“Ignited! That is how we felt as we ended the Lead Magis+ Africa conference on leadership development” said Clive Pawakwenyewa from Zimbabwe. The conference was an initiative of the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network of Africa (JENA) that took place from 12 to 14 October 2019. The conference was a response to the invitation of the four Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) of 2019 to 2029, specifically the fourth preference which focuses on the accompaniment of the Youth to a hope-filled future.
The conference ran under the theme “What must change inside the mind of a young person or an adult to accomplish innovation in the outside world?” It brought together 130 participants from all across Africa West, East and South at the Centre Christus in Kigali. At the same time, participants felt sad to leave the hospitality and warmth of Kigali also symbolic of Africa’s hopes for the future.
Above: Youth take part in group sessions in the Lead Magis+ Africa forum
Indeed, Kigali lived up to the sentiment expressed by the Rwanda Burundi Provincial, Fr. Jean-Batiste Gansa SJ in his welcome remarks, that it was a welcoming and beautiful space.
Above: Fr. Jean Baptiste Gansa SJ addressing the youth in the Lead Magis+ Africa forum
It was three days of learning and sharing as young leaders from the represented countries explored leadership and personal growth as well as exchanged ideas and advice on how best to be extraordinary leaders.
As Deus from Zambia said “I was not sure I had it in me to bring change. I felt I had to wait until I had more education and experience, or had more money, but I am going now. I am going to do something with what I have.”
A participant from Nigeria shared that while she had attended many leadership training within and outside her country, this training touched her heart because of its focus on character and way forward: “This programme of leadership development touches my heart and my personhood. As I leave, I am clear about the next steps launching me into an initiator and leader of change”.
The sessions brought both self-knowledge and supplied practical spiritual and leadership tools for us, another participant shared. “I felt I was in touch with God. I am not always too spiritual, but during our conference, I felt I could talk to him, and he would listen,” Prosper from Ghana shared.
Kudzi from Zimbabwe said she felt she was ready to inspire others after going through the training. Her main takeaway, she said, was the love she had felt throughout the conference, which she was going to share with others at home
The conference wound down with a gracious candlelight commissioning service where the young people made a pledge committing to being global citizens interested in and concerned about global issues confronting humanity like poverty, inequality and climate change. During the missioning candlelight service, the participants were commissioned to go out and be part of the global movement to tackle the world’s problems. They were missioned by Zimbabwean Jesuit Fr Ignatius Padya SJ to go and “set the world on fire.” The moving and touching moments during the candlelight service came as the ensemble of the close to 130 young participants accepted the mission and together sang Michael Jackson’s ‘we are the world.’ The moment brought even more solemnity and depth as friends reluctantly bid each other goodbye.
Above: youths take part in the candlelight service in the Lead Magis+ Africa forum
After the candlelight service, Scholastica from Ghana felt that she had been given space to speak and be really heard without judgment while Gabriel, also from Ghana, felt ready to go and revisit a charity idea they had let go.
Fr. Kpanie SJ summed it up beautifully, saying that the conference had laid down excellent ground for growing the leadership network, with meetings planned for Southern and Western Africa further developing collaboration.
At the end of the conference Fr. Charles Chilufya who is also the director of the Justice and Ecology Office expressed his gratitude to all those who made the programme possible. “We are grateful to all the partners who made this conference possible especially the Jesuit major superiors of Africa and Madagascar, Canada Jesuit International (CJI) and the Jesuit Missions – UK. We look forward to carrying forward the fruits of this engagement and ensure that it achieves its intended goals. Let us continue the journey together!
Above: Fr. Charles Chilufya SJ, director JENA