Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Unemployment Is the Biggest Challenge for Mozambican Youth

Lack of employment opportunities remains the biggest concern for young people in Mozambique, a country of 19.6 million people, with an unemployment rate of over 20 percent, and around 70 percent of its population living below the poverty line. Despite the commendable efforts of the government and its partners to provide education - a basic requirement in addressing poverty and unemployment - access to quality education remains a major concern. It is significant to note that the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Department for World Service ( DWS) program in Mozambique has made a significant contribution in providing both formal and non-formal education in Southern Africa country. But there are many challeges including the high incidence oh HIV and AIDS (estimated at 16 percent in the 16-49 age group) coupled with slow behavioral change toward the disease despite the widespread awareness about its infection and transmission. The lack of effective mechanisms to involve young people in decion-making processes stricks out as a missed opportunity and a statement that adults do not take the young people seriously.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Re-birth of Hope in Manica Province

HIV/AIDS is the most serious threat facing Mozambique. The pandemic is threatening to reverse the development gains of recent years. According to latest reports from UNICEF Mozambique, the rate of HIV/AIDS prevalence among adults aged 15-49 has been steadily increasing over the past few years, from 12.2 per cent in 2000 to 16.2 per cent in 2004. In 2006, an estimated 1.7 million people were living with HIV or AIDS and the disease is claiming over 120,000 lives each year.

The pandemic continues to compound the crisis of increasing numbers of orphaned and vulnerable children. 20 per cent of the estimated number of 1.6 million orphans in Mozambique is due to AIDS.

In September 2005, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mozambique launched a new program known as,Renasce Esperança , which means, “re-birth of hope”, in Manica Province.

Renasce Esperança is a community development arm of the ELCM,” said Mr. Armando, Joao Mahnisse, coordinator and founder of the program.

Renasce Esperança was a response to the challenges of HIV and AIDS faced by the Church and the surrounding communities in the Manica Province. Currently the program has responded to 200 orphans ages ranging between 0-17.

The program is funded by Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA). In December 2005, the program, received its first support of SAR2000 for the International AIDS day. In January 2006, LUCSA gave an additional SAR30,000.

“With that grant we were able to support a total of 200 orphans and vulnerable children in the communities of Chimoio and Catandica,” said Mr. Manhisse.

In Catandica, an open community centre known as Munene has been constructed using local materials. The centre provides vocational training for vulnerable teenagers such as carpentry, agriculture etc, and the centre also provides feeding schemes for the orphans and vulnerable children.

For the program to run well, Renasce Esperança engages a group of volunteers who are part of the local community. The volunteers help in taking care of the children when they are at the centre and visit the children once a week in their homes.

“Currently we have sent 11 volunteers for home-based care training…we hope to have more volunteers trained,” said Mr. Manhisse.

Mr. Manhisse hopes to extend the program to other provinces, “The program is a success in the two communities we are working in. It helps in putting our Church name on the Map, people now know the ELCM, not just for Sunday services, but the community ministry it is doing through Renasce Esperança,” he said.

Commemorating the late Sister Doraci: “Loved by all, cherished by many"

“Loved by all, cherished by many,” is what people who knew the late Deaconess Sister Doraci Edigner said about her. “She was a woman full of life, said Rev. Mabasso, Senior Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mozambique (ELCM).

Three years after her tragic death, those who knew her both locally and internationally are still at grips with her death. “Her tragic death has paralysed the whole Church and has dealt a big blow to all the Congregations and communities she was working with,” said Rev. Dean Mavunduse missionary and advisor to the ELCM Senior Pastor.

Sister Doraci was really committed to uplifting the lives of the poor people, whom she loved and identified with. She was working in the rural areas of Moma, Namina and Cabo-Delgado. The communities there saw her as a dear friend and associate. She even built her own hut of the same shape and structure as those of the people among whom she worked. During her visits she would sleep in that hut.

Wherever she went in Moma, Namina and Cabo-Delgado, small children would run up to her and embrace her skirts, and she would bend down to touch each one of them on the head.

Fifty-three year old Doraci Edinger was murdered February 21, 2004 in the
apartment where she lived in Nampula, 700 km north of the capital of Mozambique, Maputo. She was assigned to the Lutheran Church of Mozambique by the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil (IECLB).

Sister Doraci was laid to rest on March 6, 2004 in Sao Leopoldo at Hermandad Cemetery, Porto Alegre, Brazil.

She was born in May 13, 1950 in Santo Antonio da Patrulha, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. At 18 years, she moved in with her parents to Novo Hamburgo, where her family lives today. She worked as a shoemaker and eight years later decided to become a Lutheran missionary.

Under the leadership of Sister Doraci, schools and health centers were built in the rural villages in the municipality of Moma. She also helped build wells, guaranteeing portable water for the region. She also encouraged the self-maintenance of rural villages, introducing crops and distributing seeds.

Since she arrived in Nampula, the small Lutheran Church of Mozambique doubled in number, growing to more than 3,000 people. In the neighboring province of Cabo Delgado alone, where she helped found several congregations, more than 800 people were baptized in one weekend

She promoted seminars on health, hygiene and nutrition. She helped people obtain tools for agriculture. She taught people the Gospel and obtained Bibles and material for Sunday school.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The growth of a young Church

Mozambique lies along the Indian Ocean on the East Cost of Africa. It is bound by Tanzania in the North Malawi in the North-West, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa in the West and Swaziland in the South.

The population of Mozambique is 18,811,731 and has a land area of 784,090 sq.km. It is divided into 10 provinces, and Portuguese is the official language there are 13 Africans languages

A former Portuguese colony, Mozambique gained its independence in 1975, but a 17-year civil war started soon after independence.

The civil war affected Mozambicans severely, especially in rural areas. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Over a million people fled the country.
During the colonial era, Christian missionaries were active in Mozambique, and many foreign clergy remained in the country. According to the national census, about 20%-30% of the population is Christian, 15%-20% is Muslim, and the remainder adheres to traditional beliefs.

Lutheran World Services workers doing relief work in the country started the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mozambique (ELCM) in 1989. During that time there were missionaries operating in the country namely Rev. Mashoko Shava (then Evangelist Shava), from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (ELCZ), Rev. Lessing from the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil, Rev. Christopher Mbuga from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) and Rev Horst Seiger from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria in Germany.

In 1999 ELCM became a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). During that time it only had a membership of 1,250, but to date the church has grown to 7,392 worshipers and is organized in 60 congregations, across three districts.

From 1999 this young Church fell into deep trouble and the Church split into two. These squabbles went on for almost two-years, a reconciliation meeting was held in 2001, organized by the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) and LWF.

A process of reconciliation meetings went on guided by the two Spiritual Advisers namely Bishop Molefe, and Bishop Ambrose Moyo who were elected to guide the Mozambican church. These meetings culminated into a Church Assembly held in August 2003, where the Church Council was elected.

The Church also requested the sister Churches in LUCSA to provide an experienced Pastor who would help to continue with the work of reconciliation, build Church structures, organize elections of Districts, Parishes and Congregational Council, and reconstruct the Central Administration, train Evangelists and select students for theological training. In 2003, The Rev. Dean Hendricks Mavunduse from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe was sent to Mozambique as a missionary and worked as acting senior pastor for ELCM.

On August 5, 2006 during the General Assembly, Rev. Jose Mabasso was elected to the position of ELCM Senior Pastor and Dean Mavunduse began acting as his advisor. Mabasso pursued his theological training in Brazil and South Africa. He is married and has five children.

During the August 2006 Assembly, the Church saw the ordination of its first Deacons which were led by Bishop Ambrose Moyo, director of LUCSA and Bishop Naison Shava from the ELCZ.

Currently the Church has four ordained pastors , four Evangelists and six deacons of which two are women.

The Role of Women in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mozambique

By Rumbidzai Chidoori

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mozambique (ELCM) is only 16 years old. With the assistance of Francisca Mavunduse,wife of the current ELCM missionary, Dean Hendricks Mavunduse, the women's group is growing in membership. The women's group has become active and mainly focuses on issues relating to HIV/AIDS.

It is mainly women who are directly affected and are more involveld in the fight against HIV/AIDS. They care for the sick and orphaned children. The women's group has managed to organize HIV/AIDS workshops at congregational and district levels and are planning to organise the workshops at a national level.

They also offer support in the form of feeding schemes for the children in their local communities whenever they can. They also conduct hospital visitations and offer emotional and psychological support through their prayer groups.

The women's group also speaks out against violence and abuse targeted at women and children. The group advocates for gender equality and power sharing. Currently the Church has two trained female evangelists and the majority of church members are women. Some of the women are lay preachers.

In November of 2004 the Church sent three representatives to the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA)Consultation for Women Leaders held in Johannesburg, under the theme "Gender Dimension of HIV/AIDS Pandemic.” This Consultation is held annually and is a platform for women leaders within the member churches to consult and share ideas. In June 2005 the Mozambican women's group sent two representatives to this event and they presented a report on the Role of Mothers within the Young Church in Mozambique.

Another huge challenge that is faced by the women in Mozambique is poverty. Most of the women are unemployed and the few that are self-employed survive by selling vegetables and fruits at the markets and at street corners. Most women are single mothers and they struggle daily just to feed their own children, many cannot afford to send their children to school. Thus it becomes extremely difficult to organise projects as they require funding, and these women can not afford to start the projects themselves as they have nothing to give. Furthermore illiteracy among the women makes it difficult for them to get jobs and thus they remain trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty.

The lack of proper infrastructure such as roads results in some areas being completely inaccessible and in most instances travelling from one district to another by car takes two to three days. Mozambique is a vast country, unfortunately the distances are quite long and the roads are bad, this poses a problem in that the women are unable to meet regularly in order to make progress.

Mrs Francisca Mavunduse has managed to assist the women to get their Church uniforms and to educate them about the structure of the church and what the Women's Constitution entails. The purple colour on the uniforms symbolises ' victory'. In an interview Mrs Mavunduse explained that the women's group is trying to find ways in which they can empower themselves in all aspects so that they can in turn empower others. She admits it has not been easy so far but she has faith in God's power and guidance to see them through to' victory'.