In Part 1 of my “Good News from Africa” Report, I gave an update on the 2016 “Africa Arise” Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to which I was invited (see, http://tinyurl.com/gnn4fzz
). Besides the “Africa Arise” conference, I was also invited to Ethiopia for a special African Heads of State Prayer Breakfast at the African Union headquarters in Addis.
The African Union Prayer Breakfast is an annual event that precedes the AU Heads of State Summit held in Addis Ababa every January. It is a time when the continent’s political and religious thought-leaders join together in prayer for the needs of the continent, and to humbly seek the blessings of God upon the political process. Over the years, the event has been attended by different African leaders or their representatives.
In this Part 2 of my “Good News from Africa” report, I’ll briefly give an account of what took place at that event. For those who’re not aware of how some African Christians are reaching out to the leaders of their continent, this report will offer a window into one such effort at which I was an active observer.
2016 AU HEADS OF STATE PRAYER BREAKFAST
This year’s AU Heads of State Prayer Breakfast took place on Sabbath (Saturday) morning, January 30, 2016, in the Multipurpose Hall of the AU Conference Center. It was an early morning meeting, between 7:30-9:00 am. It ended 30 minutes before the African Heads of State were to begin their annual two-day deliberations on issues affecting the African continent.
Since the event took place in the same building as the Heads of State summit, the 30 minutes was enough time to allow the leaders who were able to attend the morning prayer event to walk to their meeting hall and take their seats by 9:30 am.
The theme for the 2016 AU Heads of State Prayer Breakfast was “Africa Arise: Engage Your Destiny.”
If you’ve read Part 1 of my report, you’d realize that the theme dovetails that of the “Africa Arise” conference (see, http://tinyurl.com/gnn4fzz
THE PURPOSE OF THE PRAYER BREAKFAST
The official invitation letter I received explains the purpose of the Prayer Breakfast thus:
“As in the past this event affords leaders an opportunity to come together in unity to seek God’s wisdom and guidance as they preside over the affairs of the Continent. As Africa is forging forward in socio-economic transformation and many parts of the continent now enjoy peace and stability, we need to thank God and to humbly submit and bring ourselves to the Almighty God to bless and guide our leaders to continue to work together in order to tackle the many challenges that still confront Africa.
“During the event, we will seek God’s wisdom through prayer and by the reading of His Word. Prayer will be offered”
Although not stated in the invitation letter, I discovered at the 2016 African Heads of State Prayer Breakfast that the event can also be a time when the political leaders are reminded of their spiritual obligation to God to make sound decisions or enact just laws that are consistent with the teachings of the Bible. Even a short prayer or remark at the event can reinforce the above objectives.
WHO WAS INVITED TO ATTEND?
Guests to the event typically include African Heads of State, foreign ministers, diplomats, Church leaders, and individuals known to contribute positively to the transformation of Africa. In the past, some United Nations General-Secretaries have also attended the AU Prayer Breakfast—just as they have attended similar events at the UN headquarters in New York.
Given the high profile caliber of attendees, I was quite tickled when I received my personal invitation letter, explaining why I (and others) were also invited to the event:
“Attendance at this event is by invitation only, and you have been invited because of your role in addressing the challenges of the African continent.”
So I guess, I was qualified to be at this VIP event because of my work in grassroots youth training, leadership development and empowerment, my public lectures and writing, and my promotion of “mind liberation” as the basis of transformational social and spiritual change in Africa.
But being invited to a VIP event doesn’t necessarily make you a VIP. Often, it is a privilege that comes with conditions attached. In our case, all the invitees were requested to exercise stewardship over their time. Specifically, the invitation letter stated that although the Prayer Breakfast would be between 07:30 AM and 09:00 AM, invited guests were to “please allow sufficient time in order to be seated by 07:15 for the start of the event.” The need to be seated 15 minutes before time was for at least three major reasons.
First, (and this was the most obvious reason), invited guests should not be late! Do I need to say more about the tendency of Africans to be late to programs or functions? Tardiness seems to be in our genes. Unpunctuality has almost become the trademark of all Africans—whether on the continent or in the Diaspora. Even among Christians, lateness has been converted into a ubiquitous spiritual gift.
Elsewhere, I have written a satirical piece on Africans and time. Titled “Africa Has Time,” the piece explains why in contrast to Westerners (who have watches), Africans have lots of time. Nay, we actually own time—African time. That’s why we’re often late to events (See, http://eaglesonline.org/africa-has-time/
). This tendency to be late is, perhaps, the first reason why those of us invited to this Africa Union event needed a gentle reminder to arrive on time.
Second, I believe, we had to be seated fifteen minutes early in order to await the arrival of the real VIPs—the political leaders (the Ambassadors, Foreign Ministers, Diplomatic Community, & Heads of States). It’s simply a matter of courtesy that we show respect to our leaders by waiting for them, rather than have them wait for us.
Third, (and this was verbally conveyed to us at the “Africa Arise” conference), another reason to allow sufficient time to be at the AU banquet hall was the need for all invitees to go through elaborate security checks—one before entering the AU compound, and the other before being allowed into the actual building, after being admitted into the compound. We were informed that there are always long queues of VIPs both outside, and within the compound.
(Earlier, because of security concerns, the organizers of the Prayer Conference had requested for our passport information etc. to do their own background check. For identification purposes, we were to bring along our invitation letters and our passports. Attending the event in the AU complex almost felt like going to a foreign country. But these extra precautions were necessary. With terrorism everywhere these days, one cannot even trust those who claim they’re going to worship God.)
BEING READY FOR THE EVENT
Anyway, because of the three reasons stated above (and perhaps others I can’t think of) for being seated 15 minutes before the event starts at 7:30 AM, the organizers of the event instructed that we leave our hotels room by 5:00 am. That meant my wife and I had to wake up at 4:00 am, get ourselves ready, and be at the hotel lobby at 5:00 am, to board a bus for the AU complex.
It was quite chilly that morning in Addis Ababa but, thanks to the long years I had lived in cold Michigan, I was prepared for that morning’s chilly temperature. In fact, I was so ready that I chose to dress in one of my traditional Ghanaian summer clothes. I must confess that I preferred an African wear to a Western suit in order to make a statement about my Africanness.
Ok, I know you’ll remind me of a chapter in my book “Africa Must Think,” in which I challenged those who use clothes to test the genuineness of a person’s Africanness. Here’s what I wrote.
THE TRUE AFRICAN: The mark of a real African is not the geographical location, the color of the skin, ability to wear some kente cloths or some other piece of traditional clothing. Being a true African is not about an ability to cook and eat a particular dish, having a particular braid of hair, dance to a musical rhythm, have a funny-sounding name, or perform some athletic feats. Rather, the hallmark of true Africans is (or ought to be) their ability to think—the ability to think differently and act differently. This ability to think and act differently is the hallmark of a transformed mind, and must define what it means to be an African.—Samuel Koranteng-Pipim
(Africa Must Think, p.17; cf. The Transformed Mind, p. 205).
Yes, I’m aware that the wearing of traditional African clothing does not define one’s Africanness. But on this special day that I was going to meet some African Heads of State and other VIPs, I needed to show that I was not frowning upon African clothes. Stated differently, the wearing of my Ghanaian outfit was my way of expressing my view that “made in Africa” products are not necessarily inferior to imported garments.
And I was not alone in my view. In fact, one couple in particular—from Kenya—was even more African than myself in the outfit they chose to wear for the function. They literally dressed up in colors of their flag. While waiting in the long queue outside the AU compound for stage one of the security check, Lilian Kimani and her husband told me that, in anticipation of this special Prayer Breakfast event, they ordered a tailor-made African outfit from my home country Ghana and that the fabric they chose for their outfit was in the colors of the Kenyan flag.
I was so impressed by their authenticity as true Africans that I affectionately named their fabric “Kenya is thinking”—borrowing the expression from the title of my book “Africa Must Think.” (In Ghana, every fabric has a name). I explained to Lilian that I find it quite disconcerting that, unlike West Africans, most people in East & Southern Africa either don’t seem to have, appreciate, or love wearing African outfits. It was refreshing to see Lilian and her husband break the typical Kenyan mold! Indeed, Kenya was thinking! (By the way, I have received an invitation from them to come give a lecture at their university, whenever I make it to Kenya. This will be some time in May).
OK, back to the AU Heads of State Prayer Breakfast. We know the purpose of the event, why only a selected few were invited, and why they needed to be seated some 15 minutes before the start of the program at 7:30 AM. Let me now proceed to describe the order of the events.
THE ORDER OF EVENTS AT THE PRAYER BREAKFAST
Amazingly, we were all seated by 7:15 AM. Who said Africans can’t keep time? Thinking Africans do. And those of us invited to the Heads of State Prayer Breakfast were definitely good stewards of time. But I could tell from the seats assigned to invitees that some were more equal than others. Apparently because I was one of the speakers at the “Africa Arise” conference, I was given a front-row, VIP seat, directly facing the African leaders and other special guests.
The special guests to this year’s Prayer Breakfast included several cabinet ministers of the Ethiopian government, and His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria—representing the past Presidents of African nations. (In case you didn’t know, there is a Club for former African Presidents. I wonder how they got admitted to this privileged Club. Was it voluntary or not? Was membership forced upon them by the constraints of term limits? Loss of elections? Resignation? Will admission to this VIP club be extended to those who tampered with their nation’s constitutions to extend their stay in power? One of these days, I will pose those questions--and many more--to the President of the association of former African Presidents).
Of note also was the fact that, besides the representatives from the Evangelical alliance at the “Africa Arise” conference, there were also present at the Prayer Conference representatives (senior Archbishops) of the powerful Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. It was, thus, evident that the purpose of the Prayer Breakfast was shared by Christians of all persuasions—Protestant, Pentecostal, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic.
Shortly before 7:30 AM, the VVIPs walked in and we all had to stand up to welcome them. And now that the VVIPs had been seated, it was time for the event to start—the eating of breakfast and the praying for the Heads of State summit. Here’s the outline of the Prayer Breakfast, as it unfolded on that day.
1. Welcome and Opening Remarks: The event was opened by the remarks of His Excellency Mr. Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission. He’s one of the most humble “Excellencies” on the continent of Africa.
2. Reading of Scriptures, Opening Prayer, and Blessings on the Breakfast. This was done by the representative of the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. (The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church could not attend because he was officiating at one of the most holy religious festivals of the Church. But he sent one of his senior Archbishops to represent him). This representative of the Ethiopian Orthodox church read the following Scripture in G’etz, an ancient religious language in the Ethiopia:
2 Chronicles 7:14:
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
After reading the above Scripture, this representative of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church prayed in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia.
Thereafter, the breakfasting of “Your Excellencies” and invited guests began. The former were served at their tables, and the latter (we the invited guests) had to go grab our own—buffet style. (Not bad, since we got to choose what we wanted to eat, and how much to eat). We were given about 30 mins to do much of our eating before the special prayers began.
3. Special Prayers. Four individuals were invited to offer special prayers on behalf of Africa, each focusing on one of the four areas identified for this year’s event. Those offering the prayer first read out a pre-selected Bible passage and then proceeded with seeking God’s help in four specific areas on behalf of the Continent:
1ST PRAYER: Prayer for God`s grace in the resolution of conflicts
I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land. You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you.
Psalm 147:14: He makes peace in your borders, and fills you with the finest wheat.
2nd PRAYER: Prayer for God`s wisdom on peace and security
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.”
3rd PRAYER: Prayer for God`s grace for the development of the continent
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.
Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it.’
4th PRAYER: Prayer for the African people to live in love, peace, joy and harmony
Psalm 133:1& 3:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!... It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forevermore.
4. Word for the Day. Think of it as a sermonette or lecturette (I just created the word). The 5-7 minute “Word of the Day” summed up the burden implied in the theme for the 2016 Prayer Breakfast--namely, “Africa Arise: Engage Your Destiny.” The representative who was tasked with giving this “Word for the Day” was Bishop Tudor Bismark of Zimbabwe. He was one of the main speakers at the “Africa Arise” conference. (For his speech, see below, the section titled “Remarkable Speeches.”)
5. President Obasanjo’s Remarks. His Excellency President Obasanjo wrapped up the event with a few poignant account of the origin and rationale of the Heads of States Prayer Breakfast events (see, below, under “Remarkable Speeches”).
6. Concluding Prayer. By Dr. Betta Mengistu, Chairman of Beza International Ministries, and host of the “Africa Arise” conference. (One of these days, I’ll say more about this brilliant, selfless, and visionary African leader.)
7. Vote of Thanks. By His Excellency, Mr. Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission. (He’s one of the most unassuming African leaders I’ve seen. He’s a gentleman! Principled, hard working, and selfless, he’s the ultimate diplomat!).
Besides the good food, the simplicity of the event, and the fact that this African event began and ended on time (“Africa is thinking…”), I was impacted by the messages that were conveyed at the event. Though billed as a Prayer Breakfast, the prayers offered at the event were sermons in themselves, expressing the challenges and hopes of Africa as we sought God’s guidance and blessings on behalf of our African leaders.
Three remarkable speeches stood out for me: (1) the introductory comments by Dr. Ganoune Diop before he offered the fourth prayer, (2) the “Word of The Day” by Bishop Tudor Bismark, and (3) the remarks by His Excellency, General Obasanjo of Nigeria after the “Word of the Day.”
1. Dr. Ganoune Diop’s Introductory Speech and Prayer
As I stated earlier, every one of the four prayers offered at the Prayer Breakfast was well-crafted and to the point. But I will call attention to one of them—the fourth prayer—which was “for the African people to live in love, peace, joy and harmony.”
Significantly, the one tasked with this responsibility is a very close friend of mine: Dr. Ganoune Diop, presently the Director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Seventh-day Adventist world church. Prior to being elected to this role in July 2015 at the San Antonio General Conference session of the Church, he had served as the Church’s liaison to the United Nations in New York and Geneva, and as its representative within the international community of civic and political leaders.
Dr. Diop and I go a long way, having been friends for almost 20 years. Though we’re both Africans in Diaspora (he, from an influential Muslim background in Senegal) and I (a convert from nominal Christianity in Ghana), we both insist that our true citizenship is in Heaven. Thus, we refuse to be held hostage to ideologies, opinions, or authorities (whether political or ecclesiastical), that are not in conformity with the teachings from the Word of the Lord and the Lord of the Word.
The life of Jesus Christ provides for us principles to guide our work. As Dr. Diop aptly stated elsewhere, "Jesus showed through His life and teachings that he was certainly a diplomat. He did not, for example, force Himself on humanity, but through appeals, dialogues, conversations, negotiations, based on respect for human dignity, he shared His values. He appealed to the deepest values he inscribed in people he created in His own image."
It was thus a pleasant surprise to see an old friend at the 2016 AU Heads of State Prayer Breakfast. With three doctorate degrees, a fluency in at least 10 languages, an accomplished concert flute soloist, and a broad multi-cultural background, Dr. Diop’s invitation to this event testifies to the fact that, indeed, Africa is rising in the area of spiritual maturity and scholarship. Nay, Africa can engage at the global level and excel so well that even a racially prejudiced world cannot ignore the continent. Africa can think! (For Dr. Diop’s academic and professional background, see http://www.adventistliberty.org/dr.-ganoune-diop
Ganoune’s cultural sensitivity was evident, when he chose to read in French the assigned Scriptural passage (Psalm 133:1& 3 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!... It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forevermore.”).
Having read the Bible passage, when it was time for him to pray, he prefaced it with a comment of his own, a comment that set forth an intellectual rationale for the prayer he was about to offer. Here’s an almost verbatim account of his comments and the prayer for “the African people to live in love, peace, joy and harmony”:
“Religions agree, and even secular ideologies agree on this one principle called human dignity. Human dignity is not just one value to be ranked among other values. It seems to have become the foundational principle, which undergirds all Human rights in international covenants, treaties and conventions.
“Some thoughtful people even speak of it as an overlapping normative consensus. The Bible, the Quran, Confucius writings, Hindu Scriptures, the Manden Charta proclaimed in Kurukan Fuga and African oral traditions affirm in various ways human dignity.
“The United Nations Secretary General entitled his report on the SDGs the ‘road to dignity.’ [SDGs stand for “Sustainable Development Goals.” Also officially known as “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” it was adopted in September 2015 by UN Member-States]
“The world will most certainly become a different place for countless people if this single principle of human dignity is upheld everywhere in all encounters. Our continent has been ravaged by the dysfunctions and debilitating consequences of tribalism and discrimination. All of these have crippled our deepest spiritual resources [that are] capable of changing the course of common history. It is our hope that Africans will pay close attention and respect and honor and celebrate the dignity of every person.
“I will now pray to the Owner of everything.
“Lord of the universe and of our lives. Grant us today to be committed to affirming every person's dignity, and every person’s worth and infinite value beyond mercantile estimates.
Give us clarity of thinking and a commitment of heart to honor every person we meet.
Let not the caste system within tribes veil as the shaky foundations of its premises.
We pray in particular for Africans everywhere to assume our gift of hospitality and solidarity.
Africa sheltered the first Muslim migrants. The refugee family of Jesus Christ benefited from African hospitality, providing a safe haven to a Child born to be the Savior of the world. Moses, later to become the leader of the Hebrew people, himself a former fugitive asylum seeker, was saved from the Nile River and spent years of his life sheltered in Africa.
Provide us Lord of reality with the courage to choose hospitality and peace in all its dimensions.
Help us refrain from and refuse violence in all its forms: from violent extremism to domestic violence.
Help us prefer to bless instead of brutalizing.
To forgive instead of forging weapons and holding grudges. To love instead of embracing the self-destructive attitude of hatred.
You said "blessed are the peacemakers." Give every African leader the courage to be a reflection of your character of freedom, justice, peace and love. Inscribe in the fibers of their beings and doing an unflinching commitment to selfless work for the wellbeing of the citizens entrusted to their care.
May your benevolent purposes find fulfillment in Africa for the benefit of the world. Amen”
Can you say Amen to that? Dr. Diop’s comments and prayers offered a Christian understanding of freedom of religion and belief, and provides a rationale for why Christians must commit to improving peoples’ lives through health care, education, and humanitarian support. That he touched a responsive chord among those present at the Prayer Breakfast was evidenced by a very hearty Amen.
Dr. Diop’s comments and prayer, as noted in the “Order of Events” in an earlier section, naturally led to the “Word of the Day” by Bishop Tudor Bismark.
2. Bishop Tudor Bismark’s Word of Day. In my opinion, the organizers of the 2016 AU Heads of State Prayer Breakfast couldn’t have chosen a better representative to say a few words at this event—words that need to be remembered by the political leaders as they begin their deliberations at the Summit. And the one tasked for this responsibility was Bishop Tudor Bismark of Zimbabwe.
He is a senior pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Harare, Zimbabwe, the headquarters church for Jabula New Life Ministries International. Bishop Bismark also serves as the Chairman of the Council of African Apostles, a wholly African initiative to bring the key apostolic voices of the African church to bear on uniquely African issues.
An accomplished author, Bishop Bismark has penned more than 20 books and teaching manuals. He is described as one who has a passion to see people empowered and awakened to their God-ordained destiny and has purposed to help facilitate networks of Kingdom-minded believers raised in his lifetime. A biographical information describes Bishop Bismark's message as simply "I love my God, I love my family, I love my church, and I love my nation."
The Prayer Breakfast was my first time meeting and hearing Bishop Bismark. And I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I had the privilege of listening to him again the next day when he preached at the “Africa Arise” conference. I can testify of his sharp mind, boldness, and humility. (Did I say “humility”? Yes! When not in public roles, you might almost mistake him for a kid; I recall after his powerful sermon at the “Africa Arise” conference he immediately went and donned a red T-shirt and carried himself as an ordinary kid. I have a photo to prove it.)
I was so impressed by his “Word of the Day” sermonette at the Prayer Breakfast that I requested him to email me his notes so I could share with my friends. Though he explained that they’re scratchy, he did send them to me! And now I’ll share them with you. I do so because I believe his message deserves an immediate and wider dissemination. That’s why I’ve chosen to publish it in its imperfect form, with very minor editorial tweaks.
We Africans need to start publishing our thoughts. For when eagles are silent the parrots and chickens make lots of noise. This is particularly so of our “Africa eagles.” It is their silence that has given a bad name to Christianity in Africa, as an increasing number of “African parrots and chickens” are now dominating the airwaves of Africa with their fixation on healings, deliverances, and a mounting mix of absurd claims.
It is also the silence of African eagles that has allowed Africa to be the dumping ground for foreigners to dump questionable ideas and practices, whether economic, political, or ecclesiological. And in the context of the AU Heads of State summit’s theme of “Human Rights….” and the “Africa Arise” conference theme of “Engage: Defining our Moral Destiny,” Bishop Tudor Bismark’s message was intended to challenge the widespread notion of pluralism in beliefs (the notion that Truth is relative) and moral relativism (the notion that moral values are relative).
Let’s listen to words of Bishop Bismark as he appealed to our Heads of States to follow the path of Truth—for there is such a thing as Truth. In their deliberations on weighty issues at the Summit and in their decisions for the continent of Africa, our political leaders must carefully think through suggestions and impositions from outside—especially those that are prefaced on the illogical and self-refuting assumptions that Truth is relative and Moral Values are relative.
Distinguished members of the clergy,
Esteemed leaders and guests,
Brothers and sisters,
In John 8:30-32 we read:
30 As he spoke these words, many believed on him. 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed; 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Knowing the truth without living the truth is experiencing a lie because truth MAKES you, truth shapes you, and truth designs you. But knowing the truth and living the truth is evidence of total liberty from bondage and limitation. Continuing in the word of truth is evidence of conversion.
This is true in any discipline, [such as] in medicine in law, in education, and in religion.
Plato, the great Greek philosopher, said,
"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light."
Alfred Sauvy (31 October 1898 – 30 October 1990) was a demographer, anthropologist and historian of the French economy. Sauvy coined the term Third World ("Tiers Monde") in reference to countries that were not unaligned with either the Communist Soviet bloc or the Capitalist NATO bloc during the Cold War. In an article published in the French magazine, L'Observateur on August 14, 1952, Sauvy said:
"...car enfin, ce Tiers Monde ignoré, exploité, méprisé comme le Tiers Etat, veut lui aussi, être quelque chose"
"...because at the end this ignored, exploited, scorned Third World like the Third Estate (term used by Moa Chinese Head of State), wants to become something.
The idea was that another option that had possibilities of innovation, creativity was emerging. The term Third World was not thought of as nations characterized by poverty and the challenges associated with poverty.
Contemporaneously, there is a Grape Vine in Covet Gardens in London, England, UK, that is said to be over 200 years old and has stretched its branches over 200 feet or 75 meters. The evidence of the authenticity of the vine is in its fruit at the very end of the vine. What comes from the roots is transported through the branches and manifested in the fruit, the grapes.
The History of ?????
When the angel announced the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ, he said in Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” the angel was actually saying "to men of goodwill."
Areas of conflict most times remain unresolved because men are not men of goodwill.
[There are] Struggles with prolonged poverty is because men, are not men of goodwill. We pray for men of goodwill to be given to our continent in significant and prominent places.
Men of goodwill are individuals that pursue "truth."
Great Nations and Churches develop based on the depth of their institutions, quality and experience of it's leaders, and long-term vision, developing infrastructure and a skilled workforce, innovation and research and in this case openness to revelation knowledge. Being able to diversify that is not depending on commodities, (what's in the ground) but to develop the services industry, utilizing the best minds a nation has to offer.
The world is changing so quickly and the danger is that Africa and religious institutions seem to be left behind, not being able to comprehend and keep up with trends.
Pursue Truth, and identify error and what is false.
Lord Byron said, "Truth is always strange; stranger than fiction."
Truth is a term used to indicate various forms of accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. The opposite of truth is falsehood, which, correspondingly, can also take on logical, factual, or ethical meanings.
There are differing claims as to what constitutes truth, what things are truth-bearers capable of being true or false, how to define and identify truth, the roles that revealed and acquired knowledge play, and whether truth is subjective or objective, relative or absolute.
In William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (Act I, scene ii,), Cassius speaks:
"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings."
Cassius, a nobleman, is speaking with his friend, Brutus, and trying to persuade him that, in the best interests of the public, Julius Caesar must be stopped from becoming monarch of Rome. Brutus is aware of Caesar's intentions, and is torn between his love of his friend Caesar and his duty to the republic.
Cassius continues by reminding Brutus that Caesar is just a man, not a god, and that they are equal men to Caesar. They were all born equally free, and so why would they suddenly have to bow to another man?
After Caesar was assassinated in the senate, Brutus speaks to Mark Anthony and the crowd who want to hear Brutus explanation for Caesar's death:
"It's Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more."
What he is saying in the line is that he was friends with Caesar. He is trying to tell the people that he loved Caesar, but that Caesar was bad for Rome. Because Caesar was bad for Rome, and because Brutus loved Rome more than he loved Caesar, Brutus decided that it was necessary to kill Caesar.
The Church as a whole is greater than a single church or an individual ministry or individual Pastor. That does not negate the right of ones' opinions or expressions and statements, but never at the expense of division or schism that bring damage to the church or Nation at large.
Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) lectured about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis' rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group such as Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, Trade Unionists, or Communists.
Niemöller lectured during the early postwar period and spoke extemporaneously in a number of settings. He was making the point that Germans in particular, and the leaders of the Protestant churches, had been complicit through their silence in the Nazi imprisonment, persecution, and murder of millions of people.
Pastor Martin Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Ladies and gentleman, brothers and sisters, attendees to the 2016 AU Heads of State Prayer Breakfast, we have been afforded significant levels of truth based on facts from Scripture and testimonies of those past and present.
We must apply the truths and tenants of faith that have been imparted to us. These truths must be applied in our personal lives and in the ministries we are part of and have been entrusted with. Theory must be converted into deeds and actions.
For the sake of the Church and its future we must stand for truth.
For the sake of the "African Church" we must stand for the truth.
For the sake of leaders who gave their lives for the truth we must stand for truth.
For the sake of future generations we must stand for truth.
For the sake of Africa and its promising future we must stand for the truth.
For the sake of your sacrifice, your convictions and commitment we must stand for the truth.
For the sake of destiny along with the complications of 21st century demands we must stand for the truth.
For the sake of millions yet to be touched with the gospel of Christ we must stand for the truth.
For the sake of future ministers of the gospel we must stand for the truth.
For the sake of righting injustices perpetrated on human beings around the world we must stand for the truth.
For the sake of affording every human being on our planet their rightful rights and privileges we must stand for truth.
For the sake of exposing and destroying corruption we must stand for the truth.
For the sake of eradicating poverty, illiteracy, killer diseases, and numerous human maladies we must stand for the truth.
And finally, for the sake of a prosperous Africa we must stand for the truth.
God bless you. God bless The AU. God bless our great continent Africa.
“We must stand for truth.” That was the message that Bishop Tudor Bismark sought to convey, on behalf of all Christians, to the African leaders who, shortly thereafter, sat to take decisions for the citizens of the African continent.
In the context of the 26th AU Heads of State Summit (on “Human rights”) and that of “Africa Arise” conference (themed “Engage: Defining Our Moral Destiny”), challenging all present at the Prayer Breakfast to know and live truth couldn’t have been more fitting..In the words of our Lord Jesus Christ,”If ye continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:, 31, 32).
Following Bishop Bismark’s “Word of the Day,” His Excellency, General Obasanjo of Nigeria was invited to make a few remarks, presumably on behalf of the African Heads of States—past and present.
3. His Excellency, General Obasanjo’s Comments: Speaking both in his personal capacity and also as the President of the Association of Former African Heads of State, His Excellency, General Olusegun Obasanjo, gave a short history of the AU Heads of State Prayer Breakfast, and emphasized its importance and continued relevance in the deliberations of the African leaders at each year’s Summit.
In an apparent response to the “Word of the Day” by Bishop Bismark, H. E. General Obasanjo urged Africans to pursue the path of truth, if we are to experience a prosperous continent. He urged Africa to take a hard look at itself, to look within, and find out the things we’re doing wrong and to have the courage to correct them. Then, after recounting his recollection of the history of the Heads of State Prayer Breakfast, he encouraged his fellow leaders (past and present Heads of State) to a greater participation in the annual Prayer Breakfast. He stated that when our leaders come together for their Summit, the first thing they ought to do is to go to God in prayer. He expressed his hope that God’s presence will continue to be with our African leaders in all they do for our people.
There was a certain earnestness and Christian grace in his comments. One could almost hear the voice of an aged grandfather giving counsel to his children and grandchildren. There was a down-to-earth simplicity about his message. I was impressed--and rebuked! Though in some of my works (by voice and pen) I have tended to take issue with our African political leaders in the manner in which they’ve mishandled the affairs of our nations, I was very encouraged to see that a number of them really mean well and that they understand their need for prayers as they tackle the many uncertainties and challenges that attend their stewardship of our nations.
I believe that, in his comments, His Excellency, General Obasanjo gave me a reason why I (and all Christians of goodwill) must pray regularly for our leaders. They face humanly insurmountable challenges as they deal with terrorism, civil wars, pre- and post-election violence, bad governance, fleeing refugees, poverty, unemployment, economic hardships, corruption, etc.
(Oh, I was privileged to give H. E. Mr. Obasanjo an autographed copy of my book “The African Giant: Risky or At Risk.” It is a work that was based on my keynote address at a Nigerian Independence Day event at the Lagos State Chamber of Commerce and Industries in Lagos, Nigeria. Although the context of my address was Nigeria, I was actually addressing issues of Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance. I pray he reads the book, and leverages his influence to bring the book’s contents to bear with those within his circle of influence.)
A KEY LESSON & SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
The 2016 Prayer Breakfast concluded just on time, at 9:00 AM, to enable the political leaders to walk to their meeting venue to begin at 9:30 AM their annual 2-day summit. As they made decisions that will affect the entire continent, it was the hope of participants at the Prayer Breakfast that the prayers and words of counsel will guide them to make better decisions for Africa.
A Key Lesson: Pray for All Leaders
That event is over. But one of the key lessons from it is that Christians must pray for their leaders at all times, not just at AU Prayer Breakfast events. Nothing should prevent us from praying for them. In fact, the Word of God does not permit Christians to allow their disagreements with their political leaders to prevent or stop them from praying for those leaders.
The apostle Peter wrote to Christian believers:
13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good…. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king (1 Peter 2:13-14, 17).
Similarly, the apostle Paul wrote:
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
It is worthy of note that at the time Peter and Paul wrote their epistles, the Emperor was none other than one of the most notorious political leaders of history, Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, known generally simply as Nero.
This emperor had the distinction of murdering his own mother and both of his wives. Beyond his family, Nero’s brutality extended to Christians. On July 19, in the year 64 AD, the capital city of the then super-power of the world was attacked. The ancient city of Rome was caught up in flames, which eventually burned down the city.
The Roman Emperor Nero is believed to have been the cause of the fire. Rumors have it that Nero, who was not particularly fond of the old city, with its very narrow streets, and crowded and wooded apartment buildings, wanted to replace it with a brand new city. So he set it or caused it to be set on fire—a fire that spread very quickly and lasted three days and nights, occasionally breaking again and again even when it was thought to have been under control.
The citizens of Rome and the empire were stunned and angry by the devastating fire. They lost everything to the flames—their homes, household goods and gods, and their national monuments, such as the temples of their great national gods. As news trickled down that the fire was deliberately set, people became bitter, resentful, and vengeful.
To divert the attention away from himself, Emperor Nero selected a scapegoat: Christians—members of an off-shoot religious sect that was in some way closely associated with the hated Jewish religion. The Christians were publicly blamed for this act of terror. Though the charges against them were baseless, Christians were treated as religious extremists, anarchists, anti-civilization. This pariah group, this enemy of society, was not fit to live. They had to be crushed and totally eradicated.
The Roman historian Tacitus (55 AD-117 AD) reported that Nero rolled Christians in tar or oil and then set fire to them while they were still alive and used them as living torches to light his garden parties. Other Christians were dressed in the skins of wild animals and thrown to Nero’s hunting dogs to tear them to pieces. Many others were imprisoned, tortured, nailed to crosses, burned, stoned or hanged (The One Year Christian History, p. 322).
The events narrated above provide a helpful background to the words of the apostles Peter and Paul, urging Christians to pray for their rulers. We must pray for them, whether or not they’re persons we respect or with whose political judgment we agree, or even persons whose character and official policies we cannot endorse. And we must pray for them, even when they persecute us!
Why Pray for Our Leaders and What Things To Pray for
We have already noted the words of the Apostle Paul on why we must pray for our leaders and, hence, why an event such as the AU Prayer Breakfast was a Christian obligation:
“I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
There’s a lot packed in the above passage on why we must pray for our political leaders. I leave you to reflect on it—while I proceed to mention a few specific things we can pray for, on behalf of our leaders::
1. We should pray for the health and safety of our leaders and their families (Ezra 6:10).
2. We should pray that they would not govern for personal gain or for the advantage of a favored few, but for the well-being of all its citizens (Jeremiah 29:7). As in the case of Nehemiah, we should pray that our leaders will avoid any hints of corrupting influences (cf. Nehemiah 5:14-19)—an integrity that is only possible “because of the fear of God… and because the bondage was heavy on this people” (vv. 15, 18).
3. We should pray that they would rule in righteousness, executing justice by honoring and protecting those who live decently and productively, and wisely disciplining or punishing those who do wrong (Romans 13:3-4; 1 Peter 2:14).
4. We should pray that God will grant them wisdom in times of national emergencies, crises, and uncertainties (Esther 4:13-17). Specifically,
· —We should pray for them when they don’t know what to do (2 Chronicles 20:12);
—We should pray for them when they know the right thing to do, but are under pressure to please people, (cf. Pilate; Mark 15:1-15; Matthew 27:15-26); and
· —We should pray for them to have a forgiving spirit, especially when they have power to hurt those who hurt them (Matthew 5:43; Luke 23:34).
5. We should pray that our leaders would follow the Lord's ways or that they should repent if they’re on a wrong course (cf. the example of Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20)
6. We should pray that God will humble the leaders, should they be arrogant in their ways, and that they may be led to acknowledge what Nebuchadnezzer learned after his painful humiliation and repentance:
“I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” (Daniel 4:34-35).
7. We should pray that God would accomplish His purposes through them, whether or not they’re willing to be used by Him. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1). Or as E.G. White will put it:
“In the annals of human history the growth of nations, the rise and fall of empires, appear as dependent on the will and prowess of man. The shaping of events seems, to a great degree, to be determined by his power, ambition, or caprice. But in the word of God the curtain is drawn aside, and we behold, behind, above, and through all the play and counterplay of human interests and power and passions, the agencies of the all-merciful One, silently, patiently working out the counsels of His own will” (Education, p. 173).
I am thankful to God to have been privileged as one of the special guests invited to the Prayer Breakfast for our African Heads of States. I’m more convicted to pray more for our leaders. This spiritual obligation of praying for our political leaders should not only be limited to once-a-year events at AU headquarters. We are to pray at all times. If we do, the Lord may use our prayers for those in authority to somehow delay or even stop legislation or initiatives that hinder the advance of the Gospel. We’re promised:
2 Chronicles 7:14
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
As I conclude this report, allow me to express a heartfelt appreciation to you, my friends, who prayed for this trip to Ethiopia--to attend the “Africa Arise” conference and the African Heads of State Prayer Breakfast. The Lord answered your prayers in our behalf. In the months ahead, I’ll be sharing with you some tangible proofs that God has answered your prayers for EAGLESonline. There’s still so much to report on. But first, I’ll need to share some photos on this AU Prayer Breakfast and allow you to decode which scenes they capture.
In my next report, I’ll share some experiences during a historic visit to the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and some historic sites in Addis Ababa. A subsequent report will focus on the incredible work by some African youth and young adults.
Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD
February 11, 2016