14th June 2010
We held a local Women's Federation for World Peace - Universal Peace Federation event in Birmingham to recognize the United Nation's Day for Africa. Over 100 people came together, with representatives from 12 different African countries present.Our first speaker was Rev Charles Ilunga, currently training for the Methodist ministry. He graphically described the horrors which he witnessed and experienced in Congo, and from which he and his family had to flee at barely a moments’ notice. They were split apart, his wife and daughter spending more than 4 dangerous months in the African jungle, surviving on any edible roots and leaves they could find, before being reunited and finding refuge in a UN refugee camp in Zambia. He expressed his gratitude to God, and the many friends in the UK who have helped him to continue in ministry. Phillip Crombie, Governor of Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH), then gave an inspiring report about a twinning project which has linked the hospital to a similar hospital in Malawi’s second city, Blantyre. For the past 6 years, there has been an exchange of personnel and donations of equipment and supplies, with nurses, doctors and consultants travelling out to Malawi for varying periods of time up to 1 year. Although the latter have given of their time and expertise voluntarily, Phillip was at pains to point out how much the staff from Birmingham have gained personally through the experience, and that it is not just a one-way aid type of project. He then spoke about a similar project which, it is hoped, will link BCH with Caritas Baby Hospital in the West Bank in Bethlehem.
Dr Fathi Jamil (photo bottom left), a prominent member of the Sudanese community in Birmingham, spoke movingly of the situation in Darfur, and his personal experience of the generous hospitality of the native people there, prior to the recent conflict which has caused so much suffering to the lives of ordinary people. He is currently Managing Director of the Community Resource Information Service, which helps many vulnerable people both within and beyond the Sudanese community.
Marcianne Uwimana, originally from Rwanda, shared about the vision of the African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM),for whom she has worked in the UK since 2002, raising awareness and funds which can help ALARM’S projects in several African countries. These include raising leaders with Christian values, educating communities to fight poverty, AIDS prevention, resolving tribal conflicts and developing programmes which can help empower the socio-economically deprived. During the meeting, a collection was taken and £150 raised for the work of Alarm.
Finally, Diana Murungu described her experience growing up in the former Rhodesia, part of which became Southern Rhodesia and, finally, Zimbabwe. She spoke about early formative experiences with her mother, and as a young girl growing up in a British colony, her formal education and the education provided by everyday life. These led her into social work, with a particular concern for children orphaned through HIV/AIDS. She spent 25 years in this field, during which time she helped to develop, and advocated for, the first National Orphan Care Policy in Zimbabwe.
Rashio Koroma, who came to the UK as an ‘unaccompanied minor’ from Sierra Leone, gave a short talk about the horror of Child Soldiers, and the strategy and motivation of those who were engaged in conscripting children into factional armies, before singing a moving song he had written ‘Down on Bended Knee’, with a friend, Lloyd, from Cameroon (photo bottom right).
After a brief open discussion, we entered the final part of our programme, Interfaith Prayers for Africa. David played the evocative Muslim ‘Call to Prayer’, from Karl Jenkins “A Mass for Peace”, and this was followed by several ladies in the audience coming to the front of the room to read or sing either a prayer or a section of sacred scripture. We had prayers and readings from the Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Bahai, Jain and Christian traditions. Each representative lit a candle before their prayer for Africa, and we concluded with Mrs Josee Ilunga, an African mother, lighting the central candle, representing all African people.
Subsequently, with more than 100 people present, there was no shortage of chatting, networking and fellowship as we shared some refreshments together.