A UMNS Report
By Sharai Nondo*
Breaking ground on a $60,000 duplex for staff members is a concrete signal of The United Methodist Church's commitment to Africa University, according to that school's founding chancellor.
"The opportunity was presented to us, and we knew that one day this would come," said a joyous Emilio De Carvalho, retired bishop of Angola.
The groundbreaking marks the beginning of the first structure built by The United Methodist Church's African bishops at the 18-year-old campus in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe.
Joining Carvalho at the Sept. 6 ceremony were members of the faculty and staff of the university as well as nine members of the Africa College of Bishops, on campus for their annual roundtable.
Carvalho said the building, when completed, will demonstrate the unity and resolve of the African church in helping the school's growth.
"In many ways, we have all contributed to the establishment and growth of Africa University; but financially speaking, this is our first contribution, and it is a very symbolic signal that the African bishops are united and speak with one voice."
The building's seed was planted a year before when, after unanimously endorsing the construction plan, each of the 12 bishops from the African episcopal areas of the denomination pledged $5,000.
Upon its completion next September, the new structure will join the school's existing 13 units for faculty and administrative staff.
In addition to witnessing the groundbreaking and celebrating the church's commitment to the growth of Africa University, the bishops addressed other issues at the roundtable.
They unanimously concurred that developing leadership is the best way to solve Africa's problems, and that leaders need to focus on improving the quality of life of the people they serve.
The bishops also took aim at the corruption they called the primary roadblock in Africa's struggles to progress and to develop.
"Poverty in Africa is linked to corruption, but God does not want that for his people," said Eben Nhiwatiwa (at left with Bishop David Yemba), resident bishop of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area.
"(God) says we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves and, therefore, corrupt activities do not promote that. Today, Africa is suffering because of the disease of corruption."
Africa University Chancellor David Yemba, bishop of the Central Congo, agreed there should be a "zero-tolerance" policy for corruption: "At times we have tolerated what we shouldn't tolerate, but now, we need to encourage our people to do the best. We cannot develop with corruption; it frustrates the wider development."
Carvalho said the four-day roundtable – which included training seminars, workshops and philosophical discussions – helped establish priorities for the church.
The conference perhaps could be summed up in the paper presented by Dr. David Bishau, station-chair of historic Old Mutare.
In "The Theology of a Future with Hope," Bishau said Africa has a critical role to play in its development and in securing the future of generations to come.
"The charge of the prophet Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon is to build, plant and pray, and this command even applies to us today. We must use our creativity, resources and time to emerge as victors."
* Nondo is program assistant in the Information and Public Affairs Office, Africa University, Old Mutare, Zimbabwe.