“Some of us wept”

Anglicans may remember seeing, back in 1986, the pictures of millions of destitute Mozambicans fleeing across their borders. The South African apartheid regime had instituted a policy of military destabilization of the Mozambican government and supported mercenaries in the outbreak of a civil war. Four to five million Mozambicans were displaced inside the country.

The Primate’s Fund received dozens of calls from Anglicans across Canada asking, “What is my church doing about it?” We responded — along with the globalChristian community — with funds for refugees all over southern Africa and for the displaced people. We continued to respond for years until the Peace Accord was signed in 1992.

When peace came we were able to do something much more positive. We helped Bishop Dinis Sengulane and his team as they visited refugee camps in Zimbabwe and elsewhere to prepare the Mozambican refugees for their return home. Then they visited communities in Mozambique to prepare them to receive the refugees. It was a unique program of peace and reconciliation before those words became such a common theme. Anglicans responded when the Council of Churches, again with the leadership of Bishop Dinis, launched a campaign to literally turn guns into ploughshares. Thousands of guns, small and large, were exchanged for tools to start a small enterprise, for hoes and seeds, for bicycles, for sewing machines, even for something as small as bus fare for an ex-combatant who simply wanted to go home.

At the same time PWRDF joined with other Canadian agencies and formed COCAMO — Cooperation Canada-Mozambique. Fourteen development agencies, church groups, labour social justice funds and solidarity groups chose to work together in the poorest region in the country — Nampula Province in northern Mozambique — and respond to the needs there. The strategy was to strengthen emerging groups in civil society in order to bolster the fragile democratic process. COCAMO works with umbrella groups of local organizations that come together to share knowledge and resources about community health, literacy, youth, and management of water resources, to name a few.

Some of us wept when we saw the most recent devastation. In the past few years, Mozambique had begun to put the many years of complete misery and death behind them and focus on the future. Two peaceful elections were held, and the outcomes accepted and respected. The economy grew by seven to 12 per cent a year. Schools reopened and health posts were rebuilt. The beginnings of a genuine civil society were struggling to emerge. We were campaigning for debt cancellation, and had some hope that this poorest of poor countries would be relieved of a debt that interfered with the restoration of social services and infrastructure absolutely necessary for the rebuilding of an entire nation. Mozambique is currently paying US$1.46 million in debt repayment per week.

So we are in an unusual situation: Mozambicans need funds for this terrible disaster, and they need funds for the monumental tasks of rehabilitation and reconstruction. We need every Anglican to send a letter to the Canadian government to urge Paul Martin and Lloyd Axworthy to press for the instant cancellation of Mozambique’s debt. We insist that the rehabilitation and reconstruction funds should not come from existing emergency response and planned development aid. What is our church doing about Mozambique? That’s what each of us can do today.

Note: The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund has provided an initial grant of $15,000 to assist victims of the floods in Mozambique through Action by Churches Together (ACT). ACT members in Mozambique started distribution of emergency assistance during the second week of February and continue to provide food relief, shelter, water and sanitation facilities.

To donate to PWRDF, contact Barbara Wilkins, PWRDF Donor Relations Officer, 600 Jarvis St., Toronto ON M4Y 2J6; 416-924-9199 ext. 320, email: [email protected]

Charlotte Maxwell, PWRDF Development Co-ordinator for Eastern and Southern Africa, is a veteran of 20 years in the Primate’s Fund.


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