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Hlekweni hosts regional Quaker retreat

April 2007

Hlekweni hosted the week-long annual retreat for Quakers in our region.

Epistle from C&SAYM


The Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting gathered at Hlekweni - "The place of laughter", near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, from 4th - 10th April 2007 under the theme, Renewing the Quaker spirit in Africa. Hlekweni was celebrating its 40th anniversary of responding to the needs of rural people in Matebele land.

One hundred and thirty five Friends from Meetings in Zimbabwe, Lesotho, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, visiting Friends from USA, England, Wales, Germany, Norway, the Regional Representative of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) workers participated in this Yearly Meeting. We were blessed with a vibrant presence of nineteen Young Friends who participated actively in Business Meetings, Meetings for Worship, Worship Sharing, Ten Minute Talks, Special Interest Groups and Children's' Programme. Children's' activities included team building; sharing, co-operative games and conflict resolution that sought to strengthen the Quaker values of equality and peace.

We are grateful to the members of C&SAYM who designed the Programme that enabled us to renew our Quaker Spirit and also have well-organised and fruitful Business Meeting sessions. The Business Meeting sessions were fewer because of the intensive preparations that preceded C&SAYM and the rest of the time was therefore used for spiritual nourishment. We were saddened that some of the key planners could not attend because of circumstances beyond their control.

The Programme aspects that enabled us to respond to the theme included the following: Hearts and Minds Prepared sessions, African Quaker Faith and Practice, Expressing our Quaker Identity, Sustainable Energy, Ethical Investments, Communication Information Overload and Quaker Process.

The diverse forms of worship that deepened our spiritual nourishment included singing, silence, vocal ministries, prayer in different languages and Taize.

Martin Wilkinson, from Britain Yearly Meeting, delivered a moving Richard Gush Memorial Lecture entitled, 'Prophets of Equality'. He shared his experience of peacemakers in Africa and presented new evidence of damaging effects of inequality on the health and happiness of people and communities. He reminded us of values needed to overcome challenges that continue to face us: Equality; Truth; Simplicity; Peace and Courage.

We were made deeply aware of the wide disparities existing in our communities and in the world and the need to work to increase the sense of community and express our concern and action for the disadvantaged people.

C&SAYM approved a testimony on "Equality in the 21st century: Making a start in Southern Africa" committing our meetings to strive for reduction of social and economic inequality in our countries. Therefore, we call on all Friends everywhere to assist us in living this testimony.

The challenges that faced us included information sharing among ourselves and other Friends' organisations; addressing economic disparities; ensuring equality; speaking truth amongst ourselves and to those in positions of power; courage to celebrate our diversity; cross boarder travels; and a simple and wholesome living of Hlekweni, the political and economic challenges facing Zimbabwe and thus impacting on programmes at Hlekweni. Stephen Hussey, a former director of Hlekweni, presented the history of the origins and life of Hlekweni, which enabled us to look at the present challenges and future sustainability of programmes offered by the centre.

We were refreshed by a variety of outings to the following places: Chipangali Animal Orphanage and Research Centre, Matopo Hills, Silozwane Cave and Ethandweni Orphanage in Matopo Hills, Marimba workshop, Khami Ruins and Bulawayo Natural History Museum, which was organised for children.

We leave Hlekweni with laughter and joy, spiritually refreshed and full of courage to make a difference in the world. We are grateful to the staff of Hlekweni for their warm hospitality.

Ha e ne pula - Let it rain!

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