ELCT Press Release

Date: September 6, 2006
Press release No. 002/09/2006

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Churches in Africa challenged to tackle poverty head-on

ARUSHA, Tanzania, September 6th, 2006---------CHURCHES in Africa have been
challenged "to tackle poverty head-on and not by becoming neutral but by
being in critical solidarity with the Governments and Civil Societies in
the community."

The challenge was given in the northern city of Arusha in Tanzania recently
by Bishop Dr. Zephania Kameeta, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Vice
President for Africa Region, when he delivered a Key-note address to a
Consultation on Poverty and the Mission of the Church in Africa held from
September 4th to 8th, 2006.

Bishop Kameeta whose address was interrupted by applause from more than 80
participants to the consultation admitted that churches in Africa were not
adequately addressing the real problems on the ground rather they were busy
supporting the status quo which in most cases perpetuated poverty.

He told the consultation that the church should not shy away from its
responsibility to serve and be accountable to the people. Dr. Kameeta who
has been a politician and former Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of the
Republic of Namibia said if things go wrong the church should speak up
instead of staying neutral.

The Director of the LWF Department for Mission and Development (DMD), Rev.
Dr. Kjell Nordstokke commenting on the theme of the consultation: "That the
poor may have hope and injustice shut its mouth", (paraphrased from
Job5:16); explained that poverty in Africa has is a scandal both at ethical
and political levels.

Bishop Kameeta also spoke out against the emerging type of leadership in
Africa that is good at making beautiful talk and isolated from the people
they are supposed to serve. He warned that if the churches are not
accountable in taking their responsibilities, they too will find themselves
dependent so much on outside support that they will implement programmes
that are dictated from outside that may not be relevant to them.

"We limit ourselves in what we do and work for and by so doing we are also
limiting the hopes and expectations of the poor towards a better life and
the achievement of social justice", Hon. Right Rev. Kameeta, who is also
author of a number of books, said.

He drew the attention of the participants when he said "if the church is
called to preach the good news to the poor (as in Luke 4: 18 -19); then we
have to seriously get involved in the fight against poverty in Africa. We
cannot preach the good news from the pulpit while not being connected,
attached and most importantly touched by the every day life and suffering
of the people living in poverty."

He urged churches that have donor support to critically examine their
"business as usual" tendency cautioning that the role of churches should
not be so much in carrying out projects but rather to learn to be players
in the society as a whole. This is why he said "we need participatory
research to become true ambassadors of our people by advocating for
solutions from the people and supported by them".

He captivated the audience by giving examples of how the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia strive for sustainability and
how it collaborates with the government in various ways to fight poverty.

Giving an overview of the myths ad realities of poverty earlier on, Dr.
Flora Mndeme Musonda from Tanzania said "empowering the poor through access
to productive assets and effective participation in their own development
activities is essential to the success of anti-poverty efforts."

She said interventions from the international community, however useful or
well intended, cannot substitute for the dynamism of people acting for

Rev. Dr. Filibus Musa the Area Secretary for Africa with the LWF/DMD who is
the coordinator of the consultation said: "Addressing poverty in Africa was
an arduous task that goes beyond money or 'aid to Africa.'

"It calls for a holistic approach, including creating an atmosphere for
justice, peace and freedom, which are necessary ingredients for sustainable
communities and livelihoods, and promoting sustainable democratic
institutions, good governance and ensuring public accountability."

Rev. Dr. Filibus states that the primary aim of the consultation was to
enable member churches reflect theologically on their self understanding,
and responsibilities of the church and the public within the context of
impoverishing conditions in Africa.

The Lutheran World Federation is a global communion of Christian churches
in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden. The LWF now
has140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world representing 66.2
million Christians.

Issued by:

Elizabeth Lobulu
Communication Coordinator,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania

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For more information contact:

Elizabeth Lobulu
Communication Desk Officer, ELCT
E-mail: ELobulu@elct.or.tz