IMBISA: Laudato Si, empowering the laity

IMBISA is the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa. It is an organ of Liaison and Pastoral Cooperation between Episcopal Conferences of Angola and São Tome & Principe (CEAST), Lesotho Catholic Bishops’ Conference (LCBC), Mozambique Catholic bishops’ Conference (CEM), Namibia Catholic Bishops Conference (NCBC), Southern Africa Catholic Bishops which is made up of Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland (SACBC) and Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC). 

The Region has 78 ecclesiastical territories (Archdioceses and Dioceses) and 101 Bishops.

Every three years we come together, rotating the countries to reflect on a certain theme and elect the new leadership. In this case we met at "That Bosiu" (Maseru, Lesotho) under the theme: "Empowering the laity for effective engagement in socio political and environmental issues. 'Laudato Si' as a point of reference"

We were led by Mr Jacques Dinan, from Mauritius, who up to last year was the Executive Secretary of Caritas Africa.

Mr Jacques Dinan
Mr Jacques then reminded us of the contents of Laudato Si through different videos which summarize Pope Francis' Encyclical Letter. 

Being aware that it is important to contextualize, he then sent us to work in mixed groups (but according to languages) gathering socio, political, economic and environmental issues affecting our countries. 

As the theme regarded "empowering the laity" we were then asked to share on our laity through the SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). 

This was part of the sharing:

Strengths. We have qualified laity, with great expertise, who believe in the Church, participating actively both in Church and society. They know the situation on the ground very well (probably better than the bishops) and are ready to work with other cultures, Christian churches and faiths.

Weaknesses. There is lack of training (which might be our own responsibility), lack of knowledge of the Church doctrine and the social doctrine. At times they see their commitment in what it is done "in the Church" and not in society. This is also seen in a commitment to a political parties that make them put their own faith in second place. 

Opportunities. Willingness to serve and to learn, the creation of laity councils in some of our conferences areas

Threats. Their jobs might be at risk when they do not subscribe to a certain political party line, the corruption that is affecting deeply all our societies, the fear of the clergy that the laity might become too strong

The final session was done according to Bishops' Conferences as the goal was to identify the way forward. Keeping in mind earth, persons and society aspects: which specific issues we would like to deal with, how (structures of response), which material we could use, who would do it and when.

An important final element was... "what is already being done?" as sometimes we risk forgetting the initiatives already present that need to be strengthened and are a great foundation for the way forward.

Click HERE for photos of the 11th IMBISA plenary
These photos were taken by Bishop Stan Dziuba
Feel free to use them acknowledging the source.

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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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