The Great Lakes Initiative (GLI) began in 2006 as a gathering of Christian leaders from seven countries in the Great Lakes Region of East Africa. The GLI focus countries are: Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. Most of these countries have known unrest, ethnic violence and internal strife in one way or another over many years. There was a felt need for Christians to come together as ambassadors of Christ’s ministry of reconciliation. Four gatherings between 2006-2010 were co-convened through a partnership of Duke University’s Center for Reconciliation (CFR), Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM) and World Vision International (WVI). In 2011, the gatherings transformed into the first annual Leadership Institute. In January 2015, it attained legal registration as a non-profit entity in Uganda.
GLI is a network of Christian organisations working towards peace and reconciliation in seven countries of the Great Lakes Region of East Africa. For ten years, GLI has provided a space for reflection, renewal and refreshment for Christian leaders . GLI is governed by a multi-national board of directors. The day-to-day administrative work is managed by a Regional Coordinator while the GLI Ambassador provides leadership in translating and communicating the mission and vision of the GLI to a regional and global audience by representing GLI and listening to the key issues, concerns and opportunities for the GLI. The ambassador also supports in-country, inter-country and regional programs or initiatives.
GLI’s annual Leadership Institute is our main program. It fosters Christian leadership through its plenary sessions, worship times, formal seminars, and informal interactions at meals. The institute provides rich theological content and discourse. This institute enables leaders to engage in a lively imagination and reflection on practices which can build peace and transform leaders using a theological, contextual and practical approach. In an effort to become regionally rooted, GLI Country Working Groups (CWGs) which are self-organizing and self-sustaining have formed. The GLI Regional staff engage with CWGs as and when invited. The staff offer support to the work of CWGs through visits, letters and meetings. The CWGs are committed to realizing a vision of reconciled families, communities, organizations and nations. CWGs inspire others in this turbulent region with stories and testimonies of hope and signs of the new “We”, of healing, even when it is hard to imagine that such new creation can emerge in violent and uncertain contexts.
The four founding partners have been and continue to be the primary funders of the GLI. In its first year of legal existence, GLI was able to receive funding from an anonymous US Foundation to cover start-up costs and deepen regional rootedness. GLI has been able to achieve a measure of regional rootedness through expanded CWG representation on the Content and Design Team. This team ensures that the content, DNA, methodology and design of the GLI Institute is shared, internalized and applied by a growing cadre of Christian leaders in each country.
CWGs in each of the Great Lakes Countries partners with other actors in their own areas in context specific ways. Seeking to pursue peace and make lasting impact in the lives of millions who yearn for peace, CWG leaders are committed to transformative leadership, have exhibited it in their work for peace and reconciliation in their own context and in collaboration with other leaders in the region. Additionally CWG members are a resource pool for future Faculty for the annual regional Institutes. The successes of CWGs is celebrated at the regional annual Institute. Thus, CWGs are inspired and motivated by stories of hope and transformation from other contexts.