A brief look at IMBISA – Report at SECAM 17th Plenary

Membership OF IMBISA

  • IMBISA stands for Inter-regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa;
  • The Episcopal Conferences of Angola and São Tomé, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe form IMBISA and they englobe nine countries: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, São Tomé e Principe, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe;
  • Given its membership, IMBISA uses two official languages: English and Portuguese. For that reason we translate from one to the other idioms, not only the internal memos and documents, as well as the major pronouncements of the different Episcopal Conferences.

Socio-political Context of IMBISA

  • In the past the IMBISA region was an oasis of peace, even after the bloody liberation wars of Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, the end of apartheid and the civil wars after independence; IMBISA region has now become a place of instability and conflict.

Places of instability in IMBISA

  • Slow burning war in Mozambique, baptized as political and military tension;
  • Structural economic crisis in Angola ( the drastic decrease of the price of crude in the international markets); in Mozambique the debt, which is more the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and in Zimbabwe the disastrous economic policies (indigenization of the economy);
  • Slowdown of the South African economy, which is the biggest in the region;
  • Xenophobia against the immigrants living in South Africa;
  • Endemic corruption in all countries of the region;
  • Climate change factors such as drought, floods and plagues / pests.

Charitable activities in IMBISA

  • In this context, IMBISA was challenged to show its commitment, first at doctrinal level about a shared economy, the duties of politicians and catholic entrepreneurs and their duty to welcome others;
  • Then at a charitable level, sometimes with practical assistance, through National caritas and others in pro-active terms, through development initiatives in the contexts of partnerships with similar institutions or through initiatives of financing.

Activities carried out by IMBISA

  • For the three year period of 2014/2016, IMBISA gave the theme of the Family as the basis of its pastoral action/ministry. This suggestion fortunately coincided with the UN’s choice of the family for the centre of its activities;
  • It was because of that suggestion that the Holy See dedicated 2014 & 2015 to the Family, especially through synod sessions during the same period, followed by Pope Francis’ Post Synod Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”.

Activities carried out by IMBISA

  • Before and after the above events, IMBISA has been publishing some brochures about:
  • Evangelization, Communication and Formation;
  • Mission in Rural Areas;
  • Family in Africa;
  • Charitable activity;
  • Power, People and Participation.

Activities carried out by IMBISA

  • Following this dynamic, IMBISA, through its Departments of Justice and Peace, Biblical Apostolate, carried out different surveys, through questionnaires and national and regional meetings in which it debated the Role of Women in Society and in the Church.
  • For this topic Post Synod Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus was an invaluable tool; several meetings were organized targeting Women, in which the majority of the participants were Lay women, Religious Leaders in the different countries of the Region.

Activities carried out by IMBISA

  • Due to the high levels of migrations, xenophobia, human trafficking and sale of human body parts in the countries of the Region, which have started in some and increased in other counties, IMBISA and its Conferences organized workshops and the preparation of pronouncements and manuals about these topics; the national authorities were also contacted about these initiatives;
  • From those workshops an array of conclusions came forth, all pointing to the strengths and weaknesses, the challenges and opportunities relating to this specific ministry for now and for the near future.

Activities carried out by IMBISA

  • In this line with a concerted Pastoral plan, IMBISA embarked on a future vision, which depends on an adequate preparation of ordained Ministers;
  • For this reason a seminar for Formatters in the seminaries of the Region was organized for about 50 participants. The conclusions were published and circulated among the formatters and seminarians of the Region for their knowledge and enrichment, a process which is still going on.

Future short term perspectives for IMBISA

  • In November , in Lesotho IMBISA will hold its 11th Plenary Assembly with the theme: “Empowering the laity for effective engagement in socio political and environmental issues: Laudato Si as a point of reference”;  

  • In the recent pronouncement’s, preceding the 11th Plenary, all Conferences of the Region have accepted the urgency of reinforcing the mechanisms of mutual cooperation, through seminars and workshops, destined to create an environment of increased communication and sharing.
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