This page contains information about select church actions pertaining to human rights and justice seeking in: Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan.
2019: General Assembly expressed dismay over the human rights abuses taking place in southern Cameroon and requested that the Canadian government express concern for the situation to the Cameroonian government, urging engagement in dialogue to seek a peaceful solution with a third-party mediator such as the United Nations or the African Union, on neutral ground.23
1996: General Assembly supported the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa and other organizations in advocating for the release of political prisoners in Kenya. (A&P 1996, pp. 278-294, 48-49)
2017: General Assembly wrote to partners in Malawi encouraging them to provide a caring and non-discriminatory environment within their congregations for people with albinism, advocate for the rights of people with albinism, and urge their government to establish and enforce laws that make it illegal to discriminate or harm people with albinism. General Assembly wrote to the Government of Malawi urging that they rigorously enforce laws related to the protection of people with albinism and address loopholes that allow for impunity; counter myths that perpetuate discrimination and violence against people with albinism through the education system starting in elementary school. (A&P 2017, 20, 303-4)
1993: General Assembly asked the Government of Canada to urge the Government of Malawi to support referendum guidelines and further promote and encourage the protection of human rights. (A&P 1993, pp. 250-252, 38)
2017: General Assembly write to partners in Nigeria encouraging them to provide a caring and non-discriminatory environment within their congregations for people with albinism and advocate for the rights of people with albinism and urge their government to either establish or enforce laws that make it illegal to discriminate or harm people with albinism. General Assembly wrote to the Government of Nigeria urging that they rigorously enforce laws related to the protection of people with albinism and address loopholes that allow for impunity; counter myths that perpetuate discrimination and violence against people with albinism through the education system starting in elementary school. (A&P 2017, 20, 303-4)
2015: General Assembly wrote to the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria and Nigerian High Commissioner to Canada expressing concern regarding for his nation, as it faces devastating recent terrorist activity (Boko Haram). (A&P 2015, pp. 307-8, 27)
2014: General Assembly drew attention to and prayed for 276 high school girls kidnapped from Chibok by Boko Haram (including writing to the Government of Nigeria). (A&P 2014, pp. 39-40)
2001: General Assembly prayed for religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence in Nigeria, for national leaders to demonstrate wisdom and courage in guiding the country’s policies and for strength for Christians in Nigeria as they worked to mitigate tensions exacerbated by the extension of Shari’a law and wrote to the Government of Canada stressing the need to support grass-roots projects, especially those preparing Nigerians for elections in 2003. (A&P 2001, pp. 314-316, 19)
1999: General Assembly encouraged congregations and individuals to pray for Nigerians caught in economic and political turmoil and to support church activities, such as welcoming Nigerian visitors. (A&P 1999, pp. 289, 45)
1998: General Assembly worked with ecumenical partners to protest the deaths of political prisoners and to call on the Government of Nigeria to postpone future executions. (A&P 1998, pp. 295-296, 33)
1996: General Assembly supported two statements made by The Presbyterian Church in Nigeria and the Christian Association of Nigeria in regarding improvements in human rights and the implementation of democracy and expressed support for the Government of Canada’s call to suspend Nigeria from the Commonwealth and imposing harsher sanctions (Nigerian Dictator General Sani Abacha was internationally condemned in 1995 when he ordered the execution of nine Ogoni leaders who were seeking redress for environmental and economic devastation caused by development. After this event, the Government of Canada severed diplomatic ties with Nigeria. (A&P 1996, pp. 278-294, 48-49)
1969: General Assembly expressed concern to Nigerian Presbyterians on both sides of the conflict, offering to help in the difficult task of reconciliation. General Assembly affirmed continued church and government support of relief efforts, including protection of relief in transit to affected areas, and government involvement in arrangements to secure a cease-fire. (A&P 1969, pp. 91, 101) Context note: Civil war broke out in Nigeria in 1967 between the eastern region, known as Biafra, and the national government. The war began when Biafra declared independence and ended with a ceasefire and Biafra’s defeat in 1970. Close ties between Presbyterians in Canada and Nigeria resulted in a massive relief effort on both sides of the conflict.
1968: General Assembly petitioned the Government of Canada to encourage the end of hostilities to ask the British government to stop supplying arms to the combatants, to ensure safe passage of relief, and to assure the security and legitimate aspirations of the people of Biafra. A campaign was launched through the Committee on Inter-Church Aid, Refugee and World Service to raise at least $75,000 for relief in Nigeria-Biafra. (A&P 1968, pp. 33, 73,74, 75)
1994: General Assembly urged congregations to pray for the end of the killing in Rwanda and to support PWS&D’s relief appeal for Rwandan refugees. (A&P 1994, p. 45) Context Note: The population of Rwanda has two ethnic groups: Hutu and Tutsi. The minority Tutsi enjoyed higher status and the favour of colonial administrations. After independence in 1959, the Hutu majority controlled the government. On April 6, 1994 Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down and senior Hutu leaders organized a genocidal attack on the Tutsi and on moderate Hutu supporters of the peace plan. International peacekeeping forces were reduced to a minimal presence. The Rwandan Patriotic Army renewed its civil war with the Hutu government and was eventually able to take control of the situation and stop the killing in July1994. Over 800,000 died and millions fled to Tanzania, Kenya and the Congo.
1993: General Assembly praised the Government of Canada for supporting international peacekeeping in Somalia and advocated for increased relief efforts and involvement in refugee resettlement (Somalia’s government collapsed in 1991 and was consumed by conflicts between rival groups. In 1992, 900 Canadian soldiers participated in efforts to restore order and protect relief supplies). (A&P 1993, pp. 251, 38)
General Assembly has said that apartheid is sinful and incompatible with the gospel (A&P 1983, pp. 329-330, 65). The moral and theological justification of apartheid is a travesty of the Gospel and, in its persistent disobedience to the Word of God, a theological heresy. Context note: Lasting from 1948 to 1994, apartheid (meaning “apartness”) was a brutal segregation regime that discriminated against the majority non-white South African population and maintained the economic and political dominance of the minority white population. Apartheid policies enforced strict racial categorization (including on identification), and controlled movement, housing, access to employment, health care and education while resistance was met with violent, and often deadly, suppression.
1994: General Assembly drew attention to “In Support of Democracy in South Africa,” a record of statements on apartheid in South Africa. Context Note: The first democratic election involving citizens of all races was peacefully held in 1994. (A&P 1994, pp. 314, 68)
1991: General Assembly asked the church to consult with the South Africa Council of Churches and consider ways to help re-build post-apartheid South Africa. Letters were sent to the Council of Churches in Namibia, the Council of Churches in Mozambique and the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa expressing support to continue economic sanctions against South Africa until apartheid was dismantled. (A&P 1991, pp. 319-324, 57)
1990: The 116th GA greeted the World Alliance of Reformed Churches President Rev. Allan and endorsed a call by the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa for continuing support of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa as it pressed for full democratization. The General Assembly called on the Government of Canada to implement full economic sanctions and exercise appropriate diplomatic sanctions for the full democratization of South Africa. (A&P 1990, pp. 391, 62, 556, 38)
1989: General Assembly called on the Government of Canada to impose comprehensive sanctions against South Africa, endorsed the Kairos Document (a theological statement issued in 1985 by mainly Black South African theologians) and re-affirmed its commitment to support those who were oppressed by apartheid. General Assembly urged the Government of Canada to support peacekeeping efforts and to assist front line states that were suffering because of sanctions against South Africa. (A&P 1989, pp. 261, 24, 366-367, 28)
1988: General Assembly praised the Government of Canada for its leadership in opposing apartheid. It asked congregations to support Christian leaders who were opposed to apartheid in South Africa and pray for those “who in fear and blindness fight to maintain power and control.” (A&P 1988, pp. 367, 51, 525, 47-48)
1987: The 113th GA suggested members study the Kairos Document, along with a commentary from the Church Doctrine Committee. (A&P 1987, pp. 248-250, 70) Context note: This document originated at the Institute for Contextual Study in Johannesburg and reflected the thinking of 50 Black pastors working in townships in the area. It was subsequently endorsed by 150 theologians, pastors and lay persons, White and Black within South Africa. The church noted that the Kairos Document “does not equivocate but calls upon the Christian Church in South Africa to follow the apostolic tradition of confronting the state and disobeying it in order to obey God. It is an incisive document, penetrating in its analysis of the present situation of South Africa.”
1986: General Assembly adopted eleven recommendations regarding apartheid in South Africa. They were: 1) to call on all congregations to commit themselves to join the struggle against racism within our own society and also against apartheid in South Africa; 2) to recommend presbyteries and congregations use the action package on South Africa prepared by the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa; 3) to observe a day of prayer on June 16, 1986, to end unjust rule in South Africa; 4) to prayerfully support (Anglican) Primate Edward Scott and other members of a Commonwealth team, who are seeking to bring about substantial change in South Africa; 5) to re-affirm moral and material support for the South African Council of Churches; 6) to re-affirm moral and material support for the South African Council of Churches; 7) to pray for The Presbyterian Church of South Africa as it seeks to be a force for reconciliation and justice within South African society; 8) to commend the GOC for its public stance against apartheid and its implementation of limited sanctions; 9) to recognize the African National Congress as the legitimate voice of the majority of the people of South Africa; 10) to ask the GOC to extend moral support and humanitarian aid to the African National Congress; 11) to ask the GOC to call on the Government of South Africa to begin negotiations with the ANC, in order to dismantle apartheid and create a democratic, non-racial state. (A&P 1986, pp. 374-376, 56)
1985: The South African Council of Churches called for a day of prayer to end the unjust rule in South Africa. The 111th GA responded by encouraging all commissioners to share this appeal with their congregations and presbyteries. The GA also approved communication with the Government of South Africa, in order to persuade it to speak with the black people of South Africa as equals.
1984: General Assembly approved and adopted ecumenical documents on the sinfulness of apartheid and the heresy of providing it with moral and theological justification.
1983: General Assembly adopted a report concerning the actions of World Alliance of Reformed Churches in electing Rev. Alan Boesak as its president, re-affirming that apartheid is sinful and incompatible with the gospel, and suspending the membership of two Reformed churches in South Africa. (A&P 1984, pp. 482-483, 48)
1981: General Assembly resolved to initiate and support efforts designed to pressure the South African government to abandon apartheid policies. (A&P 1981, pp. 314-316, 97)
1972: General Assembly adopted policies on apartheid previously affirmed by the World Council of Churches (between 1954 and 1968) and by the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church (in 1971). General Assembly encouraged the Government of Canada to strengthen trade relationships with newly-independent African states. It also praised the Presbyterian Church in South Africa for refusing to withdraw from the World Council of Churches (Government of South Africa demanded that the Presbyterian Church in South Africa withdraw from the World Council of Churches due to the Council’s Program to Combat Racism). General Assembly authorized the Board of Evangelism and Social Action (predecessor to Justice Ministries today) and other church boards to make the elimination of racism the primary task of the church. (A&P 1972, p. 302, 66)
1999: General Assembly asked the Government of Canada to re-invigorate the peace process in Sudan and to use its influence in the United Nations Security Council to pressure the government of Sudan to lift the blockade on humanitarian assistance. (A&P 1999, pp. 287-289, 45)
1998: General Assembly called on the Government of Canada to protest the persecution of Christians in southern Sudan, to pressure the Khartoum government to allow the free movement of food aid into non-government controlled areas, and to support the growth of civil society in Sudan. (A&P 1998, p. 33)
1993: General Assembly urged the Government of Canada to support efforts to end subjugation and persecution in southern Sudan. (A&P 1993, p. 64) Context Note: Sudan is divided culturally, racially, and religiously between the North and the South. A civil war began in 1983, when the president—presiding in the predominantly Arab and Muslim North– extended Islamic law over the whole country. This offended rebels in the predominantly African and non-Muslim South. Although the president’s decision was later modified, Sudanese from the South continued to rebel. Tensions have been exasperated by the geographic distribution of Sudan’s natural resources. The country’s oil reserves are located in the South. Southerners accuse militia from the North of taking their land and developing the oil fields for the North’s sole benefit. In 2003, another conflict began in Darfur, a province in western Sudan. Pro-government Janjaweed militias have conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead.