing graduate studies in theology in South Africa.