Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Eight African Countries Top the Failed States Index

Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace have compiled their list of failed states for 2006. The study examines 12 economic, social, and military factors that contribute to poor living conditions and resultant instability in 177 countries.

Eight of the top ten worst states, according to the study, are in Africa. Sudan topped the list as the most instable country in the world, and Somalia came in third. Because the research is so diverse, one of its strengths is that it can not point to a single factor that makes nations instable, nor does it suggest a single solution.

The study, and the accompanying article in Foreign Policy, point to the fact that our efforts to help these "failed states" will take creativity, vast knowledge, and an understanding of what is happening on the ground. For this very reason, the Amahoro Africa conversation exists. If we truly care about growth and stability in Africa, we must seek to gain intimate knowledge from the innovative leaders working on the ground there. We must learn to abandon our arrogant "big ideas" and develop friendships with those better equipped to change their neighborhood.

The African nations that make the top 10, in order from most instable to least instable, are Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Chad, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Guinea, and Central African Republic.

Right now, the articles are available for free on Foreign Policy's website. They're well worth a read.

New Rights for Women in West Africa

SIERRA LEONE: New laws give women unprecedented rights, protections

DAKAR, 4 July 2007 (IRIN) - Women in Sierra Leone stand to enjoy unprecedented rights under new laws making wife-beating a criminal offence, allowing women to inherit property, and protecting young women against forced marriage.

One human rights coalition said the three laws, enacted by Sierra Leone’s parliament 14 June, will “help to radically improve the legal position of women in Sierra Leone.” In a communique the Taskforce on Gender Bills said, “Until now the issue of redress for injustices committed against women especially in the domestic realm has been an uphill task because of the inadequacies of the law.”

In the past women had no chance of justice if their husbands abused them, experts said. Generally, such matters have been kept in the family or at most presented to a local traditional leader.

“The new law gives tools to police and family support units to take the necessary steps [to go after offenders],” said Tania Bernath, a researcher with Amnesty International. “If women know they have these tools they are more likely to bring domestic violence cases.”

A women’s rights expert in Sierra Leone said given the stigma attached to bringing attention to domestic violence, grassroots organisations are prepared to support women in seeking protection under the law.

Defining Abuse

“People have this idea that domestic violence is a private, family matter that should not be taken into the public domain,” said Jebbeh Forster of the UN development fund for women, UNIFEM. Local women’s groups can provide the backing women need as these laws are implemented, she said.

The definition of domestic violence in the new law is broad. It includes “physical or sexual abuse, economic abuse, emotional, verbal or psychological abuse, harassment, conduct that harms, endangers the safety, health or well-being of another person or undermines the privacy and dignity of another person.”

A member of the Sierra Leonean group ‘50/50,’ which works to increase women’s influence in public policy, said the laws are likely to encourage women to be active in the political domain.

Confidence Building

“These laws will give women confidence,” 50/50 programme coordinator Christiana Wilson told IRIN. “If women are not confident enough, they will not come out for political positions. Women can now say, ‘I’m somebody. My husband cannot just beat me up. I am somebody - and why don’t I go for even more?’”

Wilson said the act giving women inheritance rights in marriage are crucial to women’s empowerment. “Women here are generally poor,” she said. The law “will bring women access to wealth which is a very important factor in getting political positions.”

Amnesty International said in a statement, “The inheritance law ensures that throughout Sierra Leone women have access to the property they are rightfully entitled to when their husband dies, without interference from extended family members.”

The third act, calling for the registration of customary marriages, introduces a minimum age of 18 years for such marriages and calls for the consent of both parties.

(C) IRIN. All rights reserved. More humanitarian news and analysis:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sudanese Refugees Being Detained in Israel

ISRAEL-SUDAN: Government reverts to detention policy for Sudanese refugees

TEL AVIV, 27 June 2007 (IRIN) - After a lull of several weeks, the Israeli military have once again begun to arrest Sudanese refugees illegally crossing the Egyptian border into Israel.

In the past month the refugees were released onto the streets of Israel's southern towns and cities, where volunteers from charity organisations tried to help, directing them to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

On 24 June several Sudanese men became the first to be detained in over a month. Six women, and another six children were found on the streets of the southern city of Beersheba by Avishai Cohen, who volunteers his time to help refugees, along with several other students from nearby Ben Gurion University. The women soon discovered that their husbands had been detained by the Israel Prisons Service.

"We get calls every night to come and collect refugees," said Cohen.

"Right now, Beersheba municipality is helping, hosting the refugees until Thursday [28 June] at a hotel here," he said.

Meanwhile, Israeli Interior Minister Ronni Bar-On has set up a new committee to decide the fate of the Sudanese refugees. The committee has completed its work, and filed its confidential conclusions to the prime minister's office.

Experts and government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, because they are not authorised to speak to the press, said the final report, would contain far-reaching conclusions.

Refugees to be arrested

Specialists also estimate that the Bar-On committee will recommend reinstating guidelines ordering security forces to arrest all refugees immediately upon arrival. A similar policy was cancelled about one month ago, after human rights and aid groups protested against the order.

Sudanese citizens are arrested in Israel as they are officially considered a "security threat" since Sudan is an "enemy state". Israel applies this even to citizens fleeing persecution at the hands of the government of an enemy state.

Some Sudanese have spent over a year in jail, partially due to the fact that Israel and Sudan do not have diplomatic relations.

The Israeli military, which patrols the borders and arrests the refugees, said it transfers them immediately after detention to other authorities. The military admitted, however, that the refugees are not a security threat.

"The IDF (Israel Defence Force) apprehends illegal infiltrators from various countries, amongst them Sudan, crossing the border into Israel. Since this is not a security matter but an illegal immigration issue, the IDF is not the proper authority to deal with these infiltrators," military officials told IRIN.

(c) IRIN. All rights reserved. More humanitarian news and analysis:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pencil This In!

We interrupt the field trip reports to bring you this exciting news!

Planning for Amahoro '08 is underway!

The Gathering will be held May 19-28, 2008. Pencil this in on your calendars!

Contact Luke at or Claude at for more info.

Friday, June 08, 2007

HIV/AIDS in Africa

I doubt anyone who reads this blog is unaware of the utter devastation that HIV/AIDS is bringing to the continent of Africa. When in East Africa last month, many of us witnessed both the sorrow and courage of those affected by the disease. There was a sobering article in the New York Times this week about the disease and current attempts to fight it. It's a hard article to read, but hopefully it will inspire those of us who care to continue to work together to fight this horrible disease.

Read the article here and leave comments after reading if you'd like.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Field Trips - Kenya Part Two

During the Amahoro Gathering earlier this month, the nonAfrican participants participated in field trips to Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. Each group spent a few days "on the ground" in a particular context and got a feel for what life in Africa is really like. Over the next several days, I'll be posting reflections by a participant from each group.

This second report is from Ashley Bunting. As Bob mentioned, the Kenya group split into two groups: one participated in the Theological Conversation at NEGST and the other spent time with a pastor in Kibera slum. Ashley Spent time with Pastor Edward in Kibera. Ashley Bunting lives and studies in Geneva, Switzerland. She is currently completing a French diploma, and looking into graduate theology programs in Europe.


Having returned from the Amahoro gathering only a week ago, many of the memories are still very present in my mind, and I’m glad to be able to share them with you.

Our first visits in Nairobi, Kenya, were to an AIDS testing center and a support group that met in a slum called Mtumba (meaning “second hand”). The seriousness, and at times the awkwardness, of these environments were almost inevitable, but everyone was also undoubtedly touched by this group of women who could stand, introduce themselves, and say, “I’m HIV positive, but my main concern right now is for my children…”

From there our group split into those visiting Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST) and a nearby church, and those visiting City Harvest Church and its ministries: the AIDS support groups and the Kibera Community Center. Those who visited NEGST and the church nearby told us about the small groups of thoughtful and struggling people they met; these people are noticing very similar dysfunctional patterns in Christianity to those we in the West have noticed, and are clearing new paths for their communities to live in the ways of Jesus.

At the HIV/AIDS support groups we spent time with people, hearing the touching stories of what living with HIV/AIDS is like. Many of them are women who tested positive and were left by their husbands (who do not usually get tested); these women must figure out how to care for both themselves and their children. They are incredibly brave and resourceful, and because they have access to ARV’s (Anti-Retroviral drugs), they are able to set up micro-enterprises to support their communities. Several also expressed that they were grateful for City Harvest, as it was one of only a few churches that accept people living with HIV/AIDS.

Kibera (the slum featured in the film The Constant Gardener), is the second-largest slum in Africa, with as many as 1.2 million people living on one square mile of land. For me personally, the over-crowding and lack of sanitation meant breaking through a new threshold of the extreme poverty; I had never experienced anything quite like this before. But for 1.2 million people, Kibera is home, and many said they wouldn’t choose to leave if they could. One of the main themes of the conference was the “Evacuation Gospel” v. the “Transformation Gospel”, and this became real to me in a different way. I learned that the goal should not be to get people out of Kibera, but to transform Kibera, as the Community Center is doing. A school during the week and a church on the weekends, the Community Center serves to equip people both with education and with Hope.

The main emotion I’m left with after visiting Nairobi is one of Pride. I am so proud to be able to call Edward, Beatrice, Silvia, Theresia, Phyllis, Charles, Jine, Caarlie, Aaron, and countless others our brothers and sisters, knowing that they have so much strength and courage against the odds they face. They are the Kingdom Agents who are, as best as they know how, living lives in the Spirit of Jesus to give hope to the world around them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Field Trips - Kenya Part One

During the Amahoro Gathering earlier this month, the nonAfrican participants participated in field trips to Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. Each group spent a few days "on the ground" in a particular context and got a feel for what life in Africa is really like. Over the next several days, I'll be posting reflections by a participant from each group.

The first post is from Bob Pyne, who visited Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology in Kenya. Formerly a professor of theology, Robert Pyne is Director of Leadership Development for African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM). He is a member of the Emergent Coordinating Group and is the co-author, with Joni Powers, of LifeSpace: The Practice of Life with God, due out later this summer.


Each of the westerners at the Amahoro Gathering went on a field trip to observe and participate in a local ministry. My group flew to Nairobi, where we had very different experiences. Half of our team served alongside Pastor Edward and others from his church, participating in AIDS support groups in Kibera. The rest of us drove out to the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology to take part in a theological conversation.

We felt a little guilty touring the beautiful campus of NEGST. Part of the discomfort came from the fact that we had just had several days of conversation about the affect of colonialism on theology. Perhaps unjustifiably, that made some of us look a little sideways at such lovely surroundings. Even more so, however, we had just visited one of Nairobi's slums, and we knew that our friends were there again while we were taking pictures of the flowers. I have read, even assigned, C. S. Lewis's essay on being a student during wartime. I knew that our task was important and that education and reflection will never feel as urgent as most other callings. But I was squirming in our comfortable classroom. Frederick Buechner wrote, "Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace and joy and freedom for me." Call it a test of connectedness.

The theological conversation went nicely. Brian McLaren was his usual eloquent and winsome self, and everyone rightly appreciated what he had to say. Naturally, I found their pleasant response disappointing. Anticipating controversy, I had been hoping that the miraculous quieting of some theological storm would justify our presence as theologians. But the reception turned out to be as lovely and placid as the campus itself. I was also disappointed that there were not more people in attendance. One of the students told me afterward that postmodern kinds of questions were simply "not on the radar screen" for most of the campus. We had seen a similar response among many of the pastors back in Uganda. Post-colonialism does not necessarily follow the same course as postmodernism, as one may doubt a colonial meta-narrative without doubting meta-narratives in general.

When we all returned to Uganda from our field trips, my story did not feel as dramatic as many of the ones I heard. Compared to theirs, my experience had been pretty routine. Looking back on it, I see that as a good thing. This trip made Africa feel less exotic . . . and more like home.

Friday, May 25, 2007



If you'd like to see pictures from the gathering, we're creating a group of pics over at flickr. Go to:

If you were there, please upload your pictures to flickr and tag them with "amahoro." This will add them to the above group.

If you need help using flickr, please e-mail me at