From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Southern African Church Leaders Challenged to Shape Public Policy

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Thu, 26 Dec 2002 12:22:26 -0600

LUCSA Consultation Supports NEPAD but Questions its "Economic

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa/GENEVA, 18 December 2002 (LWI) - "The
church in Africa is a sleeping giant that must be reawakened so
that Africa can be saved." With these words Bishop Dr Ambrose
Moyo, Executive Director of the Lutheran Communion in Southern
Africa (LUCSA), urged representatives of churches in the region to
"unleash the power of the church" to engage governments and the
public in debate on public policy development.

Moyo's opinion was echoed by a majority of LUCSA church leaders at
a recent consultation in Johannesburg on the New Economic
Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). The initiative
outlines a reciprocal set of commitments between African states,
donor governments, and the private sector as a framework for
managing the continent's integration into the global economy. It
was approved by a majority of African leaders in October 2001, and
enjoys the support of industrialized nations. South African
President Thabo Mbeki was one of its initiators.

Churches and civil society in Africa appreciate NEPAD as their
political leaders' vision for the continent's sustainable
development through democratic governance, peace and economic
growth. But there is criticism about NEPAD's failure to involve
the public at all levels, and for its emphasis on integration in
the current global economy and accelerated growth for the private
sector. In the church and at grassroots level, there is concern
that emphasis on a vibrant private sector will lead to increased
poverty and unemployment. Privatization of basic services such as
water and electricity has already led to high prices and further
marginalization of the poor in South Africa.

It is against this background that Moyo invited the Lutheran
church leaders to the November 25-27 conference to reflect on
NEPAD as "one of the most challenging African initiatives that
will have far-reaching consequences for church and society. The
public needs to be educated and given the right information ... so
that they can stand up in defense of their basic human rights," he

After most countries attained independence, church leaders in the
region neglected the church's prophetic task, noted Moyo, former
head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe. He challenged
clergy to disengage themselves from the "dangerous alliances" with
ruling parties that they supported during the liberation struggle
and instead use their position to hold those elected to public
office accountable.

The Rev. Louis Sibiya, presiding bishop of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, supported Moyo's call. "The
great advantage of the church is that it has an efficient
structure in place and does not need additional structures in
order to reach out to all member churches, congregations and
countries," Sibiya said.

Presentations by trade unionists, theologians and other scholars
provided the necessary background information and different
perspectives to the discussion on NEPAD. The consultation brought
together 48 church leaders from the 16 LUCSA member churches in
Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa,
Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was a first step in the
implementation of LUCSA's Civic Education and Public Policy
Program which aims to "build the capacity of the churches and the
communities they serve to engage governments and the public in
debate on public policy development."

In a final statement, the LUCSA consultation agreed to welcome and
support NEPAD as a program to eradicate poverty in Africa, but
questioned the "economic path" toward that aim. The church leaders
stressed that they regarded NEPAD's policy paper as an unfinished
document, "that needs further discussion and consultation with
civil society." The consultation resolved to promote support and
solidarity among LUCSA member churches, to speak out against
incompetent governance in their respective countries and hold
follow-up consultations on NEPAD at the respective local levels.

(By Windhoek, Namibia-based LWI correspondent, Erika von

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 136 member churches in 76 countries representing over 61.7
million of the 65.4 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human
rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and
development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is LWF's information service.
Unless specifically noted, material presented does not represent
positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various units. Where
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material may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]

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