China and India are growing influences on global change which will transform the way the world is governed and also the meaning of development, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, has declared - report Fredrick Nzwili from Nairobi for Ecumenical News International (ENI) and Paulino Menezes (WCC).
Dr Kobia was speaking last week at a meeting to elect the first governing officers of ACT Development, which is being administered by the World Council of Churches. It is using the name of ACT (Action by Churches Together) International, the emergency aid group that has been its inspiration.
The Geneva-based WCC leader observed that Nairobi is situated at the centre of eastern Africa, and is clearly on the "map of regional and international politics" at the crossroads of the Horn of Africa, the Nile valley, and the Great Lakes region.
"The Horn of Africa has a strategic position in regard to the Arab peninsula. Former European colonial powers, the USA and more recently China - all are competing for resources, markets and political influence," noted Dr Kobia.
"We can clearly discern in the region the growing influence of China and India as engines of global change that will shift the present global governance architecture and also the development discourse," said Dr Kobia. This was "something definitely to be taken into immediate consideration by any specialised ministry that is based in the realm of the currently dominant North Atlantic regions".
Dr Kobia noted that a few weeks earlier, more than 60 000 people from all over the world gathered in the Kenyan capital for the World Social Forum, which seeks the development of economic and social systems that are not locked into mainstream profit-only-driven models.
"The fragile peace process in Sudan, the catastrophe in Darfur with its destabilising effects on Chad, and the crisis in Somalia - all point to new geopolitical challenges that have a profound impact on the region," said Dr Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya. He said that in what is known as the war on terror, religious tensions are taking new forms.
"The developments in Somalia threaten to fuel already dangerous Christian-Muslim conflicts and to spark new wars in and between other countries. For many years, the rush for oil has been a major factor in the region, especially in Southern Sudan and now also in Chad," the WCC head commented.
Dr Kobia noted: "The capacity of the ecumenical movement to respond to the challenges of today's world depends to a large extent on more creative and future oriented forms of co-operation and networking."
ACT Development is a voluntary global alliance of Churches and related organizations that work together to promote collaboration in the field of development. Its goal is to promote and facilitate cooperation between participants. Unlike ACT International, it will not assist in the transfer of funds between donors and implementers.
The World Council of Churches' 348 mainly Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches bring together more than 560 million Christians.
[With grateful 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]