, 08 January, 2020 / 12:13 AM
Against the backdrop of sociopolitical challenges the Central African nation of Gabon has been facing since the re-election of President Ali Bongo Ondimba in 2016, religious leaders in the country have, on the occasion of the National Day of Prayer for peace, called for repentance and conversion of Gabonese in order to maintain peace in their diverse communities.
“This national day of prayer for peace is an opportunity for all Gabonese to change from their evil ways and return to God for us to continue to enjoy peace in our country,” Archbishop Basile Mvé Engone of Libreville told thousands who gathered at the Sports Complex in Gabon’s capital, Libreville for the Ecumenical Service Sunday, January 5.
“Our country needs people of faith, peace and love,” Archbishop Engone said and added, “that is why we need to ‘consecrate the Nation to God’ for it to be ‘washed of all sins’ and reach the forgiveness of the Creator.”
Gabon has been the scene of political uncertainty in recent times after President Bongo suffered a stroke in October 2018 while in Saudi Arabia.
During his extended absence, the army quashed an attempted coup by a small group of renegade soldiers who had aimed at toppling Bongo’s regime.
In May 2019, President Bongo sacked his Vice President and the Minister of forests after a scandal erupted over the smuggling of precious timber in the country that has a 75 percent forest cover.
Ten members of Gabon's political opposition, civil society and trade union movement also filed a suit requesting that President Bongo be assessed for medical fitness to continue holding office.
Peace and national solidarity have been weakened by hate speech and calls for protest against the country’s current regime.
The situation obliged the leaders of the country's religious denominations including the Roman Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church, the Muslim Community, the Pentecostal, Charismatic and Revivalist Community, to hold the national day of prayer for repentance and preservation of peace.
“Peace is a legacy that must be preserved,” the Imam of Libreville Central Mosque Ismael Oceni Ossa said during the national prayer day.
The men of God who took turns to preach on peace also invited all the sons and daughters of Gabon to cultivate the spirit of living together, so that the country will always remain a haven of peace under the benevolence of God.
A common charter committing the religious communities to fostering peace was presented, the leaders insisting that members of their respective faiths live according to the moral and cardinal values.
“These values are based on virtue and love which are important pillars for the development of the nation,” Archbishop Engone emphasized.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa