During a meeting of Presbyterian Church leaders from over ten African countries, African leaders were cautioned against ignoring messages from church leaders to their own detriment. This message, given by the General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), was delivered as the leaders met Sept. 25 – Oct. 1 to discuss issues of HIV/AIDS and poverty.
Bishop Mvume Dandala, who spoke at the PCUSA-organized event, reminded attendants of a statement recently given by Mozambican President Dr. Joachim Chissano about the mistakes they made in not listening to the Churches. He told participants that only unwise leaders turned deaf ears to the church and their leaders. He said that when a church leader speaks, he/she speaks on behalf of a large constituency.
Dandala told those gathered that HIV/AIDS is a pandemic that has the capacity to clear the continent. He urged churches to have HIV/AIDS education as a priority. He told members that during the AACC Heads of Churches Summit—themed “The Church is HIV Positive”—they had observed that there was no strategy laid down towards fighting HIV/AIDS. He urged churches with mission hospitals to pull their energies together in order to strengthen the medical facility.
The general secretary further stated that there was an urgent need to give priority to issues affecting the youth who are the immediate hope for an HIV/AIDS-free generation if well-mentored.
Also, singling out poverty as a contributing factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS, Dandala said the church has the power of reversing poverty. Dandala urged church leaders to think seriously about restoring the place of agricultural advisors in their missions, for the sake of food production as a step towards eradicating poverty. He said that their message would be a simple one: “God wants you to produce enough food and our duty will be to show you how to do it.”
Dandala, the son of a South African Methodist priest, told a story of a lady many years back who could not pay her tithe because she had not received money from her husband who was working far away in the mines. The priest was concerned about her family who may also be starving as they wait for money from the husband. And so, the Church gave her money to enable her do some farming that would complement what her husband was giving. From the produce, the lady was able to feed her family and pay her tithe. This, Dandala said, is what the church should be doing today.
As a final note, Dandala spoke of the importance of training church leaders to know how to read budgets that would enable the churches to collectively study government budgets, make inputs in shaping the same, and lobby for inclusion of poverty eradication programs. He informed the meeting that the Millennium Development Goals Plan could provide assistance in this area.
Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), created by the United Nations Development Program, include eight-fold plan that includes eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, improving maternal health, achieving universal primary education, combatting HIV/AIDS and other diseases, promoting gender equality and empowering women, ensuring environmental sustainability, reducing child mortality, and developing a global partnership for development.
Countries integrating the MDGs into their national development frameworks, tailor the MDGs to national circumstances, building them into national development strategies and policies, and incorporating them in budgets and ministries' priorities. The goals are also integrated into assistance frameworks and programs.
All 191 United Nations Member States have pledged to meet the MDGs by the year 2015.