“The Lord has His hand over Africa.”
Elder Jörg Klebingat, First Counselor in the Africa West Area Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addressed the opening session of the 10th annual conference of the African Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ACLARS) in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on May 14, 2023. This conference brought together 151 leaders from government, religion, law, and academia to discuss religious freedom, tolerance, and reconciliation across this vast and diverse continent.
The Honorable Kouadio Konan Bertin, Minister of Reconciliation and National Cohesion for the Ivory Coast, presided over the opening session of the conference. He stressed the key role that religions play in promoting social harmony. “Law and religion,” he said, “are essential to peace and reconciliation. They play a primordial role.” He added that in times of conflict, “the pastor and the Iman show us the way.”
Mr. Jacques Ehouo, Mayor of the Plateau Region where Abidjan is located, Professor Boti Seraphin Nene Bi, Chairman of the ACLARS conference organizing committee, and Professor Ahmed Garba, ACLARS Vice President, also spoke in the opening ceremony.
Three things are essential for social harmony to prevail, taught Elder Klebingat. The first is respect for religious freedom of all faiths. The second is that all faiths must feel free from fear of persecution. The third is that freedom of worship and religious expression should be encouraged both in public and in the home. “God is watching over the nations of Africa. God is our Father and He aches when we suffer. The Lord has His hand over Africa” he said.
In conclusion, Elder Klebingat cited the examples of two prominent American religious leaders: Dr. Martin Luther King and Russell M. Nelson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Dr. King spent his life advocating forgiveness and reconciliation. At the recent session of General Conference, President Nelson said that true followers of Christ are known by how they treat others with compassion.
ACLARS is funded by donations to the J. Rubin Clark Law School of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.