Mozambique President Praises, Challenges United Methodists
Vol 1 No 2 Nov. 2,2006
Mozambique President Armando Emilio Guebuza opened the Council of Bishops meeting on Nov. 1 by praising the church’s role in the transformation of his nation and challenging it to commit more resources in the struggle to overcome poverty.
More than 300 bishops, spouses, and local United Methodists filled a Maputo convention center assembly hall to open the council’s historic meeting. This is the first council meeting ever held outside U.S. territory.
In a worship service sparked by the energy of three Maputo area choirs, the bishops celebrated the church’s 160-year presence in Africa and its broad influence on the continent’s religious and civic life.
The highlight of the event clearly was the presence of the president, a Presbyterian who demonstrated a deep knowledge the United Methodist presence throughout his nation and a close friendship with the nation’s bishop, João Somane Machado.
Guebuza said the church’s commitment to social justice created the conditions that helped Mozambique become an independent nation and begin to tackle its poverty. Mozambique was a Portuguese colony for 470 years. It became independent in 1975.
“This church has contributed to the rescue of our self-esteem,” he said, adding the United Methodist Church helped Mozambicans “gain the awareness that colonization was not a fact of life.”
“As we learned that foreign domination was not a fact, I hope Mozambicans will also learn poverty also is not a form of divine punishment and can also become something of the past.”
He praised United Methodists for seeking a “culture of peace” and helping the nation develop water resources to battle poverty and malaria, and called for a continued partnership with health and education initiatives. Saying education is the key to overcoming poverty, he specifically asked the church to create a new university in Mozambique .
Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, of Houston, president of the Council of Bishops responded, with a smiling understatement: “I believe His Excellency has given us a challenge for our work this week.” She said the church’s partnership on education and health initiatives would be taken to a new level.
She told the gathering that the council’s meeting in Maputo “expresses solidarity, partnership and continued prayers for you and all the people of Mozambique . It is our honor and privilege to be here during this time.”
Huie presented Guebuza with a resolution that included a pledge that the denomination would continue “to promote the welfare of Mozambique ” and promises of prayer for his continued leadership of the nation.
The Rev. Arlindo Romao, Maputo East District Superintendent told the welcoming gathering that “it was hard to describe the joy we feel when we heard for the first time in the history of the United Methodist Church that the bishops were meeting outside the U.S. and they chose our country. Not Europe or Asia but they chose Africa and our country of Mozambique .”
Romao said United Methodists in are “happy and proud to see that you are here and we see that what we were hearing is a reality. Welcome to our house that is your house.”
“Please see us as only beginners, as pioneers in this task, and if you return, you will see we are doing even better.”
Council Meeting Is National News Throughout Mozambique
The global gathering of United Methodist bishops is big news throughout Mozambique .
Television, radio and newspaper reporters from the national news corps covered the opening of the council’s meeting at the national civil center. Stories from the meeting were on the evening newscasts.
Thursday’s main Maputo newspaper featured a quarter-page sized photo of Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, president of the Council of Bishops, greeting Armando Emilio Guebuza, president of Mozambique during Wednesday’s opening worship service. The headline said “Poverty Not Divine Punishment.”
Children Add Spice to Council Presence in Mozambique
The sounds of young people are vibrating off the walls of hallways and eating areas as the Council fills the Avineda Hotel during this week’s meeting.
A number of active and retired bishops took advantage of the opportunity to visit Africa by bringing children, grandchildren, and a niece to the meeting. Retired Bishop Herbert Skeete and his wife, Shirley, brought two of their grandchildren. Bishop Ann Sherer brought her grandson. Bishop Thomas Bickerton and his wife, Sally, brought two of their sons, and Bishop Minerva Carcano brought her niece.
The young people are participating in worship and spouse and family events. While missing school back in the United States , they are completing homework assignments, and doing special work. At least one is writing a daily journal to take back to school.