Women are the key to reconciliation in both the family and society. This was the message given to women from nearly twenty countries across Africa who convened this week in Nairobi, Kenya for “The African Women Moving Towards the African Year of Reconciliation” conference. The three-day meeting was organized by the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in collaboration with the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) with the support of Missio. The theme of reconciliation is particularly relevant in the African church this year, as in June SECAM launched the African Year of Reconciliation in conjunction with its 46th anniversary of its founding. This also comes ahead of the Holy Year of Mercy initiated by Pope Francis, which officially begins on Dec. 8 of this year.

In a homily to the women present at the conference, the Executive Secretary for the Pastoral Commission of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Father Charles Odira, told attendees that women, and mothers in particular, play a significant role in bringing reconciliation to the family. “Reconciliation is not about muscles, it is not about shouting, it is not about who is good and who is bad, it is not about who is on the right and who is on the wrong, it is about the heart,” Father Odira said. “Women are best placed to foster reconciliation in our societies because they have a nonviolent approach; they do not use muscles,” he added. The fifty participants in the conference are being hosted by representatives from the Catholic Women’s Associations (CWA) in the Nairobi Archdiocese. “We are so proud to host this big delegation of women from different countries of Africa. It is going to be an enriching encounter and we shall gain from the experiences we shall share,” the CWA Chairlady for the Archdiocese of Nairobi, Sabina Ng’ethe, told Catholic News Agency for Africa (CANAA). Participant Marie-Claire Nikiema, who chairs the Catholic Women in Burkina Faso, told CANAA she hopes to take what she learns at the conference and apply it to a reconciliation ministry with which she is involved back home. She said her ministry brings women together to understand and console each other, and to share the good news of the Gospel through worship and devotions. “We are living in a world where families are very fragile and in challenging situations. Some of our countries are experiencing violent conflicts due to religion and even tribalism. We women are conscious of that and have the possibilities of reconciling the world because all begins with the family,” Marie-Claire told CANAA. In her ministry, she said: “We insist on each woman to reconcile with herself first, then with God, and the rest will follow quite smoothly.” The topics the participants will reflect upon include the political, economic and socio-cultural context of Africa today, a theological overview of the social doctrine of the Church in the context of Africa today, the role of and opportunities for women in society and the Church with focus on the role of women for reconciliation in Africa in the context of the African Year of Reconciliation (AYR).

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