The Amahoro Africa gathering has surpassed my wildest expectations. I was moved, challenged and encouraged. I was networked, connected, inspired and lifted up to a new viewpoint of hope and vision for this beautiful, tragic, struggling, bleeding, pulsating, dancing, dynamic, big-heart continent which I have the privilege of calling home. This was not a conference. It really was a family-reunion of visionary, thinking and praying doers who welcomed me as a new member. I now have a responsibility towards my new family to follow conversations up with action and prayer. I can’t wait to get started.
This is what I wrote last night as a comment on the Amahoro Africa website. Amahoro means peace, harmony, holism, much like the Hebrew shalom. My previous post was entitled Amahoro Africa conference: The African Reformation. Now I understand why the organisers haven’t called it a conference, but a gathering. Monday night they said it was a family reunion. It sounded cliche to me.
One of my roommates was Steven Kurikunkiko. He told me his story of growing up as an orphan in Uganda. His parents were killed in the war when he was six. In 1996 he went to Rwanda, where his parents had originally fled from, also because of a war. He was greeted by the sight of dead bodies in the streets and people walking around with chopped off hands and feet.
Steven started caring for widows, orphans and HIV positive women who had been raped during the genocide that broke out in 1994. He and his wife are renting a building where 160 widows are making crafts and are being trained as tailors. They have 15 sewing machines but Steven says if they can get another 65 machines they will be able to train some while others are selling clothes on the market.
Last night I discovered that Sean, a South African now living in London, is already supporting Steven. Sean told me about Friends-of-Steven and about the charity he is setting up that will allow people to donate towards Steven’s project and other similar ones. Then I understood why I saw Steven and Sean sitting together so often during breaks. They are friends. They belong to the Amahoro family. It’s not a cliche.
Yesterday a man from the Batwa tribe (“Pygmee”) in the DRC spoke about his village and their challenges. A church in Texas are friends with them. Before they started talking about money, friendships were built. Batwa people are visiting Texas and Texans are visiting the Batwa village.
Philbert Kalisa, founder of Reach Rwanda (see also here) told me about their work in reconciling warring tribes with each other who then build houses together in “villages of hope”. How many more stories, projects and friendships are there among the hundreds of participants who were here from West, East, Central and Southern Africa, from North America, Europe, Australia and Nieu Zeeland?
I found new hope for Africa and my African identity took on new meaning. Time to get our hands dirty!