|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.
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.
A child scavenges for food in a garbage
pit near Malanje, Angola.
A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
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
“ 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.
"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.
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
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
- 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 email@example.com.
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