Vatican Radio: “Lutheran – Catholic Humanitarian Cooperation Alive and Well in Africa”

By Fr. Paul Samasumo,  and originally Published on Vatican Radio

popeday2On the occasion of Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Sweden, Caritas Internationalis and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) ’s World Service sign a Declaration of Intent, to strengthen collaboration and cooperation.

Through the signing, the humanitarian and development arms of the two Churches recommit themselves to working together in responding to the world’s humanitarian needs. Pope Francis is in Sweden for the ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

In Africa, cooperation between Lutherans and Catholics is alive and well. In Zambia, for example, the signing ceremony will be seen as the cementing of a cordial relationship that has existed for years. Cooperation in the humanitarian and development areas has actually been going on for a long time.

Christian denominations, in Zambia, tend to cooperate directly or through an alliance and platform popularly referred to (in the country) as the “three Church Mother bodies.”

The three Church mother bodies comprise the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB); the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) which represents Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches as well as the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ). CCZ is the umbrella body for Protestant churches that traditionally are also members of the World Council of Churches.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zambia is a member of the Lutheran World Federation. With regard to size and numbers, there are not that many Lutheran Churches in Zambia. Notwithstanding this fact, the Lutheran Church in Zambia is spiritually vibrant and pulls more than its weight regarding humanitarian and development activities. As a core member of the three Church mother bodies in Zambia, the Lutheran Church participates and collaborates actively in the health and education sectors of the country. The Church mother bodies are also very outspoken on advocacy issues to do with democracy and the republican constitution.

Lutherans and Catholics have worked and continue to collaborate on HIV/AIDS and in the Malaria eradication campaigns under the auspices of the Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ). The two Churches have been active in the management and implementation of Global Fund grants. In Zambia, Global Fund grants are channelled to Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) through CHAZ.

Although the care of refugees in Zambia is a major reponsibility of the government and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Refugees have always been an important area of concern for both the Catholic Church and Lutherans. The Catholic Church in Zambia’s over fifty-year tradition of advocacy and care for refugees is equal to that of Lutherans. The latter started to care for refugees in Zambia when  Mayukwayukwa refugee camp was established to care for Angolans fleeing war in their homeland. Lutherans were also the lead agency for UNHCR Zambia’s Maheba camp and in 1986 when Ukwimi camp for Mozambican Refugees in the eastern part of the country was commissioned.

It is therefore not surprising that the Declaration of Intent that re-commits the strengthening of collaboration between Caritas Internationalis and Lutheran World Federation/ World Service is being signed as Pope Francis is on this apostolic visit.

Underlining the importance of the signing event, Caritas Internationalis’ Secretary General Michel Roy said the ecumenical activities in Sweden are more than commemoration. They also signal the start of concrete action by Lutherans and Catholics in service of the world’s poor.

Editor’s Note: There are two Oblate members of the  the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB): Bishop Evans Chinyemba, OMI (Mongu) and Bishop Valentine Kalumba, OMI (Livingstone)