Picture credit: Bible Society / Mark Woods
Social entrepreneur Ndide Nwuneli brought a rousing and inspirational message to the African Biblical Leadership Initiative (ABLI) conference on its opening day.
Nwuneli, who founded the leadership development charithy LEAP Africa in 2002 and is now involved with agribusiness companies in Lagos, Nigeria, uses her business skills to develop ethical leadership and effective innovation in the commercial sphere.
In a TED talk delivered two years ago with the title, 'The role of faith and belief in modern Africa', she argued that the Church was not living up to the potential of its role in Africa and that it should 'leverage its resources' to bring about change.
She said she was drawn to ABLI because of its vision to 'empower African leaders with biblical truths'.
Nwuneli told the conference she had been approached by young people who were disillusioned about the Church in Africa. 'Many are intellectual, some of the best and brightest', she said, adding that there was a 'growing crisis that had to be addressed' in the light of fact that 70 per cent of the continent's population were young.
In a series of hard-hitting challenges, she said the Churches needed to be far more united than they are, and that they sometimes gave the impression of competing for market share instead of truly following Christ who calls for unity.
She said the Churches collectively have 'tremendous assets' in terms of their buildings, but that these were under-used because of misplaced scruples about profaning a holy place.
She urged the need to take on 'difficult topics' such as family planning, sexual abuse and rape, and corruption, including abuse perpetrated by clergy and covered up by churches – a cause of disillusionment when congregations saw what was happening.
She urged her hearers to 'change our mindsets about what we celebrate as Africans'. Rather than celebrating the richest people, she said, Christians should encourage the celebration of farmers and teachers. Leadership, she said was not defined only by position; a true leader was one who had vision and was able to inspire others.
She referred to the traditional 'serenity prayer' written by US theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, which begins, 'God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change', offering an alternative version. 'I'm no longer asking God for the serentiy to accept the things I cannot change. I'm asking the Almighty to grant me the courage and wisdom to change the things I cannot accept,' she said.
'I cannot accept that Africa is considered the poverty capital of the world. It's not part of the narrative I will accept as an African, because I know what we are capable of.'
She concluded: 'We have to embrace that narrative that we can solve our own problems and we are going to lead by example to transform this continent.
'Let's commit that we're not going to accept trauma as our history.
'Africans can do great things.'