Mozambican President Armando Guebuza has made a call to African churches to shift their focus from assisting liberation struggles on the continent to helping African nations attain economic freedom.
"The church played a major role in the liberation struggle to end colonialism and foreign occupation and almost all African countries are politically free," said Guebuza at Maputo's Joachim Chissano International Conference Centre on December 7.
Guebuza was officially opening the 9th general assembly of the All Africa Conference of Churches, the continent's biggest Christian grouping, which is meeting from December 7-12.
"Unfortunately, despite attaining political freedom, most of our people are still enslaved by poverty, disease and hunger and this is the area to which the church in Africa should shift its focus," Guebuza noted.
The Mozambican leader said the 2008 conference is historic because it comes at a time when the world is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, which falls on December 10. He said the names of many church leaders and members affiliated with the AACC will be remembered as heroes of the liberation of Africa.
"As we are celebrating the 60 years since the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights, the church should partner [with] governments in ensuring that our people have a right to food, good education and shelter," asserted Guebuza. "We cannot preach good governance if our people are still engulfed in poverty. The role of the church now should be to defend and promote human rights and ending poverty."
He hailed the church in Mozambique for rallying behind the government in rebuilding the country after a 17-year civil war, which led to the deaths of thousands and ruined the economy.
"The church in Mozambique has been on the forefront in rebuilding our country. Their participation in the socio-economic development in this country has helped bring dignity to the people by providing them with basic social needs like water, healthcare and education," said Guebuza.
The All Africa Conference of Churches' highest governing body, its general assembly, meets every five years and it has as it theme this year: "Africa, Step Forth in Faith," derived from the Gospel of St John (11:43). About 1250 participants have converged from many parts of the world on the Mozambican capital, a coastal resort and port.
The AACC was established in 1963 in Kampala and it has a membership of more than 130 mainly Anglican and Protestant churches and 32 associate councils of churches in 39 countries, and includes five African independent churches.