Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Visit to WCC/WSCF- Geneva - 26-30 October 2008

This visit has been a life time expereince. The day I arrived in Geneva was like coming back home after I had been here in 1984 when I and my family attended a week meeting at Caux just outside Geneva town. The place I had not been to but was always praying that I visit one day was the WCC. It happened on 27 October when Marlon Zakeyo the head of the Zimbabwe Advocacy Office at WSCF minded me to the Headquarters of the WCC. The first encounter with this historic Ecumenical Movement was to attend a prayer session led by Dr Kjell Nordstokke a director with WLF. It was indeed a very wonderful experience. I was welcomed by Dr Nordstokke just before he started the service. There were also many visitors who had come from all over the world to the LWF annual meetings they hold at their Headquarters within the WCC complex. I was happy to meet the Rev Enos Moyo a fellow Zimbabwean whom I last met in 1981 when we were both students of theology at Untied Theological College in Harare. He is now working with LWF and he is based in Zambia.

After the prayers I was introduced to Rev Michael Wallace the General Secretary of WSCF. The first meeting I had with Michael was really an eye opener. All that I had read, heard and thought about WSCF was personified in this humble but sharp person who was always displaying his charm at each and every corner. After sharing our experiences with the office I was invited to their Monday morning staff meeting. There were two workers who were beginning work and were welcomed by a drink and some eats. I thought that was very encouraging to the new staff and also to me who was vsiting for the first time.

By 12 noon we were on a two hour train trip to Bern, the capital of Switzerland. We were scheduled to meet with the officials of the foreign ministry. We had a very informative and inspiring meeting with Ralf Heckner the Head of Human Rights Policy Section. What impressed me most was his preparedness to spare some quality time to listen to ouzr story. He explained their role and position as a department and their concern about our current situation in Zimbabwe. We were happy to show the face of the struggle of the people back home.

In the evening we had dinner with Barbara Muller of FEPA and colleagues, Andreas Loebell formerly of Heks, Prudence from Youth Ahead in Zimbabwe and Fr Josef Elsener who used to work at Imbisa in Zimbabwe who now lives at the Bethelhem Mission Immensee in Tragerschaft. It was indeed a heart welcome from Fr Elsener who was so excited to meet me after such a long time. I was equally surprised to meet him in Switzerland and I could not hide my pleasure to meet him again.

The following day was just packed with meetings. My first meeting was with Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda the General Secretary of the YWCA at their headquarters who was later joined by Dr Helene Yinda the Africa desk representative at the YWCA. Our meeting was cut short because a taxi was waiting for us to go to a live radio interview. The World Radio Switzerland person was so charming and he straight away went with me into the studio. After a short briefing he went straight to interview me live on the radio for twenty minutes. I enjoyed every minute of the programme. He raised so many pertinent issues concerning the Zimbabwean tragedy. (See also transcript).

At lunch time I addressed a tray lunch meeting which was well attended. I also sope about the Zimbabweean crisis. (Report of the meeting was done by YWCA).

This was followed by a press conference which was held at the same venue of which a report was done by the ENI as posted on the blogger.

At 4.oopm we held our first meeting of the Zimbabwe Reference Group. Five of us attended and very fruitfull contributions were made. Marlon explained the main objectives and we ended the meeting agreeing that we should at least meet twice a year.

The day ended with dinner in my honour at Restaurant Auberge du Grand Saconnex. It was a well deserved dinner after having not eatten anything during the day because there was no time to eat.

I could not fulfill my trip to Brussels for various reasons which included that I had actually not been very keen to go there and also that there was some unfinished business at the WCC. I had not had opportunity to meet with the General Secretary of the WCC who had actually made space for me for the following day.

On the third day my first assignment was to go to Bossey Ecumenical Training Centre just outside Geneva Contone/County. Thanks to Marsha Lougheed Paige who was so kind to offer to drive me to Bossey in their family car. It was a wonderfull experience for me to visit Bossey. I had read and heard about this centre of excellency and had never dreamt of visiting it one day. So my encounter with this place of theological learning was an added bonus to my delayed experinec of this historic institution.

Back at WCC the Rev Dr Sam Kobia the General Secretary of WCC was waiting to welcome me into his office. For me that was the climax of my visit to Geneva. He had given me a space of 30 minutes and I ended being there for 45 minutes. I enjoyed every minutes I was sharing with this wonderful man of God. We talked about many things ranging from Zimbabwean crisis to the role the Church in our situation. Dr Kobia was really appreciative of what Zimbabwe Christian Alliance was doing. We also lamented the fact that many NCCs were in most cases not being proactive in times they were required to take the lead in such difficult times like these.

The day end with Andres going through with me on the process of opening a personal blogger for myself. I am glad and thankful to Andres Lopez to have initiated me into the blogger world. Thank you young man. God Bless.

The following day was a time to wind up and do some shopping before going home in the evening. I had to finish my assignment with Nyaradzai of YWCA. Marlon accompanied me to the YWCA headquartes and we had an hour meeting which we looked at the concerns Nyaradzai had raised. We all agreed that the politics in Zimbabwe were making it worse for those who were distributing food to work freely. We talked about the gender imbalance in the negotiations where only one woman was on the pannel of ten negotiators. As for the question of safety of some of us we came to the conclusion that once one has offered to speak the truth one is bound to be attacked. The important thing for those of us with faith is to have trust in the Lord who has promised to protect us to the end.