“We have an appointment to meet Ambassador Mike Battle at 1 p.m.,” Dave wrote in his journal on March 7, 2011 from Addis Ababa, during his second trip to Ethiopia in three months. This news surprised the team since they were not expecting it.
Dr. Michael Battle, a retired Army chaplain, is the U.S. Ambassador to the African Union, a position started in 2006 by President George W. Bush. Battle took the position in 2009. Dave said the ambassador worked on President Barak Obama’s senate campaign and Obama appointed him to the position.
Dave found Ambassador Battle to be a very polished, knowledgeable, and friendly man. “Good attributes for a chaplain that translate well into State Department diplomacy and international conversations,” Dave said.
During the meeting, Ambassador Battle expressed an interest in the interfaith conference the team is working toward setting up. “He said if the All Africa Council of Churches goes for the conference, he feels the African Union will fall in line,” Dave said. Battle also told Dave that the President is very interested in an interfaith dialogue and is sure “there would be much White House interest and attendance at a conference like this.”
That level of interest worried Dave a bit. “Seminary and the Air Force Chaplain School did not prepare me for high-level international dialogue and interaction. So I relied on prayer and faith to make sure I was communicating clearly my intent of friendship, cooperation and helping to create an opportunity for conversation between groups of people. Fortunately, no one threw us out of their office, so we must have done something right,” he said.
In the meantime, the political advisor for the Combined Joint Task Force—Horn of Africa in Djibouti encouraged Dave to take the test and apply to the State Department because of his experience and successful relationship-building in Eastern Africa. She must have seen the same skills in Dave that Ambassador Battle possessed.
The interfaith conference Dave so wanted to happen didn’t occur because the All Africa Council of Churches already held a similar one. Dave still prays it will happen again someday.
However, it was another amazing day for Dave and his team as they strive to build relationships with leaders, both religious and non-religious, in Eastern Africa.