Hearing From the Church: Church and Peace in Africa

Today throughout Africa communities continue to suffer under internal, intercultural, religious, and political tensions, as well as injustice and abuse of power. These ethnic conflicts are the origin of present violence and civil wars.


From pre-colonial times until today Africa has witnessed several forms of atrocities. More particularly since the end of the Second World War, Africa has been the region of the world most affected by conflicts, particularly between non-state groups. In some countries, these conflicts have shown the failure of state institutions and resulted in many refugees and internally displaced people moving to other countries seeking a better source of livelihood.

Today throughout Africa communities continue to suffer under internal, intercultural, religious, and political tensions, as well as injustice and abuse of power. These ethnic conflicts are the origin of present violence and civil wars.

Meanwhile, the church – those God has chosen, adopted, and granted a share of inheritance with Jesus Christ, and marked with His seal by the Holy Spirit (to summarize Paul in Ephesians) - has experienced and continues to experience division. In some instances Christians are unable to commune even in the same buildings. In some places in Africa, the church, and more specifically Evangelicals, have fallen prey to divisive ethnicity.

The sad fact is that, more than four or five centuries ago when the first Christian missionaries set foot on African soil, the continent and indeed the world is troubled and humanity is in distress.


The trouble of our world is noticeable in Africa through the growing poverty, inequality, and the ever-increasing difficulty with which communities access natural resources for their survival. In addition, religious intolerance, violations of human rights and the tensions and conflicts resulting from democracy and governance of African States and communities contribute to the distress many experience.

Poverty and inequality

Poverty and conflicts are closely linked. Poverty and inequalities are the driving forces of civil wars and armed conflicts which generate bad governance and weaker economic performance.

Difficult access to natural resources for African communities

The African continent is endowed with abundant natural resources including diamond, gold, petrol, natural gas, uranium, brass, platinum, cobalt and many more. Nonetheless, difficulties in accessing these natural resources and the control of the revenues generated by them are a main driver of conflict and violence. This link between natural resource access and conflicts has been observed throughout history. Humanity will fight for essential resources which are unjustly and unfairly distributed.

Cultural and religious tensions

Three types of religious conflicts are observed in Africa today:

  • Inter-religious conflicts, chiefly between Christians and Muslims.
  • Inner-church conflicts among Christians (Catholics versus Protestants, Fundamental Protestants versus Charismatic revivalists, Churches founded by missionaries versus churches founded by Africans).
  • Religious conflicts backed by political interests and ideologies.

In summary, we witness in Africa numerous conflicts resulting from globalization and the tensions within and between cultures and religious perspectives.

Violations of human rights

Insurrections, domestic conflicts and inter-communal violence are main drivers of human right violations, leading to war crimes against humanity, and attacks on property, freedom and human dignity.

Power struggles and exclusion policies

African societies are moving away from each other and to protectionist nationalism and politics. Holding general elections, often amidst armed conflict, has become a common African exercise. These are marked by the will to protect, at every cost, economic and political interests resulting in the erosion of democratic norms and the authorization of wars. Some leaders try to evade term limits, fix elections, and limit electoral candidates to the same ethnic group or family members. In addition, external actors are interfering in electoral processes, shaping the electoral results to benefit outside interest.


International institutions and organizations seeking solutions to African conflicts often perceive the Christian faith as one of the sources of conflicts and exclude it as one of the possible solutions. Meanwhile, and unfortunately, many Christian communities, chiefly evangelical, voluntarily exclude themselves from the circle of reconciliatory actors. Slogans like, “we don’t involve in politics” are theologically justified using biblical texts like:

  • “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17)
  • “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God…” (Romans 13:1-2)
  • [Jesus answered Pilate]: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)

However, the Godhead in whom we believe – the Creator of heaven and earth, Jesus Christ the redemptive Son, and the Holy Spirit our comforter and renewer – unites God’s church to accomplish one mission: Be in His image and bring back humanity back to him, along with all of creation which groans deeply for redemption and restoration.

Is the mission of the church, messenger and prophet of God, only limited to preaching the forgiveness of sins and eternal life? Should it not also include bringing good news to the poor who do not have access to essential natural resources? Is it not to heal those with broken hearts stemming from violence and violations of human rights, particularly refugees who no longer have a home, job, or livelihood for they and their children? Is it not to take concrete initiative so that the deported can be told, “You are free!” and to those in prison, “You will see the light of day again!”?

In this twenty-first century, has the church also not received the mandate of Joseph, established as master over all Egypt, to save the lives of a numerous people? Has the church not received the liberating mandate of Moses to tell Pharaoh: “Let my people go so they can serve me”? Or, what of Esther and Mordechai’s thwarting and denouncing political assassination plots and projects of genocide?

The Church, in our opinion, should put on the mantle of Nehemiah to commit its members to the rebuilding of the moral and cultural pillars of our cities, villages, and nations. African society has been demolished by corruption, drug abuse, sexual sin – both hetero and homosexual – and other forms of moral depravations encouraged by some political, financial, national and international institutions. The church of Jesus Christ today is preceded and surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses who by faith conquered kingdoms and exercised justice. Was not the fasting and prayers of those who came before us not followed by words, actions and concrete commitments in their generations?

The Association of Evangelicals in Africa believes there are between 150 to 180 million evangelicals in Africa. This is an impressive number and presents an opportunity for the transformation of Africa. Evangelicals have the potential to bring healing to the nations.

The church, ambassador of Jesus Christ, must not only preach reconciliation with God and the forgiveness of sins but act out the faith it proclaims. Indeed, as James challenges, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:14-17).

To distraught disciples facing a crowd in a deserted place at a late hour, our Lord made a recommendation which is still valid today: “You give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37). Jesus our Lord expects that we will give drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and those in prison (Matthew 25:31-46). Dr. Desmond Tutu, Anglican Archbishop and emblematic figure of the struggle against South African apartheid said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

We, the World Evangelical Alliance’s Peace and Reconciliation Network Africa team call the Evangelical church in Africa to realize its capacities and spiritual resources as an agent of change for peace and reconciliation at community and national levels.

PRN Africa Team

PRN Africa Regional Coordinator – Martin Kapenda

Lead author – Rev. Vehi Etienne TOKPA, Anglican Diocese of Sekondi, Western Region, Ghana