Ecoforleaders. A school for "communion leaders"

The opening event in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

The ‘Ecoforleaders’ Training School for communion leadership was inaugurated on 4th November 2017 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The opening event was attended by numerous politicians, diplomats and academic authorities, among whom were the Chancellors of the Catholic University and Mapon University and two professors from Kasangani University and the National Pedagogy University. Religious authorities, both Christian and Muslim, were also present. This is an indicator of the high hopes that the initiative has raised in the region. The School is a product of the desire and determination of a group of Sophia alumni from Africa to bring about positive change in their home countries. Through the support of the Institute and that of the Political Movement for Unity, they can now work to make their dream a reality.

“On behalf of our Institute’s academic community, it is my pleasure to extend a very cordial greeting to Ecoforleaders. I warmly salute this important and timely initiative, which is fully in line with the mission that Sophia has been pursuing since its foundation ten years ago – wrote President Piero Coda in his message. – Following the prophetic wish of founder Chiara Lubich, Sophia is called upon to offer a model of higher education inspired by the culture of unity, and to explore innovative and concrete pathways that can allow students to transform their personal lives and their role in the society and work in favour of justice, fraternity and peace.

Today, we do not live in an era of change, but rather in a change of era, characterised by an overall ‘anthropological and socio-environmental crisis’ – continued the President, quoting Pope Francis, - in which we can see ‘signs that things are now reaching a breaking point, and these are evident in large-scale natural disasters as well as social and  financial crises’.  ‘There is a need to change models of global development’, and in order to do this, we need a culture that is suited to the challenge, so as to inspire – as Pope Francis puts it – ‘leadership capable of striking out on new paths’, ‘paths of dialogue (...)’. Ecoforleaders moves in this direction with courage and has Sophia’s complete support”, assured Coda.

Ecoforleaders can also count on the support of Mgr. Nicolas Djomo, the Secretary of the Congolese Episcopal Conference, who is locally well-known for having inspired and led talks between majority and opposition politicians on the subject of the controversial electoral law proposal binding the next presidential election to the date of the next census. He is a significant reference point in the midst of a politically and socially unstable context, where per capita income is among the lowest worldwide and where pressure by powerful international lobbies on the region’s abundant natural resources is constant. Yet, following in the footsteps of Nkrumah, Senghor, Lumumba, Nyerere and other great African leaders of the twentieth century, fifty students, selected through their CVs and an interview, are about to start attending the courses given by qualified teachers and tutors.

Ecoforleaders is part of ‘Come back to Africa’, a wider scheme aiming to promote social and political engagement that was presented at UNESCO. The scheme aims to train leaders inspired by universal fraternity. The first group of tutors and teachers will meet in Nairobi in January 2018 to inaugurate a three-year course led by professors and young African graduates from Sophia. For now, the project is limited to East Africa, but it will subsequently expand to include other African regions as well.

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