At the age of 102, Marangu 1955 delegate reminds African Lutherans of unity of purpose

Emmanuel Abraham, when he was one of the five co-chairs of the Marangu 1955 conference. Photo: LWF Archives
Emmanuel Abraham, when he was one of the five co-chairs of the Marangu 1955 conference. Photo: LWF Archives

Marangu 1955 co-chair Emmanuel Abraham, 102: the importance of Marangu is that its aim was achieved

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia/GENEVA, 26 May 2015 (LWI) - Dr Emmanuel Abraham, former President of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, was one of five chairpersons at the first conference of all-Africa Lutherans in November 1955 in Marangu, Tanzania. Lutheran World Information interviewed Abraham, now aged 102. He shared some impressions from that first meeting 60 years ago and his thoughts on the African Lutheran church of the future.

What was Lutheranism in the context then?

The evangelistic work performed by the followers of Luther in Africa was discussed in detail at the conference. However it was evident that African Lutherans in some countries faced many challenges and obstacles of race and color in their lives and work. The Africans from Lutheran churches who gathered at Marangu had a single purpose - they wanted to be together, to get to know one another and to express their expectation of freedom for the Africa of the future.

What was the feeling when the African Lutheran church leaders gathered for the first time in Marangu?

The feeling was that Africa would get together in the near future as one continent and most of Africa would be free of colonialism. It wasn’t so much that there was excitement about this but more that the people wanted to be one. They wanted to get together for the future unity of Africa. Even before the Organization of African Unity (predecessor of African Union) was formed, African Lutherans got together - freedom was the word.

Why do you think Marangu is important today?

The very purpose of the meeting - of getting together - would indicate that African Lutherans got together and acted together for the future of Africa. The importance of Marangu is that its aim has been achieved: to get together and to know one another, and to become a free continent. Many of those who were present at Marangu are no longer alive. But their vision of unity of purpose is still there. There are many today who do not have Africa’s best interest at heart.

When you met in Marangu, most of the African countries were under colonialism. What is your advice for this generation of African Lutherans?

My advice to them is to strengthen their independence and act like people who say they are independent, and to continue to strengthen their faith. There are many pitfalls and people who want to destroy our unity of purpose and take Africa back. The key issue is oneness and unity of spirit and action. Africans have power if they use it properly.

Finally as a word of encouragement, if I may, I would like to quote from my keynote address in Marangu delivered on 14 November 1955, as I believe it is still pertinent today: “Fellow Christians from whichever part of Africa you may be coming, be of good cheer for your salvation in the fullest sense draweth nigh….Whatever the odds, it is incumbent on each and every one of us as followers of Christ to tackle the task before us in the spirit of Christ. If we do so, it is my firm belief that we shall get through triumphantly to the glory of Him Who loved us and gave Himself for us and to the good of our fellow humans everywhere.” God bless you all.

 

(Ms Tsion Alemayehu, a member of the Africa Lutheran Communication and Information Network and Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus public relations officer, conducted this interview in Addis Ababa. Our gratitude to Ruth Emmanuel Abraham for facilitating the conversation, in view her father’s advanced age. )

 

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