THE REPORT OF THE 4TH PAN AFRICAN CONFERNCE PRESENTED TO NEC/NST, CATHOLIC CHARISMATIC RENEWAL OF NIGERIA (CCRN) AT HER MEETING OF FRIDAY 7TH SEPTEMBER 2018 AT THE NATIONAL SERVICE CENTRE (NSC) UBULU-UKU, DELTA STATE.
The 4th Pan African Conference, the highest in the series of gathering of members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal from across African was held in Lome the capital of the Republic of Togo a small but vibrant West African francophone country from Monday 6th to Sunday the 12th of August 2018 at the National Conference Centre of Lome. The Pan African Conference is aimed at creating an avenue of prayer for interaction amongst peoples that have experienced the charismatic spirituality in Africa and as well help to evolve a structure for the development of the Renewal in the continent. The Conference however started with the youth meeting which comprised of youth delegates from across Africa from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th August 2018 while the conference proper commenced on the 6th through to the 12th August 2018.
The Congress theme was: “I will put my Spirit within you and you shall live again” Ezekiel 36: 27-30. This is a call to individuals, groups and communities to eternalize the Pentecost experience for personal sanctification and evangelization of the continent of Africa.
Departure and Arrival at Lome
The Nigeria contingent of fifty seven (57) members including the NST Chairman, the National Chaplain Rev Fr. Alphonsus Ozoemena OP and members of the executive council departed from St Leo’s Catholic Church Ikeja Parish on the morning of Monday 6th August 2018 for the Republic of Togo en route the Republic of Benin by road. The journey was smooth but for some delays owing to boarder crossing modalities, we give God all the glory for a safe and eventful journey that brought all contingent to their hotel in Lome around 9:00pm same day. Meanwhile the youths that went for Pan African Youth meeting, the AFSCI Vice Chairman and Anglophone West African Coordinator, represented Nigeria during the opening celebration for the flag-off and recognition of countries present at the conference.
The venue of the Conference was the Conference Centre Lome equivalent to Nigeria national theatre in Lagos it has a capacity to accommodate three thousand (3,000) participants. The venue is a fully air conditioned theatre beautifully decorated in the colours of the Republic of Togo, The stage was the centre of attraction it was adored with a beautifully decorated altar and a giant but colourful banner at the background depicting the Conference. The Conference Centre was fully occupied and filled, throughout the duration of the programme. The venue was just adequate for the conference.
Resource Persons and Messages
The first message of the Conference was given by Nicodeme Barrigah-Benissan a Bishop from Togo with the topic “individual conversion a necessity for the birth of a new Africa” the core of the message centred on the need for all Charismatic to eternalize the gospel and this will serve as the springboard for the evangelization of Africa. The second message was taken by Mr Alumasi Joseph from Uganda with the topic “Brotherly love baseline for Africa to develop” where he noted that Africa has lost the basis of her family bond and love, he noted that the bond of Christ that binds us together transcends that of tribe, gender, language and country. Africa must realise this, he emphasised before she can actually develop and move forward. The third message taken by Rev Fr Desire Agbetoho from Mali he actually took the conference theme “I will put my Spirit within you and you shall live” he talked about the actions of the Holy Spirit in the church yesterday and today, he noted that we can truly live when we propagate the gospel and love of Christ. As we do this, he stressed the love of God will be made manifest in our lives by making us better and beautiful people. The forth message is with the topic “Personal experience of Pentecost for a more dynamic church in our country” was taken by the ICCRS President Mr Jim Murphy from USA. He noted that we cannot achieve communal Pentecost without individual or personal Pentecost, Pentecost experience starts with an individual. He admonished that all should endeavour to achieve personal Pentecost and ultimately our communities will experienced this since a community and societies are congregation of individuals. He subsequently led a prayer session for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on participants; it was a wonderful experience in the presence of the most High God. The AFSCI president Mr Jean Christophe Sakiti took the fifth message with the topic “We are sent by the Spirit to announce the Good News to all creation” in his message he buttress how it is the desire of our Lord Jesus Christ that all renewal members receive the Holy Spirit and be His witness all over the world, He stressed that we believers limit ourselves in achieving this mandate of Christ because we have not fully surrendered and equally dependent sorely on the Holy Spirit for empowerment and grace.
The forth day of the conference witnesses the sharing of participants into four major groups for messages specifically for various categorizations: The groups are: The Family, Youth, Priests and the Religious. Dr Edo Olotu from Nigeria ministered to the family group with he topic “Family, place and path of sanctification” he noted that the family is an institution ordained by God thus God expects us to depend on Him to succeed in marriage, husband and wife should always respect and forgive each other because marriage is a space for forgiveness. He admonished parents to bring up their children in the way of the Lord by teaching them basic and sound Christian principles and getting them involved in their local church, through this the family is sanctified. Rev Fr Chanel Affognon from Togo took the youths on the topic “The youth and the new world order” the priest admonished the youth not to conform themselves to the prevalent social decadence in our present society but should preserve and conform themselves to the divine order of Jesus Christ and only in Him can they attain true greatness and success. Rev Fr Desire Agbetoho from Mali also took the priests on the topic ‘Burning in the pastoral work with the Holy Spirit, life in the Holy Spirit and mission, while Monsignor Isaac Gaglo from Togo took the religious on the topic ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit and inner life. The seventh message was delivered by Professor Isaac Ukpokolo from Nigeria with the topic “Financial means for evangelization in our prayer groups and communities” he emphasised that we do not need to organise big spiritual programmes to raise money for the running of renewal but must teach our members to give sacrificially. He noted that “it’s not what one gives but what one is holding back”. He admonished that if we give sacrificially like the widow who gave a mite joyfully, grace shall abound. He concluded that leaders should not use the group’s money for personal aggrandizement but rather for the general good of the group because God will hold them accountable. The eight message was given by Mr Cyril John the intercessory ministry leader at ICCRS on the topic: “Prayer for the revival of Africa, let’s pray for the restoration of Africa” he noted that African despite her potentials is impoverished and backward because she is bedevilled with so many problems which can be surmounted and the current narratives, can also change through what he termed “strategic intercession”. He likened strategic intercession to a remote controlled inter-continental ballistic missile that can destroy with precession the enemy’s camp and change the destiny of a nation for good. He called all renewal members to the world of intercession and prophesy so that the dry bones in the valley of death as in the book of Ezekiel 37: 1-14 can live again. The Stations of the Cross procession followed after launch. Buses were used to convey participants to the Cathedral about three (3) kilometres from the venue of the conference; this is where the procession started from. It was as if the whole city of Lome was shut down for Christ, the procession was massive and by the time the Stations of the Cross was concluded at the conference venue, the size of people that participated had more than tripled. The whole of Africa was prayed for, it was simply grandiose.
There was an executive meeting of professionals, politicians and business men with Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson from Rome. The ninth message was given by ICCRS president Mr Jim Murphy with the topic “Rekindling the flame of the Spirit in our groups and communities: life in our groups and communities” he noted that it is not our duty as humans to give the flame but that of God, notwithstanding it’s our to rekindle this, God gives us the flame that the gospel be preached all over the world, through personal and collective fanning of the flame. He advised that we sustain the flame through engaging ourselves in constant spiritual exercises in the company of God’s people. Mr Oresta Pesare the director of ICCRS from Rome gave the tenth message which is a video clip on the message of the Holy father for the Charismatic Renewal, he stressed that the Pope sees the Charismatic Renewal as not a movement but a current of grace in the church because it has no founder, he reported that the holy father advices that Christians all over the world should close ranks for the blood of Christians are being shed daily all over the world, the persecutors do not regard denominations but the basic question persecutors of Christians ask is : “are you a Christian” ? Thus we Christians should under play those things that divide us and lay emphasis on “Jesus is Lord” our faith and binding factor and fight the good fight of faith. The Papas message by Mr Oresta Pesare rounded off the activities inside the Conference Centre, members were then asked to shift to town for a crusade aimed at evangelisation. The day which was Saturday 11th 2018 was rounded off with a well organised and elaborate dinner at a hotel at down town Lome. All messages were translated in both French and English and participants listened through their phones on channel 90.0 of Radio Maria a radio station in Togo and the designated radio station for the conference.
The presence of some un-armed police officers were visible outside and around the conference centre, participants’ conference bags were searched by members of security sub committee at the main entrance of the conference centre. There was no visible security breach throughout the conference, participants and the general populace were very orderly throughout the Stations of the Cross procession through the town of Lome. Police had to stop traffic at every junction for procession to go on unhindered while the general populace were very cooperative, patient and orderly.
Time management is a determinant factor in assessing the success or otherwise of a programme and if what transpired at the 4th Pan African Conference is anything to go by, the organisers did excellently well. The programme each day starts on schedule, praise and worship with prayers at their appointed time, the resource persons were made to be time conscious and are issued reminders whenever necessary, I can say virtually all resource persons received this reminders even some protested. Participants had their lunch at the due time because time was effectively managed between messages. Most evening participants by 7:45pm would have been on their way out of the venue to have their dinner at the four court of the conference venue and by 8:00pm to 8:30pm most participants would have been in their hotel rooms. It is also worthy to note that this was probably achieved because the conference was not crowded with messages which gave room for some flexibility for relaxation of participants, this is worthy of emulation.
Feeding / Accommodation
Two big tents were mounted at both sides of the four courts of the conference centre, with well arranged tables and chairs, this served as the dinning hall for participants at the conference. On arrival participants were given a meal ticket each and on close look at theses tickets one can simple conclude that four caterers will be in charge of feeding of participants. The meal tickets were named after four saints a participant will therefore have to approach the caterer that bears the name on his or her meal ticket for a meal package since feeding had been incorporated into the conference registration. Though four caterers were engaged they served the same type of cuisine for each meal which comprise of French and local delicacies, prominent amongst these are French bread, leaves salad with cream, difference types of local rice and mainly fish and chicken. Most of us from Nigeria had to do with this but thank God we had a caterer in our hotel that prepared Nigeria delicacies for our breakfast and dinner. Participants were well fed and the Saturday dinner was the icing on the cake. The hotel accommodation for participants from Nigeria was relatively manageable members stayed two (2) in a room. Participants were conveyed from their hotel to the conference venue in two Coaster buses and back each day made the programme more soothing.
PAS / Praise and Worship Sessions
The importance of a good public address system in the success of a programme with the magnitude of the Pan African Conference cannot be over emphasised, every word from the stage could be heard distinctively across the hall. The PAS system used was of a high quality and this actually helped participants to appreciate and enjoy the praise and worship sessions. The praise and worship ministry were at her best rendering inspiring and melodious tunes to the glory of God, worthy to note is how they were able to renders songs in English and French and other languages carrying all participants along.: Yoruba song was even rendered. The dance gesture and smiles of members of this ministry attracted attention, most especially a sister who stood out as she demonstrated the passion she has for her ministry and her charming smiles, won the admiration and love of so many participants. The instrumentalists were professional as they key into different tunes effortlessly, in all about eighteen (18) of them ministered including instrumentalist, the ministry did marvellously well they exhibited maturity and class.
Eucharistic Celebrations (Mass)
A mass was celebrated each day of the conference, the array of bishops from different African countries actually blessed all participants at the conference, some masses were said in French and some in English, many priests were in attendance to distribute communion and equally gave helping hands to the bishops in the Eucharistic celebrations. There was also an opportunity for participants who wanted to go to confession to do this as many priest were at hand to minister the sacrament, there was obvious challenge as most of the priests were from Togo and could only communicate in French. This discouraged so many of our members from fully taking this opportunity to go to this sacrament during the conference. Worthy to note that Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson from Rome also celebrated mass
It was observed that the moderation of the entire conference was done by just a sister, who started the moderation at the opening ceremony of the conference through all the activities at the conference centre also concluded it at the open air crusade at evangelization. One would have expected that participating African countries could have been given slots to moderate some parts of the programme this would have given theses countries a sense of belonging and make the conference moderation more robust, inclusive and interesting.
Communication was a major challenge at the conference, judging from the translations of the messages delivered in French into English. The translators were not very proficient in English thus could not, most of the time keep with the pace of the messages being delivered. One dose not need to be a prophet to know that vital information in most of these messages was lost in view of poor translation to those listening through the radio channel. On another hand, the 90.0 channel would be off for some moments by which vital information and messages would have been lost to most of us listening to English translation through the radio channel. It is almost certain that our francophone counterparts would have experienced same while listening in French translations of messages delivered in English. Professional linguist cum translators should have been engaged for proper translation of messages and proceedings.
The effects of poor communication between the francophone and Anglophone countries at the conference greatly undermine the aim of the conference to foster good interaction amongst members; it was observed that there was great hindrance to effective interaction of members because of poor understanding of English by francophone participants and vice-versa. Most participants across the divide had to result to sign language to communicate during the conference and this is not good enough, members should therefore endeavour to have basic knowledge of both English and French languages to aid an appreciable level of communication.
Departure / Conclusion:
The Nigeria contingent to the conference left Lome on Sunday 12th August after attending a Sunday mass and arrived Nigeria around 3:00pm same day. It was a beautiful Pan African Conference and kudos should be given to the organisers for putting up a wonderful conference and to the Almighty God for granting the grace for Nigeria to be part of this great gathering of Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Africa. The next Pan African Conference will hold in four (4) years and Nigeria is slated to host.
Kristie Roir !!!
Kristie Roir !!!!
Kristie Victoire !!!!!