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Is the Church under siege?

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Once perceived as a haven for lost souls, the Church is losing its allure and authority as several religious leaders continue to make all the wrong headlines, from sexual misconduct, financial mismanagement and murder. This begets the question: Is religion still relevant in the modern world, and is the role of the Church being eroded by the very individuals expected to uphold positive principles and values in order to inspire and guide their communities? Religious leaders, by definition, are interlocutors between communities and other leaders, as well as followers of other faiths.

They are ambassadors of goodwill. What we can realistically expect from dialogue between leaders and followers of different faiths is to create an environment conducive to peaceful coexistence, an articulation of common values and the ability to work together to address niggling issues in society like moral decay, poverty reduction, assisting those who are less privileged, fighting drug abuse among young people, fighting domestic abuse, maintaining the institution of family and also having an input in issues related to the promotion and protection of social justice, and fighting against all forms of discrimination and prejudice because religion is at the core of the ethical, moral and spiritual fabric of most societies.

This past weekend, the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (U.C.C.S.A) held a choir festival at Ditshupo Hall where choirs from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe shared music under the theme, ‘Singing Glory to God, The Lights To Shine.’ The spiritual leaders of the church noted that despite the trying times that we live in, the church can still make a positive difference in the lives of people to ensure they are closer to God, reject sin and do good for others. What is the role of religion in the modern world?

An excerpt from an academic paper by Centre for Islam and Public Policy, explains that the role of religious leaders in the modern world is to help people grapple with the changes in life. “The modern world has presented us with issues that were inconceivable for humanity a century ago: economic and cultural globalisation, new technologies, the emergence of social media, global warming and environmental decay, introduction of the weapons of mass destruction in warfare, which can all lead to moral decay. Religious leaders today are called upon to respond to these issues and also provide leadership to their followers on how to cope with them.”

What is the role of religion and Churches in Botswana society? In an interview, Reverend James McKeran of the Anglican Church said that Botswana has always accorded religious leaders respect and honour that is not always observed in other parts of the world. McKeran, who served as a Dean at the Anglican Cathedral Church between 2012 and 2015, explained that he appreciates how priests and pastors are culturally given respect and engaged on issues of relevance and importance to society in Botswana.

“Religious leaders are engaged in diplomatic circles and included with civic leaders. We were engaged on different issues and sometimes travelled with leaders, where we would be expected to give a spiritual view of issues. “Unlike in other parts of the world, Batswana have always enjoyed access to thought leaders, community and religious leaders.” He said that different religions are respected and accorded economic and spiritual privileges in our society, adding that in the 150 years that the Church has existed in Botswana, it has cemented a relationship of service and love with the community and leaders, and not one of status and wealth.

He said that churches and religious leaders should be part of the conversation relating to the changes in our society, from technology to morality. “The church has historically played an important role in calling out unacceptable behaviour and practice; this should continue. “You would remember for one that the Church was against the ills of colonialism and had a voice throughout to most African countries gaining independence.” McKeran shied away from commenting on the undesirable behaviours of certain religious leaders, but emphasised that Churches and religion as a whole, play a crucial role in society that can never be overlooked. Should sin be tolerated?

A church leader who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that the deeds of certain individuals should not reflect on religious bodies. “We cannot disregard the fact that religious leaders are also human and just as susceptible to sin but this of course does not mean that it is tolerated. We should send a strong warning to these individuals and ensure that they dance to the music. “However, the ethics and morals of religion should be upheld regardless of the next person. Each individual is going to face the music for their deeds one day.” The past week has been awash with the debate on men of God who indulge in immoral activities. This is so because of late, Botswana has been hit by one scandal after the other, involving pastors, priests, preachers and prophets.

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Botswana urged to sign Maputo

Keletso Thobega

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Botswana is one of the five countries that have been advised to sign the Maputo Protocol. Botswana, Egypt and Morocco are the only three African countries that have not signed this Protocol. Adopted in 2003 and implemented in 2005, the Maputo Protocol is a ground-breaking protocol on women and girls’ human rights, both within Africa and beyond.

It compensates for the shortcomings in the 1981 African Charter with respect to women and girls rights. It includes 32 articles on women and girls’ rights, and also provides an explicit definition of discrimination against women, which was missing in the African Charter.

The Maputo Protocol defines discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction or any differential treatment based on sex and whose objectives or effects compromise or destroy the recognition, enjoyment or the exercise by women, regardless of their marital status, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all spheres of life.”

The State of African Women Report 2018 stipulates that more still needs to be done to implement laws and commitments to the rights of women and girls in African societies. While there has been significant improvements in addressing issues affecting women and girls over the years, the report notes that commitment to girls and women’s right is still lagging behind.

The report highlights that:
“Three in five countries in Africa do not criminalise rape, young women aged 15-24 in sub-Saharan Africa are 2.5 times more likely to be infected by HIV in comparison to men in the same age group, more than half of maternal deaths worldwide occur in sub-Saharan Africa and that gender based violence and sexual assault still affects women more”.

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Mama Rampa, the Good

Yvonne Mooka

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NOBLE CALLING: Martha Rampa on a mission to rescue the underprivileged

Martha Rampa, project manager at AAP Home Based Care and Family Life Programme quit her nursing job over ten years ago to attend to the needs of orphans, poor and sick.

AAP has 3119 orphans and underprivileged children from South East, Kweneng, Kanye and Kgalagadi districts. The Non-Governmental Organisation aims at supporting, providing food, clothing, shelter, education, nursing care, counselling and supporting destitute, terminally ill patients and orphaned children.

According to Rampa, the thrust of the practice is the link between the patient and the clinical management services. “It is a person-centred approach, which ensures that patients receive the appropriate service in a supportive and effective manner. Destitute and orphaned children have over time become integral part AAP programmes,” she said.

Last Saturday, she organised an appreciation dinner for donors. It was a colourful event where beneficiaries had also come to testify about the way their lives have changed since they were enrolled.

One of the young girls said that she had given up on life as she was from a poor family. The under 15 girl said that through AAP, she managed to continue and is exceling at school. A young man under 20 said that he was moved from a settlement where he could not focus on his studies because of his family background.

AAP put him through a different school that has boarding. “At AAP, we call her mama Rampa. She is our mother and we are so blessed to have her,” he said at the event in Gaborone.

The primary aim of AAP is to rehabilitate and develop children in difficult circumstances such as orphaned children, street children, economically poor and socially oppressed children and work for the eradication of child labour and child exploitation.

Rampa said the vision is to help and give many more children a real and loving home which helps them to live and grow up to be free, healthy and independent individuals; to influence behavioural change of individuals, especially those in the realm of sex and family life and to introduce a change that will bring a transformation, which alleviates the impact of HIV/Aids infection and stops the spread of the virus within the community.

She said there were local companies that had committed themselves to giving the children food after every two weeks. Through her gift of counselling, she also assists with providing emotional and spiritual support including counselling to orphans, destitute, terminally ill and the poor. She also prays for them.

She said that since the project started in 2000, the focus was on the care of HIV/AIDS patients. Volunteers were trained to take care of terminally ill patients in their homes. “Due to lack of funds in supporting the volunteers, for three years only 45 were full time serving in the project with great results.

“A networking relationship was established with Ministry of Health/AIDS department and Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs as well as other NGOs like BOCAIP, Clinics around Gaborone and Church leaders. We effectively communicated our mission to our leaders like Counsellors, Members of Parliament and diKgosi in the areas where we are operating,” she said.

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