Originally published in Jerusalem Post
Christian leaders from several African countries concluded meetings in Jerusalem last Wednesday with Israeli start-ups, politicians and businesses during the African Leadership Summit hosted by the Institute for Christian Leadership Development.
“Africa Celebrates Jerusalem” is this year’s theme for the summit, which aims to strengthen ties between Israel and Africa.
The main goal is for African Christian leaders to connect with the different sectors of the country including agriculture, economic and technology.
About 70 delegates from countries including Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, Tanzania and Kenya took part in the four-day event.
Pastor Segun Olanipekun, summit coordinator and chief executive officer of the Institute for Christian Leadership Development, said what encouraged the organisation to call the summit was the leadership crisis in Africa.
“There’s not a lot of leaders that the youngsters can look up to because of the poor and inept leadership.
“Israel has united and strong leadership and we are looking to it for help,” he said.
Olanipekun explained that Israel’s leadership and the Jewish people have a purpose, to build a nation.
“Israel has empowering start-ups… it grows and exports [fruits and vegetables] from the desert – Africa has good, fertile land but we are begging for food. As Africans we desire all of this and we want to learn from Israel,” he said.
“We want to reconnect with the covenant of Abraham – the land, the people and the culture.”
Talking about the summit’s theme, “Africa Celebrates Jerusalem,” Nigerian-born Olanipekun (he also lived in Kenya and now resides in South Africa) said he is encouraging all African countries to show support for Israel and the Jews.
“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish and Christian faiths. If the Jews lose Jerusalem, Christianity loses its roots and foundation.
We support the move of all embassies to Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem must remain the capital. It belongs to the Jewish and Christian faiths and drives millions of people,” Olanipekun added.
“The ultimate goal is to have a generation of African leaders who support Israel and to increase the presence of Israel in Africa and Africa in Israel.”
“We want Israeli farms in Africa that employ local people – Africa has land, Israel has good technology – our partnership can only do good for the world,” Olanipekun said.
A delegate representing Israel, Benjamin Berger, who runs the only Messianic Jewish synagogue in the capital’s Old City, said connecting with Africa will greatly benefit both sides.
“It’s important for them because we have a lot of the know-hows – Africa is poor and there’s so much we can give them.
“And in return we can have Africa’s support, which is very significant because many of the leaders are Christian… Let’s face it, the nations of the world are moving away and questioning Israel’s legitimacy because of the Arab propaganda.
We need the support of the African nations,” he said.
“We have to come into our own inheritance.
Our government and our own people need to proclaim that we are here because God made a covenant with us, even if the Arabs and Muslims hate us for it,” Berger said.
Pastor Ben Naude from Johannesburg said that if “we’re going to counter organisations like BDS,” it was important to give Israel positive exposure and to educate people about the truth.
“There are so many cultures and groups who live here and they live together peacefully – South Africa can learn a lot from this,” he said.
“At the end of the day, Israel has incredible technology and agriculture – you can’t argue with this, the technology in cellphone in your hand was created here – minds and opinions [of Israel] must change.”
“Israel and the Jews have a zest for life and focus on the positive; in South Africa we need to learn from this, come together and go forward instead of focusing on the bad,” Naude said.
Nigerian Pastor John Adejolrooluwa, who is the leader of the Plummet Mission, a Missionary House that trains missionaries and sends them mostly to African countries, said education was the only way to combat the negative rhetoric on Israel.
“We have to reach out to as many people [as possible] and make them question this negative narrative and work with the Israeli government – make an effort to show that part of the problem is Israel’s neighbors and their connections and influence with bodies like the UN who are making certain [negative] proclamations about Israel,” he said.
“We are committing to Israel and we will not believe this negative, man-made bias,” Adejolrooluwa said.
Addressing the delegates on Sunday night, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky spoke of his journey at the agency and of his life in Russia, also emphasising the values and ideals that went into creating “the Holy Land.”