Summary: The church must facilitate peace and reconciliation in various societies. There is the urgent need for individuals and societies past wounds to be identified and addressed in order for genuine forgiveness and reconciliation to take place as Joseph did.
THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN THE PROMOTION OF PEACE AND RECONCILIATION IN AFRICA
THE BIBLE, PEACE AND RECONCILIATION
Joseph in the Old Testament provides a paradigm for peace, reconciliation and healing the wounds in the history of a society. Having suffered so much from the atrocities and wickedness of his brothers he would have been justified for revenge. After the death of their father, his brothers even expected him to revenge as he had the power to do so. Though Joseph was in a position of strength he rather decided to free himself from the enslavement of the wounds and hatred in his personal past and that of the whole family. His freedom from the wounds of the past was indicated in his affirmation to his brothers that they planned evil but the Lord used it for his good. He had no battles to fight not even in the absence of their father. ‘And Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Gen 50:19-20.
Jesus in the New Testament calls those who offer themselves for peace, mediation and reconciliation ‘blessed’. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ Matt 5:9. One major factor in the pursuit of peace and reconciliation is the willingness to deal with the hurts and wounds of the past. Rekindling of wounds of the past provides oxygen for conflicts and violence. Healing the wounds of a peoples past require individuals and institutions to make themselves available for that purpose. The church in Africa is such institution that must lead the efforts towards healing the wounds in the histories of the various African countries.
God who reconciles humanity to Himself has also given a ministry of reconciliation to the church. In 2 Cor. 5: 18, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation”. The church must work towards getting the nations reconciled to God and subsequently pursue the ministry of reconciliation among the nations. The ministry of reconciliation involves prayer, bible studies and providing counselling to both the innocent and the perpetrators.
IMPROVED PEACEFUL SITUATIONS IN AFRICA TODAY
Africa today is relatively calm and peaceful than the Africa of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Most African countries in the 1970’s and 1980’s were under several military coups de tats and military dictatorship which brought about blood sheds and violence. The periods witnessed civil wars whiles others struggled for their independence from colonial powers. Most African countries currently have accepted democracy as a system of governance and almost all African countries have obtained their independence from their colonial powers. The Peace in Africa today, it must however be admitted, is fragile. There are deep wounds and hurts in the histories of various African countries. The impact of civil wars, genocides and colonialism have rendered the continent very susceptible to conflicts.
FRAGILE PEACEFUL AFRICAN NATIONS
Countries like Liberia, Nigeria, Kenya, DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Angola, Libya, South Africa, Rwanda, Cameron, Togo, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Somalia, South Sudan, Ghana, and many more countries though may be having relatively peace but do have very deep wounds in their histories that are threats to future peace and national cohesion.
TOWARDS NATIONAL COHESION AND PEACE
The tendency sometimes is to push aside the painful past but the more helpful approach will be to identify wounds in the past and work towards their healing. In fact, some of the wounds are still fresh and keep resurfacing in all forms of violence with least provocations.
The church is not even exempted from the painful past of Africa. The African church in some countries that have gone through genocides, civil wars may even have to work towards redeeming their integrity and images as their roles in such moments have come under guilt and condemnation. While some of the churches kept quite in the moments of bloodshed others connived with destructive militias to destroy citizens who were from different ethnic groups.
There are some divisions between churches and church leaders some having their roots from painful past histories either colonial, political, ethnic, etc. In some countries the churches need to go public with apologies in order to redeem the integrity of the church. Such efforts will facilitate the church’s peace, reconciliation and mediation efforts. National peace and cohesion function in atmosphere where the present is freed from the wounds of the past. There may be wounds but when they are properly addressed they become stories to shape future relationships and engagement but they do not ignite violence and wars.
THE CHURCH AS AN INSTITUTION OF CALM
The church must function as brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. Demonstrating care and concern about the divisions and tensions in the society. The church’s role as institution of calm depends on its ability to attract public respect, trust and credibility. Feuding factions must have the confidence in the readiness of the church to make interventions and also trust in its fair judgements. The Christian Social Witness demands that the church must pursue the Mission of God in the society towards reconciliation and peace.