Obama Win Brings Hope to Africa, Church Leaders Say

President-elect Barack Obama is not only inspiring hope for positive change among Americans but also overseas in Africa, church leaders say.

In Kenya, where Obama's father was born, people celebrated the election of a man they consider one of their own to the most powerful political office in the world.

Hundreds of locals from Kogelo village in western Kenya, the hometown of Obama's father, celebrated with the 44th U.S. president's paternal grandmother and other members of his extended family by slaughtering cattle and chickens for a feast, according to Ecumenical News International.

"It is a positive turn for Africa," said Bishop Joseph Wasonga of Maseno West Anglican Church in Kenya, as reported by ENI. "I think his winning will bring hope and healing to the whole world.

"His election has shown that America is truly democratic."

Several Kenyan church leaders express hope that Obama will press for good governance in Africa and help stabilize countries that are undergoing political unrest.

"As if as an American president, if he can put his weight on the demand for good governance in Africa that can be good," Wasonga said, noting in particular the political instability in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Kenya.

The Rev. Kenneth Meshoe of South Africa, a member of parliament and president of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), further called Obama's election a political lesson for Africa.

"African leaders would do well to learn from this election to accept outright wins by opposition parties in elections and hand over the reins with grace," Meshoe said. "The ACDP hopes his win will improve relations between America and the African continent," he added.

Besides African church leaders, international aid groups also expressed hope in an Obama presidency, saying that his win offers a shift in international relations with greater emphasis on tackling poverty.

"Obama's election offers an opportunity to build new relationships and partnerships between countries which will form the basis of a new vision of development," said Christine Allen, executive director of the Catholic development agency Progressio.

"In the 11 developing countries where we work, from Ecuador and Peru to Yemen and Somaliland, there are strong hopes. Hopes for change," she noted.

In Latin America, Allen sees the possibility of "real dialogue" between leaders from the North and South under an Obama administration. Unfair trade agreements and enforced economic models have made it a challenge to tackle extreme inequalities, Allen explained.

"On this day we have a greater sense of hope that international development and foreign policy can become increasingly multilateral," the Progressio director said. "Improved dialogue with the developing world – which includes healthy collaboration and partnership – is within reach."

In the United States, many Christian leaders have put aside their political difference with Obama and pledged to support and pray for the new president in the days after the election.

Jane Hansen Hoyt of the women's ministry Aglow International, who was an outspoken McCain-Palin supporter, issued a statement Wednesday congratulating Obama and vowed to pray for him and his family.

Likewise, the leaders of the Assemblies of God, The Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and United Methodist Church have all stated their support for the new president-elect.

"This is a time for all Americans to put aside divisiveness and come together in support of our new president-elect for the good of our country's future," said Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, president of the United Methodist Bishops Council, in a statement. "We ask that everyone pray for a sense of unity that will help to create a smooth transition and get the new administration off to a good start."

Renowned evangelist Billy Graham, who turns 90 on Nov. 7, has also called on Christians to support and pray for Obama as the president-elect faces many challenges ahead in leading the country during difficult times.