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A letter from  Christi Boyd in Cameroon

September 2012

Dear supporters, family and friends,

The summer of 2004 I travelled with two Cameroonian colleagues of RELUFA[1] to the first International Joining Hands Consultation in Tacoma, Wash. While waiting for our connecting flight in Zurich, I sent off a last e-mail to the General Secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches[2] about the presentation we had prepared with the head of our historical partner church, the Eglise Presbytérienne Camerounaise, for WARC’s General Council meeting the following month in Accra.  It would be the culmination of a Joining Hands journey I had facilitated between RELUFA, the four Cameroonian denominations of the Reformed tradition, and WARC leadership in Geneva, concluding in a call for the worldwide Reformed family to endorse global transparency campaigns as a means to address root causes of poverty in Central Africa.

Little did I know then that last month a milestone would be reached in that collaborative effort. After a long, strategic process involving our African partners from church and society, Presbyterians across the States, and civil society organizations in the U.S., we give thanks for a new legislative framework that evokes historical battles against injustices that mark the region in which Jeff and I serve.

Trailing adventurous pioneers and opportunist traders, exploitative colonists found their way in the 1800s to the heart of Africa, at a time when our Presbyterian ancestors had already embarked on their missionary enterprise to the continent. Rev. William Sheppard, the first Presbyterian career missionary to serve in Congo, witnessed, exposed and advocated against the atrocities inflicted upon the Congolese people by Belgian King Leopold, who had chartered them as laborers in rubber plantations. Back in the U.S. the Presbyterian Church decided to back Sheppard and publicly oppose the abusive practices. The denomination broke the story through the press into the world and engaged in a long-term campaign to reduce the injustice-induced suffering of the native population.

Former PCUSA Africa Coordinator, Doug Welch, and Central Africa Regional Liaison, Jeff Boyd, accompanied WARC General Secretary, Rev. Setri Nyomi, for a condolence visit to Rev. Lucette Woungly Massaga a month after her husband’s tragic death in 2003

This prophetic act of faith in the early years of Presbyterian missions remains much an archived legacy, little known to our Presbyterian constituency and beyond. The missionary enterprise came to be built on traditional pillars of evangelism, education and health and eventually brought about autonomous partner churches with vibrant congregations, sprawling educational institutions, and vital hospitals and clinics. As the PC(USA) celebrates 175 years of Presbyterian World Mission, a growing number of its members join in to construct churches, roof schools, dig water wells, plant kitchen gardens and tend to orphans as their Christian witness of love, compassion and care.

Meanwhile, the colonial plunder of Africa’s wealth only proved a precursor to modern-day commercial exploitation by greedy companies, corrupt autocrats and brutal warlords and an omen of the so-called resource curse. Instead of improving living standards for the general population, revenues often serve to fill private pockets and fuel civil strife, or they are wasted on white-elephant projects to increase the standing of the political elite.

Thank God for religious and civil leaders who believe in Christ’s realm, not for the afterlife but in our own days—those who understand the intrigues and are capable of unraveling the web of injustice-induced poverty with strategies and campaigns that go over and beyond traditional local mission projects. In the Joining Hands Initiative the PC(USA) makes mission workers available who walk alongside such folks to grasp the issues and facilitate a response for systemic change, including U.S. policies and corporate practices. Because such transformation needs advocates among our own Presbyterian constituency, we are asked to resource their accompaniment Stateside.

My partners initially embraced the Chad Cameroon Oil- and Pipeline Project as a case study for all to better comprehend the impact of globalization on local communities. Around the same time, a global movement was building to advocate mandatory, legal measures beyond a voluntary framework for the transparent management of revenues from oil-, gas- and mining projects. Within ecclesiastic circles, the call for justice from the global South started to resonate worldwide. Rev. Ebenezer Woungly Massaga, one of the pastors involved in RELUFA and my closest collaborator at the time, was invited to the 2003 South-South consultation in Argentina in preparation of the Accra event, which centered on the theme “Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth.”

After his return, Ebenezer and I unknowingly were given only a couple of months to reflect upon his experiences because his life was tragically cut short. But his flame has illuminated a trail of advocacy efforts in which RELUFA approached the four Cameroonian WARC member churches to seek support of the Publish What You Pay campaign[3] in Accra. Their petition, applauded by the General Council, we then could ask our Joining Hands partners from Chicago Presbytery to follow up through an overture for the PC(USA) to become a coalition partner in the campaign. In 2008 that proposal passed, and during the following two years, Presbyterian Hunger Program staff worked tirelessly with church folks in over 70 presbyteries, in conjunction with the Congo Mission Network and the Office for Public Witness, who all together championed the new U.S. legislation. Along with a Congo-specific clause about conflict minerals, the provisions became included in the Financial Reform Bill, which passed Congress in 2010, after which the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) took another two years to establish its rules. All resource extraction companies registered with the SEC will be required to disclose all payments to host governments, the ultimate tool for the electorate there to fight corruption and steer budgetary spending. The European Union is following suit to bring global change in this lucrative sector.

The Presbyterian World Mission and Compassion, Peace and Justice ministry areas provide staff and mission workers to catalyze synergies and resource networking between U.S. Presbyterians and their international counterparts, serving together in communities of mission practice to address root causes of poverty as one of three critical issues that face the church in this vastly globalizing world.


The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 88

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[1] RELUFA is the French acronym for Network Fighting Hunger in Cameroon

[2] In 2010 the World Alliance of Reformed Churches merged with denominations from other Protestant faith traditions into the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).

[3] The worldwide Publish What You Pay Campaign was launched in June 2002 by Global Witness, Open Society Institute, Save the Children, Transparency International and others, calling for all resource extraction companies to disclose their payments to governments for every country of operation.


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