Leadership key to transforming Africa, say ethicists

By Ecumenical News International
February 14, 2009

An insistence on ethical leadership could change Africa, where the credibility of governance is often questioned, says a Kenyan theologian and environmentalist from the University of Nairobi - writes Fredrick Nzwili.

Professor Jesse Mugambi was speaking after a conference entitled, "Care and Compassion: Sharing Values across Culture", held in Athi River area, near Nairobi. "The conference has helped us to think and look more closely as what means to be responsible, particularly in matters of culture, religion and ethics," Mugambi told Ecumenical News International.

The gathering of ethicists, religious scholars and economists was organized by Globethics.net, a world-ide grouping of people and institutions interested in applied ethics. Participants urged a compassionate globe, while proposing that an insistence on ethical leadership could lead to solutions for countries in crises.

"All great religious leaders have emphasised the centrality of care and compassion," said the ethicists in a statement.

Input centred on an inclusive approach to common values based on a global ethical vision of human dignity, social responsibility and justice. The discussion also cautioned, however, that ethics could be misused to dominate or oppress.

The ethicists from all over the world said global ethics were more urgent than ever after visiting Kibera, a sprawling informal settlement adjacent to Nairobi. There they heard the tales of residents who live in an area with more then 1 million people who battle for the most basic services in a settlement often described as "Africa's largest slum".

"We came back with lot sadness, pity and perhaps some anger at what we saw there," said the Rev. Shanta Premawardhana, the director of inter-religious dialogue at the World Council of Churches, in remarks at the conference. "Until we are able to live in those people's shoes, we don't understand a thing."

Premawardhana later said in an interview that ethics are critical in his work to expand dialogue at the global ecumenical body that constitutes the world's largest grouping of churches made up of mainly Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant traditions with some 560 million members. "Religious dialogue is also very necessary. That's an area [ethics] WCC has been working in for long time," Premawardhana said, while adding that a document drawn up at the meeting would be an asset for churches as they engage in dialogue.

Christoph Stückelberger, the executive director and founder of Globethics.net, who is also a professor of ethics at the University of Basel, told ENI that the goal of the document was to show how peace attempts could be undertaken with respect and truth.

"When Buddhists in Thailand fight to defend trees, as one of the participants, a Buddhist teacher does, Muslims calls for protection of trees in order to mitigate climate change, and a Christian participant here publishes books on environmental ethics - then all these are the contribution we make from our faith-based backgrounds," Stückelberger said.

Weblink: Globethics http://www.globethics.net

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

Keywords:leadership | Kenya | ethics
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