Hazel Southam - Journalist

African Union Summit

More than 150 African political and Church leaders gathered in Addis Ababa in February to pray.

The historic event was a prayer breakfast organised by the Bible Society of Ethiopia in conjunction with Bible Society in the UK.

It was held to coincide with 12th African Union Heads of State Summit, an annual meeting that brings together the continents senior politicians.

Guests included Heads of State, diplomats, foreign ministers, Bible Society General Secretaries, and Church leaders. They included the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo

‘We were encouraging people to pray so that God’s blessing would be invoked over the political process,’ said David Smith, who helped organised the event.

‘We wanted to encourage the political leaders and help them to draw strength from the Bible, as well as wisdom.

‘In any political realm politicians need help. It’s a difficult job. Obviously there are real challenges in Africa and so the challenges that politicians face maybe more.’

The mood at the event – the first of its kind – was described as ‘full of humility’, with senior politicians praying out loud for God’s guidance.

The keynote speaker was Bishop Nvume H Dandala, the former General Secretary of the All Africa Council of Churches. He spoke on Mark 5: 1-20 where Jesus meets Legion, a man possessed by many demons. He told his audience that God could deal with the seeming demons facing Africa such as HIV, poverty and Africa.

James Catford, Chief Executive of Bible Society in the UK attended the event. He said, ‘When he read the passage I leant across to the person beside me and said, “He can’t be applying this to Africa can he?” But he did.

‘We gripped our seats while he addressed the evils of tribalism, warfare, corruption and exploitation.

‘None of us, including the Heads of State and senior politicians across Africa, were left unmoved. The event is sure to build in the years ahead.’

African leaders greeted the prayer breakfast very positively, according to those attending the event. So, plans are afoot to hold a follow-up prayer breakfast at the African Summit in 2010. The hope being that it can become an annual fixture.

‘The prayer breakfast could have a massive impact on people’s lives in Africa,’ said David Smith, ‘if leaders see that they are there as servants to those without power. It could transform Africa.’

The prayer breakfast was the culmination of many years work between the Bible Society of Ethiopia and Bible Society in the UK. At the end of the event, politicians and Church leaders were given the contact details of Bible Society representatives in their country and a list of 400 different African languages in which the Bible is now published.

Boxed Copy

  • Ethiopia has an ancient Christian heritage. Today, Bible Society in Ethiopia takes that heritage very seriously, believing that the Bible represents the future – as well as the past – for the war-torn country.
  • Ethiopia has been ravaged by decades of war and instability with neighbouring Eritrea.
  • Profoundly affected by extreme weather – particularly drought – Ethiopia’s population has also suffered from increasing famines.
  • Yet, when the country celebrated its millennium, the Bible Society in Ethiopia decided to flood the nation with 1 million Bibles.
  • Holding the AU Summit Prayer Breakfast was part of its ongoing commitment to the people of Ethiopia, to bring hope through the word of God.

Originally published in Bible Society

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About Hazel

Hazel Southam is an award-winning journalist who reports on religious affairs, international development and the environment. She has covered four G8 Summits.

She wrote for The Sunday and Daily Telegraph for 10 years. Her work has also appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, The Daily Mail and The Evening Standard.

Reporting assignments have taken her to places including Bosnia, Zimbabwe, Mongolia, Albania, Nagorno-Karabakh, Senegal and the Arctic Circle.

In the UK, she has also delivered media training to the MOD and leading businesses.

Contact Hazel