This Sunday in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, Anglicans around the world will be praying for the Church of the Province of Central Africa. Here, the Anglican Communion News Service introduces the Province and suggests items for prayer.
The Church of the Province of Central Africa serves four countries: Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. There are 15 dioceses within the province, and the primate is Archbishop Albert Chama, the Bishop of Northern Zambia.
The first Anglican missionary to the province was Bishop Charles Mackenzie, who arrived in Malawi in 1861 with the British explorer David Livingstone. The Church was inaugurated as a province in 1955.
Though the Province is one, the issues facing each country vary – though all are hit by a mixture of drought and flood caused by climate change.
Botswana used to be one of the poorest countries in the world, but has since become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. However, life in Botswana is not without its challenges and the country has been among the hardest hit by the HIV and Aids epidemic. Botswana has the third-highest prevalence rate for HIV and Aids and the disease has orphaned many children.
The Mothers’ Union was established in Botswana in 1972 and has more than 1,400 members. Their outreach projects currently include a day care centre, a street children project, a prison ministry, visiting the sick and campaigning against gender-based violence and human trafficking.
The United Society Partners in the Gospel (USPG) are currently working with the church in Malawi and have four areas of focus: education for girls, protecting livelihoods, management of the environment, and hygiene and sanitation.
The church is working with partners to improve access to schooling and to provide girls with educational materials, including hostels for girls at secondary boarding schools, as well as taking education for girls into communities and educate via the radio.
An estimated 74 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. The church is trying to combat this by providing training in vocational skills and financial literacy, linking communities to banking services, encouraging the formation of income generation co-operatives, and providing training in business marketing.
To assist managing the environment, they are working to promote reforestation; provide training in sustainable farming practices; protect water sources and promote better waste management.
Many rural communities in Malawi have severely limited access to safe drinking water because water sources are often contaminated. The church is raising awareness of issues relating to hygiene and sanitation, encouraging the use of bio-sand water filters, and restoring and constructing wells.
One of the biggest issues facing Zambia at the moment is gender-based violence (GBV). USPG and the Mothers’ Union are both working towards reducing women’s vulnerability and GBV.
They are doing so through providing information so that women will be aware of their rights. They are helping women to overcome the stigma of speaking out and supporting women in becoming financially secure so they will not have to rely on their abusers. They are challenging negative stereotypes against women that leave them susceptible to mistreatment, and encouraging positive male role models to step forward so that young men can see others treating women with respect.
The church in Zimbabwe is serving the country through supporting community-led development, and through offering a programme to tackle HIV stigma.
A research programme carried out by the Anglican Church, UNAIDS and the Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV has been uncovering what like for people with HIV. The research is now helping policy-makers to develop national HIV strategies. It is hoped that the research will be used to help break down HIV stigma in the church, helping people to talk more openly about God’s care for people with HIV.
In the Diocese of Manicaland, the church is taking an approach to HIV stigma that is linked to income generation and livelihoods. A number of communities in the diocese are being encouraged to kick-start their own income generation projects. The church brings the community together to discuss their concerns, identify local skills and resources, then formulate an action plan to make a difference.
Please lift up Archbishop Albert Chama, his bishops and their clergy and people in your prayers; pray too for efforts to alleviate climate change-related disasters in the region; and for efforts to tackle HIV and Aids.