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Help Mozambique, bishop urges Church

25 November 2016

CREATIVE COMMONS

Headquarters: Maputo City Hall, Mozambique

Headquarters: Maputo City Hall, Mozambique

THE financial crisis in Mozambique has brought “huge ill” into the lives of its people; and the poor who had re­­gained their livelihoods in recent years are “growing desperate” once more, the Vicar General of the dio­cese of Niassa, Bishop Manuel Ernesto, has said.

Mozambique, one of the poorest nations in the world, announced on its Finance Ministry website earlier this month that its debt levels were unsustainable as a result of falling commodity prices and higher inter­est rates. It is the result of a “global ethical failure”, and the Church should turn the situation around by championing the poor worldwide, Bishop Ernesto said.

The Bishop of Lebombo, the Rt Revd Carlos Matsinhe, agreed: “Desperation is already visible in the faces of the people. . . It is so painful, because we know we have a rich country in terms of land and natural resources.”

In April, Mozambique confirmed that it had taken out a loan of £901 million from two London-based banks: Credit Suisse, and VTB, of Russia. Since the debt is now owed under English law, the nation could be sued in UK courts, preventing its government from restructuring the debts.

The Jubilee Debt Campaign has called on Credit Suisse and VTB to drop the claims. Its director, Sarah-Jayne Clifton, said that the banks had acted “im­­morally” by agreeing to lend to a country riddled with debt in the first instance.

The diocese of Niassa is urging the government to channel the loans into funding schemes for rural workers, and encouraging commu­nities to produce “real wealth” through farming. “If immediate action is not taken by wealthier countries to prevent reckless lending and borrowing, it may encourage the funding of illegal activities and conflicts, increase the wealth gap, and result in more social unrest in poor countries,” Bishop Ernesto warned.

Political and military insecurity is already a “heavy burden” in Mo­­zambique, Bishop Matsinhe said. “Our message as a Church is that the peace negotiations should come to a conclusion quickly, so as to stop killings on the roads and enable family agriculture to take place, and food to be delivered from those provinces to drier regions.”

Mozambique continues to endure severe drought as a result of El Niño, an extreme weather pattern that affects global temperatures and ocean currents. Scorching temperat­ures, long droughts, and water shortages have devastated crops, livestock, and livelihoods from Ethi­opia to Zimbabwe (News, 29 July).

Bishop Matsinhe urged wealthier countries to work with Mozambique to create “sufficient water reserva­tion that will be used for agricultural production, even in periods of drought. The Mozambican popula­tion is hard-working when it comes to food production, but it needs some effective support systems.”

About 1.5 million in the country have suffered from extreme heat, and the worst is yet to come, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported this month. In southern Madagascar, 850,000 people are known to have been affected by poor crop production as a result of successive droughts, and this is likely to increase to 1.4 million next year. Immediate humanitarian aid is needed to take advantage of the planting season this month, the UN agency said.

ALMA, a partnership between the diocese of London and the Anglican Church in Angola and Mozambique, is working to support the commu­nities affected. In 2015, £71,815 was sent to ALMA partners to support flood relief in Niassa. ALMA is also the chosen benefactor of the diocese of London’s next Lent appeal.

The Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt Revd Rob Wickham, who, as the Bishop in London for ALMA, is due to visit Mozambique next year, said this week: “A vital but simple aspect of our relationship is being church together. This can involve London parishes’ assisting with the costs of church building and clergy hous­ing.”

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