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African Bishops Cite Problems That Leave People in 'Abject Poverty'
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Sunday, November 29, 2009
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HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNS)—Church officials in southern Africa said many people in their region still "live in abject poverty" because of "bad governance, corruption and human irresponsibility."

General secretaries of bishops' conferences who met in Harare, Zimbabwe, in mid-November expressed concern about excessive militarization, bribery in the public and private sectors and poor delivery of services.

Church officials representing Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe discussed the role of church leaders in eliminating corruption and promoting good governance for the common good. Those countries form the Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa.

The church officials expressed concern over nations' judicial systems and the awarding of bids to "political friends or family members." They said political leaders should be "elected by the people, not to enrich themselves, but to work for the common good" and civil servants "are employed to serve the public."

"Nurses and doctors have to combine efficiency and compassion, teachers have to remember that the future of the next generation is in their hands" and the military and police should protect all citizens and defend the whole nation, the church officials said.

Institutions such as electoral commissions and the judiciary "must jealously guard their independence and resist being dictated to by the political authorities," it said, noting that political leaders "should challenge each other" and use mechanisms available such as the African Peer Review Mechanism, which encourages member states to hold each other's leaders accountable.

"We urge governments in our region to secure the right of access to public information and participation in policy formulation, implementation and monitoring," the church officials said, noting that "our region is not helpless. Its destiny is in the hands of those who live in it."

They said "active collaboration" is needed "to achieve the ideals of a corruption-free, peaceful and prosperous society."

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