It was a rare privilege to travel to Zambia in February 2018 for a Mission & Service–sponsored partners’ meeting dubbed “the Indaba” (Zulu for consultation or gathering). For the first time, the Indaba brought together 15 African partners and one Asian partner who have each related to The United Church of Canada, but who did not necessarily have relationships with each other. 
 
The gathering offered a safe space for partners in the region to meet their neighbours. The group used stories, group activities and conversations, and case studies and presentations to get to know each other; share skills, challenges, and experiences; and forge new networks and connections.
 
IBON International facilitated a 2½-day workshop on a rights-based approach to democracy. It both strengthened participants’ sense of responsibility for defending human rights, and built skills to empower them to take action. 
 
Sustainable human development is intimately connected with human rights and democracy. Although struggles for freedom in many countries have advanced human rights, serious deprivations and abuses persist. Millions continue to suffer from hunger, illiteracy, insecurity, and unsafe environments. Many also suffer from discrimination and violence in conflict and war. When political and economic elites capture public institutions, governance is distorted to advance narrow interests. And the current pattern of globalization enhances the privileges of multinational corporations and the wealthy at the expense of poor and marginalized people. 
 
United Church and Zambian partners gather on a porch in Zambia to do a group exercise with balloons to demostrate "people power."
Leonida Odongo (in yellow ) of IBON International facilitates an activity on how the mighty and powerful can burst our human rights like a balloon and how we can mobilize “people power” to resist.
Credit: 
courtesy of Michael Mazakaza, Communications Officer Council of Churches in Zambia
 
IBON facilitators Leonida Odongo, Lorelei Covero, and Roy Anunciacion encouraged us to build strong movements of “people power” to address the roots of poverty, inequality, environmental destruction, and injustice and promote social transformation. Rev Cannon Fr. Emmanuel Yona Chikoya the new General Secretary for the Council of Churches in Zambia said, “I was challenged to change the advocacy approach from making random statements to having a sustained and high-impact advocacy strategies in order to bring about the desired transformation.”
 
Participants also learned about financial reporting, particularly taking a narrative approach to report writing, shared experiences, and discussed case studies from their various contexts. I was deeply impressed that the top leadership of our partner organizations committed to be present for the entire duration of the Indaba. They actively participated in the conversations, listened to others, and made their own contributions.
 
The three leaders of the United Church - Zambia partner meeting pose for a group shot in front of the meeting location in Zambia.
The "three generals": Rev. Dr. Peggy Kabonde, United Church in Zambia; Rev. Fr. Rex Resurreccion B. Reyes Jr., National Council of Churches in the Philippines; and Rev Cannon Fr. Emmanuel Yona Chikoya, Council of Churches in Zambia
Credit: 
courtesy of Michael Mazakaza, Communications Officer Council of Churches in Zambia
 
Each morning, Rev. Fr. Rex Reyes, from the Philippines, started us out with theological reflection. He reminded us of our mission as churches to proclaim the Lordship of Christ over all challenges and to proclaim that the promise of abundant life is a possibility here and now. As Lord of all, God cares especially for those denied and deprived, oppressed, and abused. The church is therefore called to live out a witness to human dignity.
 
A participant from Zambia concluded the gathering with very powerful words: "Thinking without the box." I left the Indaba with a strong sense of the need to work together in order to learn from each other and strengthen our voice in advocating for people's rights in all spheres of human life.
 
—Rev. Dr. Japhet Ndhlovu is The United Church of Canada’s Program Coordinator for Southern Africa and South East Asia.