By Katelin van Zyl
On 27 October, Logos Hope of the German Christian charitable organisation ‘GBA Ships’ (Gute Bücher für Alle, or in English – Good Books for All), arrived in Antsiranana, Madagascar. The ship had travelled from Dar Es Salaam Port in Tanzania, where the ship was docked between 6 and 22 October, after visiting Mombasa, Kenya, from 23 August until 4 October for the first time in its history. While the crew sought to serve the new communities they would be coming into contact with in Kenya, there was also excitement that the crew members of over 60 different nationalities would learn from those in Kenya and the other African countries that would be visited. Logos Hope’s vision for the African leg of its travels around the world has been to celebrate the African story, which is “told by Africans, in all walks of life, who are stepping up to lead and engage in initiatives that promote peace and share hope in Africa and around the world.” Logos Hope’s next port of call is Maputo, Mozambique, which will be available to host the public from 19 December.
Logos Hope has visited 146 ports in 81 countries and territories over its 19 years of operation. Known as the biggest floating book fair in the world, it has hosted over 9.6 million visitors on board and sold over 10 million books. In addition to the ship’s onboard book fair being open to the public, the ship also hosts events focused on facilitating partnerships between leaders from different sectors of society for the betterment of the nations. Logos Hope’s crew also leave the ship to spend time in the communities, working alongside local partners in outreach activities including eyesight testing, building houses and prison visits, and conducting educational seminars on topics ranging from mental health to career and community development. In Kenya, crew members assisted Blue Earth Organisation in working to restore Mombasa’s mangrove forests, which protect water quality, shelter wildlife, reduce flooding and foster fishery production.
The activities and community interactions of the Logos Hope crew are timely reminders of the many opportunities to invest in the prospering of Africa and the need to seek God for creative, collaborative, and sustainable solutions to the needs of Africans. By God’s grace, there is great openness to the Gospel in many parts of Africa, however, 962 people groups in Africa are still considered ‘unreached’ according to Joshua Project’s definition. Christianity has often been associated with white colonisers and, as a result, there has been resistance towards it being truly a part of Africa’s identity. However, Christianity existed in Africa long before colonisation, from as early as the first century, and Africans were some of the earliest followers of Christ and included some prominent theologians. Birthed in the Near East, Christianity spread to both Africa and Europe around the same time. This history is something to be celebrated, and we can be hopeful for the future as the African Church steps into what God is calling us to in this season.
A challenging area for Christians is the political arena, and since many African countries are approaching elections in 2024, there will be numerous opportunities for Christians to invest time or talents for the benefit of their communities. On 19 September, this year, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame confirmed that he would be standing for re-election for a fourth term in the August 2024 presidential election. Since the 2003 election, he has won over 93% of the vote in every presidential election in which he has competed, but there are doubts over whether these elections can be considered truly free and fair. Although a fourth term would be unprecedented, constitutional amendments approved in December 2015 allow him to run for a further two terms after this upcoming election. Some have argued that democracy is a Western imposition and that the multiple African military coups serve as proof that democracy, as expressed in Western contexts, does not work in Africa. However, an Afrobarometer study* published in January 2023 found that African citizens are still largely committed to democracy. Support for elections may have decreased to some extent over the last decade, but support for the rule of law and accountability has grown. Africans also showed a strong and increasing support for term limits. African citizens between the age of 18-30 showed a stronger commitment to democracy than their elders on certain indicators, such as those related to the importance of multi-party competition. The youth expressed substantially lower levels of satisfaction with the way democracy works in their countries.
There is no perfect political system and the fallenness of humankind means that sin infiltrates and undermines even a system that is good in theory, weakening all the checks and balances that keep a system in place, until the system in practice hardly resembles the system in theory. Many people have become frustrated with so-called democratic leaders who have become increasingly autocratic once in power, holding on to this power by changing constitutions to suit them, living luxuriously while most of their populations remain impoverished, and clamping down on the opposition or any dissenting views. Frustration is also often directed at the ‘pioneers’ and so-called ‘defenders of democracy’, namely governments in North America and Western Europe, who on the one hand invest in the promotion of good governance and poverty eradication but at the same time legitimise increasingly dictatorial governments and turn a blind eye to the corruption, greed, deceit, and human rights abuses committed by these governments for the sake of their economic interests.
Politics is very complicated in our fallen world and will never be exactly what it should be, but we are reminded as believers that although we submit to human authorities on this earth, we ultimately are under the leadership of God, who is perfect in every way. He is just, righteous, mighty, faithful, and true; yet merciful and compassionate and cares about those who are needy, vulnerable, lost and hurting. Secure under His leadership, believers can seek to be used by God to be a blessing in our communities, countries, and regions by doing our part in whatever way the Lord leads. Rather than being pessimistic and apathetic, we can participate in elections and set an example of integrity and faithfulness in all we do. Most importantly, we can pray for our leaders, our countries, and the larger region and continent, to see God’s will be done.
Please pray with us for the following:
- For Logos Hope to impact many lives in the remaining African cities it visits and for God to work in the lives of the crew members during their time of serving on the ship
- For the African Church to step into all God is calling us to in this season, growing in our knowledge of the Word, being empowered by the Holy Spirit in all we do, and sharing the Gospel with the 962 ‘unreached’ people groups
- For God’s will to be done in the upcoming elections in Africa, and for Christians to serve their communities with integrity, love and faithfulness
*The Afrobarometer report can be read at: https://www.afrobarometer.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/PP85-PAP20-Africans-want-more-democracy-but-leaders-arent-listening-Afrobarometer-Pan-Africa-Profile-17jan23.pdf