A Sudanese Anglican priest who has just been elected to one of Africa's most influential Church posts has lamented the fact that most people around the world do not even know their own human rights.
Canon Clement Janda, who was elected this week as the new General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches, told journalists that teaching human rights has been one of his main tasks as director of the Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation in Zambia. The foundation, Africa's biggest Christian lay centre, specialises in leadership training.
"People talk about human rights without knowing what they are," said Canon Janda. "How many people have even seen the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Most people in any given country don't know their country's constitution. The biggest problem is ignorance. People need to be taught about human rights, and then they can respond [to the infringement of their rights]."
While Canon Janda, speaking less than 24 hours after his appointment was announced, was reluctant to comment to journalists on internal matters within the AACC, he made it clear that human rights, conflict resolution, the economy and the general state of the continent will receive major attention within the five-year term he has accepted. He pointedly stressed the role of the media in safeguarding human rights. "I believe that no society can claim to be free if it restricts the press," he said. "It is my desire that the press in Africa should remain our [the Churches'] partners as we battle against dictatorships and fight for human rights."
Canon Janda faced strong competition for the post of general secretary of the AACC, Africa's leading ecumenical organisation, with 142 member churches. The other four candidates were Peter Kodjo, of Ghana; Silas Ncozana, of Malawi; Sam Kobia, of Kenya; and Nobert Keen, of Cameroon.
Born in 1941 in Sudan, Clement Janda was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church of Sudan (Anglican) in 1970. Since then he has held key positions in his own Church and in the AACC itself, as well as in the Sudan Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches in Geneva.
He also holds a Master of Theology from Austin Presbyterian Theological seminary in Texas, USA. He is expected to take up his new job within a few months.