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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Southern Africa: Uprooted People Statement

Southern Africa: Uprooted People Statement
Date distributed (ymd): 990518
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +economy/development+ +security/peace+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains two documents from the annual regional meeting of Southern African Churches in Ministry with Uprooted People, on regional issues and on child soldiers.

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***Africa Policy Web Site Announcement***

New Policy Theme Pages:
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Links to key African and international statements, documents distributed by theme, starting points for web resources, plus working papers and draft plans of action of the National Summit on Africa ( A resource for debates at the West Coast Regional Summit (San Francisco, June 4-5, 1999; -- link no longer active) and subsequent meetings.

A Statement of the 1999 Annual Meeting of the Regional Committee of Southern African Churches in Ministry with Uprooted People

As the annual gathering of churches from 14 southern African countries engaged in ministry with uprooted people meeting in Mbabane, Swaziland from April 13 to 16, we recognise that uprooting is a massive phenomenon on our continent and we cannot ignore its significance for the life and mission of the church today. In light of this, we appeal to our churches to give concerted attention to those qualities that create stability in family and community life, and to actively oppose the forces that undermine this stability. We also appeal to our churches to extend community and stability to those who do not have it and who are strangers in our midst. We urge thoughtful commitment to becoming the Church of the Stranger, and the development of that identity in light of Biblical reflection, a continuous review of the forces that threaten to destabilise individuals and communities, and the experience of uprooted people needing support. We urge our churches to give more time to listening to the voices of the uprooted and to be open to receiving the vision and talents which they bring to our communities. We recognise that Christian education programmes in our congregations at all age levels, theological seminaries for clergy formation, and lay training events are all opportunities for building an understanding of becoming the Church of the Stranger. We appeal to our churches to be determined, innovative and creative in developing skills and sharing experiences in this effort.

We have identified the following issues which require the serious attention of the Christian community of our region. In calling for this attention, we recognise signs of hope that give impetus to our attempts to move through and beyond the problems and the threats of failure which create apathy.


We join with Christian communities around the world who are drawing attention to the effects of an open-market global economy on the quality of life for the poor, particularly as it creates a greater flow of migration across borders as people seek to make a living. We note that when people flee their home situations to seek refugee status in neighbouring countries and are not allowed by the host country to use their skills to make a suitable living to support their families, they take the risk of giving up their refugee status and move on as undocumented migrants. We see that the effects of mass migration on the communities of origin is often a devastating drain of skills and ideas which are essential to developing those home communities, and this drain is not adequately compensated for by the financial remuneration that comes from the jobs obtained abroad. We are concerned that the desperation of many people to find jobs has caused them to fall victim to unscrupulous middlemen who exploit them financial and physically, even to the point of running slave trades, and we note that in many of our countries migrants must also face the corruption of government officials who control their documentation. We also note that migrants returning from long periods abroad often face serious reintegration difficulties and in many cases family unity is never restored.

Signs of hope include the Pastors Without Borders programme of the Catholic Church in our region, the local congregations in South Africa and Mauritius that have trained and engaged themselves in helping migrants to register themselves in those countries legally and to find support communities, and the efforts by churches in Lesotho to reintegrate returning migrant labourers. We recognise that the prevailing world economy which feeds mass migration is an area where our churches have had little influence. In this light we applaud the recent formation of the southern Africa church network for economic justice. We urge our church leaders to seek the orientation, training and exposure they need in order to assert an informed Christian influence on the forces that create and control migration. We call on our churches to train their congregations for intervention in the reception, documentation and accompaniment of migrant workers and their families to ensure that these procedures are transparent and fair. We urge our churches to follow up the return of migrants and family reunification with pastoral care, including demobilised soldiers. We appeal to our church leaders to actively promote to their governments the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants and Members of Their Families which was adopted in December 1990 by the UN General Assembly.


We see wide-spread evidence that communities and congregations which may themselves have little to offer in terms of material assistance nevertheless continue to open their doors and their hearts to strangers in greater need. We have heard testimonies from communities all through the region whose vision and faith have been immeasurably strengthened when they have allowed themselves to receive the blessings of God through the uprooted people in their midst. Uprooted people have testified about the risks that people unknown to them have been willing to take on their behalf. Our review of the current state of traditional mores and practices reveals that while modern day pressures of life have created new suspicions and ways of protecting our selves and our property from strangers, the will to accept other human beings as equals is very strong. We believe that the church world-wide has much to learn from the approach of our base communities to strangers.

It is against this positive background that we call upon our churches to intervene urgently where xenophobia is growing: to understand what is causing it and to deal with the causes in an urgent, forthright and practical manner, to publicly challenge and break through the myths that spread xenophobia, to dilligently protect and promote the dignity and value of all persons, to create opportunities for uprooted people in our communities to contribute their abilities and talents to the welfare of the communities in which they find themselves hosted, to build up a theology of the Church of the Stranger which becomes not only a framework for the life of the church but is also applicable to our dialogue with wider society on this issue, to approach our governments with sound guidance as they also wrestle with the phenomenon of xenophobia.


We note that despite the heavy movement of people in our region towards urban settlement, access to land for cattle rearing and food production continues to be close to the hearts of most of the population of our region - to quote a refugee returning to Magoe Province of Mozambique: "To be human is to have land to work with". This is a sign of hope in the face of growing degradation of land and the denial of access to land for political gain. However, the number of people uprooted in our region who have no land where they can settle is on the increase.

We call on the churches to uphold the Biblical principle that land belongs to God and humans are entrusted with it on a stewardship basis. We urge churches to use this principle as a foundation for influencing public policies on land access and distribution; for intervening on behalf of those whose land access rights are denied or unfairly dealt with; for reviewing the best use of lands held under title deed by the church in favour of the many people who are landless; for ensuring that land which has been made dangerous by the planting of landmines is restored to its original purpose and is not further endangered; for taking pre-emptive steps to halt the abuse of land which reduces its natural production capacity and contributes to the destabilisation of communities.


It is with deep concern that we note from global statistics that countries with the highest rate of infection are to be found in our region. One of the multiple ways in which this serious pandemic is pulling apart the fabric of our societies is that those who become infected with the HIV virus also become victims of rejection by their workmates and employers, communities, and even family members. We note with shame that often churches are the perpetrators of this rejection. In such a way, people who are HIV positive become seriously uprooted with no place to turn to for help. Many of those who are homeless and living in the streets are dependents of people with AIDS. Lack of a stable home and community can also make people more vulnerable to AIDS, although we recognise that the disease is not confined to any social class or grouping.

There is hope in the fact that some churches in our region have recently taken up a more positive counselling role both in preventing the spread of the disease and in helping those who are ill to live abundant lives. We also find hope in the experience of Uganda and other places where the rate of infection is diminishing. In many cases our youth are leading the way to ensure that the disease is not perpetuated. We call upon our churches to make an urgent and concentrated effort to ensure that all age, interest and leadership levels in the church receive training aimed at making them activists in society to combat the ignorance, apathy and immorality, particularly among adults, that are aiding the spread of AIDS. We urge the churches to take a strong and open stand in favour of abstaining from sex before marriage and faithfulness within the sanctity of marriage, and to educate the public on how to do this. We call on the churches to preach loving acceptance of all people affected by a terminal illness, to ensure that church leadership at community level is trained in counselling them and their families, and to provide support groups in the community to help them deal with the burdens and plan for their dependents' future.


We deplore the disturbing tendency to resort to violence as a means of settling conflicts, which has recently revealed itself to be on the increase in our region. This has contributed to the uprooting of millions of people in our region, the erosion of protective services and structures which they should be able to turn to for help, and the destruction of community infrastructure which makes return and resettlement more difficult. An analysis of various situations in our country has show us that many of these violent conflicts are growing out of a struggle for control over wealth and political influence in which the right of the citizens of our countries to guide and control their leaders is either ignored or actively stifled. We note that the proliferation of arms in the region, their movement and accessibility, greatly worsen this situation.

There are many examples of efforts by the churches to teach confict resolution and peace-building and a few outstanding examples, such as the Swords to Ploughshares movement in Moçambique, are undoubtedly influencing the course of history in the countries where they are applied. These are signs of hope to be replicated and built upon. However, we are distressed to find more examples where the churches' intervention to prevent open and violent conflict and to lead our countries to a state of peace is not happening at all or is coming too late, is ill-targeted, does not reflect an intensity of conviction, and is compromised by concern for self-preservation or gain. We therefore call upon the churches to to build approaches based on the urgency of our Biblical mandate, to give priority of time and energy to this matter, to be vigilant and pre-emptive, to learn systematically from past mistakes, to develop intervention skills based on the vast experience already gained in our region, and to hold each other accountable and give each other moral and physical support. We urge the churches to use every opportunity in teaching, preaching and negotiating, to promote signs of hope and determination for peace so as to deliberately combat the despair which leads to apathy in the face of war and threat of war.


Our attention has been drawn to the special support needs of those care-givers on the frontline who are working with uprooted people. Care-giving is too often organised as a hierarchical chain and in such a system these people are considered to be the lowest rank in the hierarchy and therefore do not receive the appreciation and capacity building that is rightfully theirs. The practical, mental, physical and spiritual requirements for coping with separation from family and dealing day and night with stressful situations require the concerned support of the church as a whole.

We call on churches and church-based organisations who employ ground-level care givers to give special attention to this area of need. We appeal to all our church organisations and leaders to ensure that the vision and guidance of those directly involved in giving care to people in difficult circumstances is respected as a basis for planning the churches' response to uprooting. We urge local congregations to take an active pastoral care approach in the provision of friendship to care-givers and their families, practical assistance for their working and living requirements, opportunities for rest and recreation, access to spiritual growth support, and professional counselling as needed.

Adopted April 16, 1999, Mbabane, Swaziland

Southern African Churches In Ministry With Uprooted People

Statement on the Use of Children as Soldiers
Adopted April 16, 1999 in Mbabane by the Regional Committee

As members of the Regional Committee with Uprooted People, we are deeply concerned about the situation of child soldiers. We recognise that the methods used in the recruitment and deployment of these children are deliberately designed to cut off their psychological and emotional roots to home and community. They thereby become the most uprooted of all victims of war.

Throughout the past year we have received reports from churches in Angola of the conscription of underaged combatants in that country. We have recently received reports of children among the Congolese soldiers who are requesting transport through Zambia from one side of the DRC to the other. We are encouraged by the efforts of Mozambican communities who are exposing the extent to which children were used in the conflict in that country and who are accompanying these children through the long and difficult process of finding their roots again.

The recruitment, training and use of children under the age of 18 to fight in armed conflicts is a violation of their basic human rights and must be stopped. We have seen that the rehabilitation of child soldiers after conflicts is a very painful process and not always successful. And yet every effort must be made to re-integrate these children and young adults back into society to enable them to live lives of dignity and contribute positively to their countries’ development.

While the issue of the child soldiers has been taken up by secular NGOs, the World Council of Churches, and United Nations bodies, we call on our churches in southern Africa to make child soldiers a priority for action. These children of God are our children. The churches must call for an immediate end to the recruitment, conscription, training and use of child soldiers. The churches have a moral responsibility to support the rehabilitation of children who have already served as combatants.

We call on all church leaders to take an active role in preventing the use of child soldiers in our region and in ensuring the adoption and application of the optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which raises the minimum age for all forms of recruitment and participation in hostilities from 15 to 18. We believe that the churches have a unique role to play in raising this issue with the governments, state non-state armed forces, political parties, NGOs and UN bodies. We enclose a copy of the statement on child soldiers which was adopted by the assembly of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Harare in December 1998.

The Regional Committee:

Mr E. Nkoka and Mrs M. Setloboko, Lesotho
Mr J Ramahaleo, Madagascar
Reverend L. Rakotoarisoa, Mauritius
Reverend H. Nkhoma, Malawi
Mr A. Francisco and Mr T. Macie, Mozambique
Mr S. Ndeikwila, Namibia
Reverend T. Mobbie, South Africa
Reverend A. Mukuyamba, Zambia
Reverend Z. Shabalala and Reverend N. Hlope, Swaziland
Reverend H. Murray, Zimbabwe
The Rt. Reverend G. Mpango, Tanzania
Reverend MPT Basele, Botswana
Reverend A. Chipesse, Angola
Reverend Dr. M. E. Mpofu, Christian Care
Dr. E. Ferris, World Council of Churches
Ms C. Gavi, Ecumenical Documentation and Information Centre for Eastern & Sthn Africa
Sister A. Hughes, the InterRegional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa
Reverend W. Rakuba, Regional Moderator and rep for All African Conference of Churches
Reverend S. DeWolf, Regional Coordinator

Shirley C. DeWolf, Regional Coordinator
Southern African Churches in Ministry with Uprooted People
Box 926 Mutare, Zimbabwe
(80 Second Street, Mutare, Zimbabwe)
tel: 263 20 66923; fax: 263 20 60494;

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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