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Changing the Paradigm...

The World Evangelical Alliance is not about rich countries helping poor countries. It's about interconnectedness within the Body of Christ, and about a spirit of generosity.

Aiah Foday-Khabenje is the leader of the Evangelical alliance of the Western African Nation of Sierra Leone. This is no easy challenge considering the recent history of one of the poorest countries in the world.

I'm so thankful for the lessons the Christians in Sierra Leone taught me.

Sierra Leone's brutal civil war finally ended in 2002, having terrorized the country for over a decade. During the war, rebel groups controlled much of the country and made widespread use of child soldiers. The alliance, along with Christian aid agencies, is now trying to meet the vast needs in former rebel strongholds. In addition to promoting peace and helping to rebuild Sierra Leone's infrastructure, these agencies must also address the growing prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which threatens to spiral to epidemic levels.

The country now faces the challenges of physical reconstruction and emotional healing, while the problems of poverty, tribal rivalry and corruption, that caused the conflict, are still pervasive. Ongoing insecurity in neighbouring Liberia has also helped to destabilize the region. Yet hope is growing within the country. No one would have thought five years ago that Sierra Leone would be where it is now, with the war finished in Africa. There's a visible optimism. It is apparent by the way that communities are moving forward and accepting the fact that the past has to be put aside.

Aiah was one of the participants in the World Evangelical Alliance World Issues Summit held this month in Orlando, Florida.

One of the most significant moments for me in this gathering of leaders from around the world was when Aiah shared how the Evangelical fellowship in his nation had rallied the churches to respond to the tsunami disaster in Sri Lanka.

According to Aiah, it is the duty of Christians to be our brothers/ sisters' keepers.

Aiah went on to say the appeal was based on the concept that giving is not necessarily from a position of abundance, but often from a position of need (the widow's mite). That's why they called on Christians in Sierra Leone to join the rest of the world to remember in prayer those suffering in Sri Lanka, and to respond generously by giving toward the tsunami victims' appeal fund.

Through the generosity of the churches of Sierra Leone, they sacrificially provided assistance to those devastated by this disaster—their sister Evangelical alliance in Sri Lanka.

As I listened to Aiah humbly share this story, I thought to myself, this is the way the Body of Christ ought to work. It's not about materially wealthy "northern" countries helping materially poorer, "southern" countries. It's about interconnectedness within the Body of Christ. It's about a spirit of generosity.

I'm so thankful for the lessons the Christians in Sierra Leone taught me. I'm also deeply grateful for the World Evangelical Alliance that helps us connect the Body of Christ around the world.

Geoff Tunnicliffe is the director of global initiatives with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and the international coordinator of the World Evangelical Alliance.




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