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African bishops issue renewed call against poverty


United Methodist bishops in Africa, joined here by Bishop Felton May (far right) representing the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, have issued a Sept. 11 letter outlining new actions to combat poverty on the continent.
A UMNS photo by Andra Stevens.

A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
Sept. 15, 2008

Describing poverty as a "scourge to human dignity" that "robs people of hope," United Methodist bishops in Africa have issued a church-wide call for renewed ministry to bring hope and greater prosperity to poor people on their continent.


A child scavenges for food in a garbage
pit near Malanje, Angola.
A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
   

Meeting for their second time, the 13 bishops that make up the church's African College of Bishops outlined new actions to combat poverty in a Sept. 11 letter sent from the campus of United Methodist-related Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

The bishops expressed "righteous indignation at the current plight of our continent" and resolved to work with professional, community and nongovernmental organizations to alleviate poverty in Africa. They view Africa University as a vital resource toward that goal.

"Poverty robs people of hope, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a call to hope, salvation and abundant life," they wrote. "In Africa, we see poverty manifesting itself in environmental degradation, disease, hunger and malnutrition, inequitable access to education and even the exposure of some of the most vulnerable among us—the girl child, for example—to sexual and economic exploitation."

While appreciative of the Holy Spirit for bringing peace and stability to areas of conflict in Africa, they expressed concern for those displaced and still suffering as a result of the violence. They called upon churches in Africa and across the world to "continue to advocate for tolerance and understanding of differing views, cultures, ethnic and religious affiliations as well as for the equitable sharing and use of God’s gifts for the common good."

The bishops' call was consistent with an emphasis by The United Methodist Church to eliminate poverty and diseases of poverty in the world.

“ Poverty robs people of hope, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a call to hope, salvation and abundant life.”

Last April in Fort Worth, Texas, the 2008 General Conference approved four focus areas of ministry for the denomination for the foreseeable future. Two of those are to engage in ministries with the poor and to stamp out diseases of poverty by improving global health.

Since they began meeting as a college of bishops two years ago, the African bishops have collectively focused on poverty and its manifestations. During their most recent meeting Sept. 8-12, they shared individual progress and action plans being implemented in their respective conferences.

"It is our belief that Africa has all that it needs to build a future with peace, greater prosperity and hope," they wrote in their letter.

The African bishops' letter also addressed climate change, youth migration and corruption, resolving to:
  • Engage the membership of The United Methodist Church in Africa and the wider community, including youth, in practical efforts to renew God’s creation and in dialogue on the use and protection of non-renewal resources;
  • Work to instill a love for one’s country and continent among African youth and young people and continue to educate, encourage and provide them opportunities to become more involved in community-building, leadership and development while ensuring an environment in which their gifts and energies can be fully used;
  • Begin a process of self-examination, engaging clergy and laity to look at church structures and practices, establish definitions of what constitutes corruption and work to eliminate corrupt practices at all levels.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn. Andra Stevens, director of Africa University's Office of Public Information, contributed to this report.

News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Resources

Four Areas of Ministry Focus

Africa Episcopal Areas

Africa University


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