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Spouses Plenary: Friday 1 August

Posted on: August 2, 2008 6:03 PM
Related Categories: Lambeth Conference 2008, Spouses

‘It’s never women who start wars – but women and children are always the first victims’

Lives in war torn parts of Africa are being transformed thanks to the hard work of the Anglican Church, the Spouses Conference heard yesterday.

In a session called ‘Equipping God’s church: Empowering ourselves and others for service’, they heard stories from across the continent of imaginative and life- changing social projects spearheaded by the spouses and their co-workers.

Mugisa Isingoma, from Boga in the Democratic Republic of Congo, talked about the vital work of the Mothers’ Union in helping widows, the victims of rape and other forms of violence. They found, she said, that teaching girls literacy helped transform their life chances.

‘God is helping all of us, even the poor,’ she said. ‘His goodness extends to all of us, and that is why we need to show them love. Together we can take note of their needs. They have assets and gifts and we are there to help them. And we are very encouraged by the results.’

Alice Chung Po Chuen, whose husband is the Bishop of Antsiranana in Madagascar, told the audience how, when her husband was appointed, she left her job in product development in a knitwear factory in Mauritius. She now lived in Madagascar – the fourth largest island in the world – which was a land of huge contrasts.

‘I was shocked by the prevailing poverty,’ she said. Their own home was very cut off from any other cities and the infrastructure was extremely poor. ‘God showed me I couldn’t remain insensitive to people’s needs,’ she said.

With the support of the Mothers’ Union in London, she had set up ‘The Ruth Project’, an income generating project for women.  Based from the Cathedral, the women of the Ruth project produced embroidered cotton table cloths and pillow cases. ‘God gave us the resources,’ she said.

The Ruth Project had given women opportunities to support themselves, she said.  It also offered an opportunity for literacy classes, and to attend to the women’s spiritual needs. ‘I praise God as I find much joy and fulfilment.’

The final story from Africa came from Mathilde Ntahoturi, the wife of the Archbishop of Burundi, who gave an account of her work caring for children orphaned by civil unrest and HIV/AIDS. This had grown out of her work as a lawyer – and now she ran a number of social care projects, working through the Mothers’ Union.

 ‘It’s never women who start wars – but women and children are always the first victims,’ she said.

She also said how important literacy was, especially for girls. ‘I must tell you my dream,’ she said. ‘I have a dream where all women would be literate. Young girls who are soon to be mothers need to understand, so that they can fight AIDS, so that they can be confident in [dealing with] domestic violence.’