Monday, June 25, 2007

Mozambique: bishop cautions state against giving land to evicted Zimbabwe farmers

A Catholic bishop has urged the government to be cautious in allocating land to white farmers evicted from Zimbabwe, to avoid conflicts with local people.

Bishop Francisco Silota of Chimoio Diocese expressed fears that white farmers who lost their land in the chaotic reforms imposed by President Robert Mugabe a few years ago were settling in Mozambique and might make "Mozambicans feel like foreigners in their own country".

He told the German-based international Catholic pastoral charity, Aid to the Church in Need, that "the farmers bring modern technology with them and have a strong entrepreneurial spirit. We must take care that tensions do not result."

Chimoio Diocese borders Zimbabwe. Following the dizzying economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe, numerous refugees are crossing the border and this is creating social problems, Bishop Silota said.

The refugees are looking for work, but since many of them remain unemployed, there is a resulting increase in crime in some places. Many Mozambicans fear the influx might soon be a source of social instability, according to the bishop.

On the challenges facing the church in Mozambique, Bishop Silota said the principal task was to implant the gospel in the local culture.

"Inculturation is the backbone of all our other pastoral and social efforts", he said. Jesus must be presented to people as "one of their own". The church must "translate the Good News into the language of the people", since "in Africa, faith is not something isolated, but involves the entire person, the whole of life".

The prevailing poverty, however, often causes people to become uprooted, and to lose their traditional values, the bishop observed. In particular, the exodus from the land is causing people to lose their roots in the "strange and hostile environment" of the towns.

According to Bishop Silota, some 39 percent of Mozambicans live in towns, and this is expected to increase to over 50 percent by 2010, according to some estimates.

The bishop also expressed deep concern that already 19 percent of the population in his country was HIV positive. He said it was a particular scandal that many young girls, owing to their poverty, became easy prey for men who abuse and infect them with HIV.

"If the church is the Body of Christ, then the spread of AIDS means that the Body of Christ is physically sick", he said. "This problem affects us all!"


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