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The African Pre-World Conference Conference

The African Pre-World-Conference Conference took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in October of 1997. I organized the conference while at home in Zimbabwe. Before this, I did not appreciate the work involved in organizing such an event away from home! It took a lot out of me, but it finally happened. I could hardly believe it was finally happening here in Africa.

There were seventy-three conference participants-from South Africa, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Swaziland, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, as well as leaders from the United States and England. South Africa had the highest representation: musicians, women involved in developmental projects in rural areas, professionals, priests, disabled people, as well as a strong contingent of unemployed young people.

There are RC Communities in other African countries, but they were not able to send delegates: Botswana, Congo Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea Malabo, and Namibia Windhoek. In some cases airline tickets were sent, but for unknown reasons the delegates did not make it to the conference. There was no contact with Congo Brazzaville due to the war in that country, which was unfortunate as they have been having regular classes there.

Tim Jackins and Diane Shisk were excellent leaders. They were observant and mindful of participants' needs, and they changed their approach to suit the level of understanding of the newer RCers. Experienced RCers were paired off with inexperienced ones, and the same was done when setting up support groups. During support groups and sessions there was lots of discharge. Some participants, who thought crying was not for them because they were tough, ended up discharging, much to their surprise.

The topic of racism brought a lot of discharge in the support groups. South Africans are still trying to heal from the political oppression they have suffered for so long. Tim, who led the classes, included demonstrations on racism and internalized oppression. When the client discharged, most of the class discharged along with him or her. I had sessions with several South Africans who wanted to be listened to on this topic. They spoke and discharged about their painful experiences during the apartheid period.

Tim's classes covered many aspects of RC and were punctuated by mini-sessions and demonstrations. Leaders from overseas were very helpful. Most of the time was spent teaching fundamentals to most of the group.

A (non-RC) workshop for young people was going on at our conference site at the same time as the conference. At the request of these young people, our group started teaching them RC. This went on way into the night when they were supposed to be resting. There was a marked change in these young people by the end of the conference. Some of our RCers decided they would continue with this group after the conference, while they were still in Johannesburg.

African Leaders' Meeting

An African leaders' group met during the conference. I asked Njoki Kamau to lead us, and she agreed. The following issues were brought up:

  • Many Africans are shy and find it difficult to show emotions.

  • Oppression and abuse of women and young people are accepted as the norm.

  • Conflicts in Africa are increasing, creating more poverty and more refugees.

  • People are oppressed by tradition, religion, and politics, and because of their gender. This oppression has been internalized.

  • According to RC theory, human beings begin life completely good, completely intelligent, etc. Some Christian sects have a different view of human beings that is in conflict with RC.

  • Isolation is a big issue and needs to be interrupted.

  • We need policy on how to develop an African RC Community in a place where there is already a white RC Community.

  • Lack of resources make it difficult for the working class to be involved in RC.

  • As African leaders, it is important that we share information and reach agreement on how to tackle the places where RC clashes with traditional African cultures.

  • RC needs to be introduced as a Community and not as an organization. Otherwise it is easily confused with donor organizations which are a common feature in Africa.

  • It has been difficult to keep people active after they have completed a fundamentals class.

  • It is difficult to hold workshops due to lack of funds.

  • Taking RC to other regions within one country is a problem due to lack of funds.

  • Articles in Present Time on homosexuality are not easily accepted. Some Africans have concluded that RC condones homosexuality, and this discourages their participation.

  • In some countries, it may be wise to consider registering RC as an organization, for purposes of fundraising and to make it easy to have meetings. (Otherwise, such meetings may be banned in some countries where there is political unrest.)

    African Regional Reference Person's Response

    My response to these issues is as follows:

    To cut down on expenses it is best to organize classes, meetings, and workshops in places where the most people are interested. Then only the leader has to travel to the site.

    The issue of the Bible and RC theory is important and very sensitive. Africans tend to be religious, and most are Christians. The people most respected in such African communities are church-going people. If the church leaders feel challenged, they can easily influence their people to have nothing to do with RC. It is best to only briefly discuss this issue and then ask each individual to figure it out for himself or herself. It could be dangerous or disastrous for the leader to express an opinion on behalf of RC. In any case, the Christians themselves argue about the interpretation of some of the theory contained in the Bible.

    Registering RC as an organization could attract the attention of people in positions of power. If they feel threatened by RC, it could have a negative effect on Community-building in Africa. They could put a stop to the growth of RC in their constituencies.

    Gay people in leadership positions in RC should perhaps not make public pronouncements to that effect, as this shocks some African people. For example, when the announcer at the conference was asked to announce a table for allies to Gay people, she ran to me as if she had been asked to kill someone and said she was shocked at what she had been asked to do. I brought this to the attention of Tim.

    In areas where there are white RCers, it is wise to have a separate black Community. Black people, due to internalized oppression, will be quiet in the presence of white people, and the white people will tend to dominate. Racism can best be discharged by both groups if they meet separately.

    It is painful to "beg," yet because of the current poverty in Africa we do not seem to have an alternative. If the African Community is to grow, we do need financial help. This should not be compared to the dependency syndrome created by some international non-governmental organizations that come to Africa with clothes, food, technical input, agricultural input, etc. and create such dependency that when the organizations leave, the people are back where they started-with nothing. As RC leaders, we will be bringing to people what will be theirs forever, what will improve their lives and the lives of those close to them.

    We have encouraged some politicians at the grassroots level to be involved in RC in Uganda, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. These people are councilors and members of parliament.

    We need to have more meetings of all the African leaders-if possible, once every other year. We also need to have an African workshop (like this conference in Johannesburg), as often as funds permit. Such workshops should be rotated among all countries in Africa that have RC Communities.

    Since cultural inhibitions affecting RC participation are an issue in Africa, we need to be careful not to start on the wrong note. Let the individual appreciate RC first, then later on he or she can figure out cultural issues. Quite a number of people have now been introduced to RC and are using RC in their daily lives, but for various reasons they have not wished to participate in a Community. They have naturalized RC.

    Other Leaders' Comments

    Here are some of the other leaders' comments:

  • There are groups that are capable of paying enough to cover the expenses of poorer Communities. We will try and adopt this system where possible.

  • African leaders need to consider the Guidelines in relation to African culture.

  • Be careful when choosing people to teach RC. A wrong impression given by a teacher can lead to a situation that is more destructive than constructive. We need to involve more women. Women meet together in many organizations and societies, which makes it easier to mobilize them.

  • Development in most African countries involves women and young people. There should be a strong focus on women because they impact development.

    The Way Forward

    Our plans for the future:

  • Whether or not RC is registered in a particular country will be left to the discretion of the leader on the scene, working together with the Regional Reference Person. If necessary, Harvey will be consulted before any final decision is made.

  • Leaders need to build enough support around themselves that they can be clear in their minds and lead well.

  • More information-sharing is needed among the African leaders to reduce isolation and give each other ideas for building and sustaining the Communities.

  • Contact with the Regional Reference Person is helpful in motivating other African leaders. The Regional Reference Person can ask for reports from all the African leaders, compile the reports, and then send them to the leaders.

  • A newsletter has been agreed upon and will be produced as soon as possible. This is another way to keep in touch.

  • We need more workshops in Africa, taking place on a rotational basis, so that the various African Communities are better exposed to RC.

  • Communities with more money should contribute to the Communities with less money.

  • We need to establish RC in rural areas.

  • African Co-Counselors can further develop their clienting and counseling skills if African leaders can attend workshops where a number of experienced Co-Counselors are present.

  • We need to strengthen existing Communities first before trying to expand. We need more classes, workshops, and support groups in our present Communities, and we need each person to have at least one session per week. Discharge is very important!

  • We need to arrange workshops for the African Regional Reference Person to lead. To start with, workshops could be held regionally-in Southern Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, West Africa, and North Africa.

  • We can concentrate more on young people. Their patterns are not yet as rigid as those of adults.

    Njoki identified with African issues and was helpful in steering the meeting of African leaders in the right direction. She challenged the leaders to think of what gets in the way of their leadership and, whatever it is, to work on it and move forward. She said she is willing to help whenever called upon. Her closing remarks were, "Harvey Jackins is an example of someone who started small and then built a larger Community. This is what happens when one person cares and sees things through. As an expatriate and immigrant, I am concerned about what happens in Africa. Africa is facing many challenges. I live outside Africa. Together we can figure out what role I can play."

    Melphy Sakupwanya
    Harare, Zimbabwe

    (Present Time No. 110, January 1998)

    Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00