- Encourages active church involvement in socio-economic issues

The hosting of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA) Summit in Gaborone, Botswana signals the emergence of Church-led transformation within the region.

According to the AEA Secretary General and CEO, Reverend Dr. Master Matlhaope, it was also an encouragement to an emerging Evangelical Alliance in Botswana that has showed significant growth in the past couple of years.

Dr. Matlhaope, who is also Chancellor of Africa International University in Kenya fields questions from Botswana Guardian.

BG: The Summit was held under the theme, ‘Transformation Agenda Towards the Africa God Wants, kindly explain to us what this means?

SG: AEA’s long term vision insignia is ‘The Africa that God Wants.’ The purpose of the Gaborone Summit was to demonstrate intentionality of Evangelicals to realising the vision by crafting doable roadmap to make a difference, to build a different AEA, different national alliances, and a different Africa.

It is the initial, but very significant step to the fulfilment of AEA’s aspirations. The power of this vision lies in the hands of evangelical leaders across the continent, in their commitment to collective action and unity. The unstoppable desire of all evangelicals and Christians in Africa must be to forge the Africa God Wants out of our present amorphous but promising state.

The Summit was an endeavour to forge a collective wisdom and commitment towards this. The power of the vision lies in its clarity to those who read it, resonate with it, and run with it.

BG: What were the objectives of the Summit?

SG: The Summit was to equip attendees with a holistic ministry approach and integral mission mind-set. To foster increased collaboration among churches and organisations to address challenges such as persecution and extremism.

The Summit also empowered participants with enhanced advocacy skills to promote religious freedom, as well as encourage active church involvement in socio-economic discussions, shaping national development agendas. In addition, the meeting was to develop national strategic action plans to counter religious extremism and promote tolerance.

To strategise for peace making and peace building. It was also to empower leaders to understand suffering and embrace integral mission, while remaining steadfast in their faith, as well as establish advocacy and crisis response networks to address advocacy needs and crises. The Summit was also an opportunity to engage Christians in the marketplace through a Business Coalition to contribute to societal transformation.

BG: What are the major challenges and issues that the Association is currently concerned about in Africa?

SG: The AEA is concerned about poverty and economic challenges, managing the youth demographic dividend, addressing religious persecution, healthcare and disease eradication, leadership and governance. In addition, the Association is concerned about sustainable resource stewardship, conflict resolution and peace building, promoting unity and solidarity and reaching Unreached People Groups (UPGs) and marginalised communities.

BG: What does AEA do, and how do countries become members?

SG: The AEA serves as a Pan-African organisation that brings together all evangelicals, national alliances, professional para-church organisations, and development partners from across the African continent. Countries become members of AEA through a simplified application process, which involves providing necessary documentation such as a brief history of the organisation, constitutions and bylaws, a Statement of Faith, Certificate of Registration, current office bearers, a list of members, and completing an application form.

BG: How many members does the AEA have and what type of work do members do in their respective countries to push the Association’s mandate?

SG: AEA has 43 member countries and houses a number of para-church organisations as its Associate members. These include Compassion International, World Vision International among others.

BG: Since establishment in 1966, what have been the achievements of the Association?

SG: Some of the notable achievements of the AEA include, the establishment of theological institutions like BEST and Africa International University in Bangui – Central Africa Republic and in Nairobi-Kenya respectively.

The Development and distribution of Christian educational materials through CLMC. Quality assurance of theological education through ACTEA accreditation, Utilisation of media platforms like Africa Christian Television (ACT/PEMA) and Afroscope Podcast for Christian outreach.

Others are the publication of the Africa Bible commentary, active involvement in various commissions and initiatives addressing specific issues, advocacy for religious freedom and efforts to combat the persecution of Christians, emphasis on leadership development and church mobilisation, promotion of peace and election observations across Africa, building of primary and secondary schools in DRC to mitigate displaced children.

The Association also succeeded in training and empowering women who were displaced from their homes and livelihoods in DRC – Goma, in relief and peace building in Ethiopia, Facilitation of networking and collaboration among Christian leaders and organisations, and promotion of integral mission, integrating faith and action to address both spiritual and social needs.

BG: What did the discussions during the Gaborone Summit include?

SG: Discussions were centred on transformational discipleship, the current realities of the Church and the Continent. There were talks on understanding the holistic mission of the Church and possible practical engagements for the paradigm for Africa’s transformation.

We also discussed intersectional approaches to entrepreneurship for Christian women enterprises, the Church in crisis response, as well as bracing the continent for a youth demographic dividend and how the Church and governments can utilise this for Africa’s future prosperity. We also talked about assertion of an advocacy strategy for persecuted Christians in Africa and beyond, the development of preliminary national programmatic transformation agendas and empowerment of leaders with the readiness to inspire transformational change.

BG: How far does the mandate of the AEA go as far as governance, leadership and political issues are concerned within member states or Africa in general?

SG: Through its institutions, AEA has cutting edge leadership and governance courses and programmes that have attracted a number of corporate entities, that has led to MoUs for short and medium term training of staff of such corporate entities.

AEA has also developed a Programme dubbed Faith Sector Engagement with African Union Agenda 2063 (FASAU 2063) through which it engages African governments on issues pertaining to good governance and leadership, freedom of religion and worship, among other things.

AEA’s mandate also focuses on matters related to faith, Christian mission, and social transformation. While AEA does engage with issues of governance, leadership, and political matters to some extent, its primary focus remains on religious, spiritual, and socio-economic aspects of African societies.

BG: What role does the Association play in influencing political leaders, or otherwise for the good of Africa?

SG: AEA empowers its national alliances, to promote peace and tolerance particularly during elections and has developed peace building and peace promotion methods that it deploys in conflict prone areas during elections.

The Association’s focus is on advocating for values and principles that promote the wellbeing of African societies and align with its Christian mission. The extent of its influence on political leaders can vary depending on the specific issue, context, and the willingness of political leaders to engage with AEA's perspectives and recommendations.