The International Prison Chaplains’ Association Worldwide (IPCA) was founded in 1985, during a conference of Prison Chaplains held in a unique atmosphere of spiritual exchange at Bossey Ecumenical Center, in Switzerland.
Since its inauguration, it has encouraged hundreds of Prison Chaplains throughout the world. Different Prison Chaplains throughout the world met in 1985 and in 1990; in Aylmer (Quebec) Canada in 1995; in Kroonstad South Africa in 2000, in Cornwall, Ontario Canada in 2005, in Stockholm, Sweden in 2010 and most recently in Sydney, Australia in 2015. IPCA is a non-profit making organization without political support; the title of “association” was chosen to convey the idea of a movement.
Inauguration of IPCA
The inauguration of IPCA was held from 21 to 25 August 1985. The Association was founded at a meeting of 59 prison chaplains
from 20 countries, organized at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute in Switzerland, following this meeting; a statement was made on 25 August.
This meeting was the result of the vision and dedication of PekkaViirre, Executive Secretary of the Pastoral Care for Prisons in the Lutheran Church of Finland, helped by the Lutheran World Federation in Geneva, an official invitation was sent by the Ecumenical Council of churches. There were memorable offices, several official speeches and discussions outside among participants who sat in groups under the hot summer sun near Lake Geneva. The atmosphere was impregnated with such power in that meeting that people have often spoken since then the “spirit of Bossey”. This expression described the intense feeling of belonging to a spiritual community - it was the feeling of being entrusted with a mission result of a shared experience beyond the barriers of nationality and religion.
According to the declaration adopted at that meeting, the Association was to promote the work of Christian Prison Chaplains.
It was also mentioned that the Association must be apolitical and non-profit making. It entrusted the management of its business to four European chaplains, who formed the first International Steering Committee. During the first five years, the president has been Reverend Pastor Peter Rassow, who has coordinated the work between Protestant prison chaplains of West Germany. Since then, it was expected at that time to ask a chaplain to create in every country a national steering committee that would take a list of other chaplains interested in learning more about international activities. It was to encourage these representatives to exchange correspondence on the increase of theological and professional awareness of the work of chaplain. It was also planned to create an international steering committee coordinating for communications between autonomous national groups. This idea was reflected later by the regional planning groups. The Association would also promote professional exchange among chaplains at the regional or international level, and organize consultations.
From the second to the seventh conference of IPCA
A second international conference was held in Bossey in Switzerland in 1990. About a hundred people attended, and participants came from more countries.
A new steering committee of ten people was created, and the origin of its members was more diversified than that of the first committee.
The President was again Reverend Peter RASSOW.
This committee met every year, especially in Europe, to plane a third conference, held in Ottawa in 1995. Three hundred people attended this conference, which ended with the election of a new international committee chaired by Rev. Pierre ALLARD, then director of Chaplaincy in the Correctional Service of Canada. Once again in 2000, a fourth conference which was attended by more than three hundred people gathered in the Kroonstad conference in South Africa, which will renewed Rev. Pierre ALLARD, his committee met every year in various country. A fifth conference was held in Cornwall, Ontario in Canada, which Reverend Birgitta WINBERG of Sweden take control of the Association. Sixth conference was organized in Stockholm Sweden in 2010; Reverend Dwight CUFF of Canada was elected as President and whose mandate expired in 2015. It met again every year in various countries and by video conference to organize the seventh conference held in Sydney, Australia from 19 to 24 September 2015. The latter who has just taken place, Reverend Rod MOORE was elected as President of IPCA Worldwide for the five years term where we are. It was his confirmation since he was the unique candidate for President of the IPCA Worldwide.
IPCA worldwide steering committees
In 1995, the people elected to the committee were from North America, South America and the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and Asia.
It was in 1995 that an African Representative entered the Steering Committee; it was the Reverend John APPIAH of GHANA, who leads for the first time IPCA in AFRICA. In 2000, Rev. Kobus BEZUIDENHOUT of South Africa took over and he was assisted by Reverend Jacky ATABONG of Cameroon. In 2005 Reverend Hennie HUMAN of South Africa succeeds to Kobus and Rev. Jean-Didier MBOYO of the Democratic Republic of Congo as Vice President of IPCA AFRICA. IN 2010 Reverend Hennie HUMAN was renewed and Rev. Jean Loth GAZALIMA of Central African Republic was the Vice-president. And in 2015 in Sydney Australia, Reverend Jean-Didier MBOYO, was elected President and Representative of IPCA Africa for the current five-year term and Reverend Maurice MUCHANYEREYI of Zimbabwe is the Vice-Chairperson. From South Africa Furthermore, it was considered important that the committee should hold at least two women. English is the main working language. Members should ideally be prison chaplains. The availability of funds for travel of participants to meetings has also caused concern and now it is asked to each Regional President to generate funds for travel. In addition, it was necessary to ensure continuity in the composition of the committee to facilitate discussion of current work. These are some of the issues that the plenary conference had to look at the global meeting. This is a challenge for hundreds of people who come together for a brief period to assess their needs and make good decisions.