ELCA NEWS SERVICE
September 29, 2009
Tanzanian Lutheran Bishop Stresses Need for Economic Recovery Programs
WASHINGTON (ELCA) - The Rt. Rev. Benson K. Bagonza, bishop of the Karagwe Diocese, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), shared stories of impoverished people in Africa with more than 25 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in a meeting prior to the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh.
"Tanzanians were among the poorest even before the present economic crisis," Bagonza said. "Therefore this economic crisis was yet another blow that has sent millions into a critical and vulnerable situation."
Organized by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Bread for the World, the Alliance to End Hunger and other organizations, the religious leaders urged world leaders to fulfill their promises to help people who have suffered from the global economic recession. The Group of 20 (G-20) met Sept. 24-25 to discuss global economic issues.
"The recovery programs that they are undertaking need to mean something to the people who live on the fringes, who live on the bottom level of the economic ladder," Bagonza said. He explained that for recovery programs to have meaning "the hungry people in Africa must get food to eat and that the poor people get their basic needs met."
"The welfare of our people in our different [religious] traditions is affected by what decisions are made (at the G-20)," he said. "At the global level, I was very impressed to see our religious differences were diminishing and we were forced to focus on the issues that threaten the existence of humanity. (Those are) poverty, climate change, hopelessness and powerlessness of human beings before a magnitude of forces that human beings have created."
During his trip to the United States, Bagonza met with the staff of U.S. Senators Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., as well as U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J. Bagonza asked that the United States "be more inclusive in its participatory process of reforming the foreign aid policy of this country." U.S. foreign aid policies should "reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people affected by the bill," according to Bagonza.
The ELCA Washington Office and ELCA Global Mission brought Bagonza to the United States to visit his diocese's companion synod, the ELCA Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod, as well as speak to religious leaders and members of Congress.
"We believe foreign policy issues can be advocated very effectively through Bishop Bagonza's personal stories," said the Rev. Andrew Genszler, director for advocacy in the ELCA Washington Office.
In the ELCT, Bagonza chairs a special office commissioned to do advocacy. "The churches in Tanzania offer more than 40 percent of the social services in the country. Therefore we feel that we should be involved in advocacy," he said.
He cited three challenges facing the ELCT -- dependence on international support, concern for the ministry among people in poverty and the secularization of society. "We Africans, by our very nature, are notoriously religious, but globalization is bringing things that we've never seen that are shattering and frustrating our structure of families, our harmony and our communities," he said.
Despite the challenges "my commitment to lead the church is increasing every day, being ready to face whatever comes," Bagonza said.
Information about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania is at http://www.elct.org on the Web. Audio of comments by Bishop Bagonza is at http://media.elca.org/audionews/091005Bagonza.mp3 on the ELCA Web site.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog