Southern Africa youth resolve to address climate change and gender-based violence

Some of the participants in the LUCSA youth workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: LUCSA

LUCSA youth discuss LWF’s priorities for youth

(LWI) - Youth from 15 member churches of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) have identified climate change and gender-based violence (GBV) as key issues to address in their respective countries.

Meeting mid-April, in Johannesburg, South Africa, barely a month after the devastating impact of cyclone Idai in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, they resolved to set up a sub-regional network to encourage youth participation in activities that promote care for the creation and environmental protection. Prolonged drought and shorter but intense periods of rainfall in the sub-region threaten the livelihoods of rural populations, who mainly depend on subsistence farming and herding livestock.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Strategy 2019-2024 provided orientation for the workshop under the theme, “With Passion for the Church and the World”. LUCSA is one of the three LWF sub-regions in Africa.

LWF Council member Khulekani Sizwe Magwaza, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, who coordinated the workshop said it was important to hear from LUCSA youth how they perceived the Lutheran communion’s priorities for young people in their own contexts.

Magwaza noted that barely a fortnight after the workshop, another tropical storm struck South Africa’s eastern coastline around Durban between 22-23 April, killing more than 50 people, with flooding and mudslides destroying homes and property. “This just reminds us again why we have to continue advocating for climate justice. The weather patterns have changed and often authorities are not prepared to cope with the aftermath and help their people,” he added.

Participants in the workshop included Rev. Zelda Cristina Cossa from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mozambique, who reflected about cyclone Idai and recurring torrential rainfall in the country. “These tropical storms provide grim proof that global warming is a real and continuing threat. Effective adaptation to minimize damage is essential in preparing people in the region. Disaster risk management plans are especially important in order to minimize loss of life,” added, Cossa, a pastor in Lionde congregation in the eastern district of Chokwe.

At the LWF Twelfth Assembly in 2017, the member churches reiterated youth participation and leadership as priority themes for the communion. The LWF strategy acknowledges the critical role of youth leadership in strengthening LWF’s commitment to addressing climate change as a matter of intergenerational justice.

The rights of women and girls

The LUCSA youth also cited examples of increasing incidents of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) especially in families in countries such as Namibia and South Africa, and the general lack of commitment by authorities to hold perpetrators to account. They noted SGBV is a gross violation of the rights of women and girls, and “we are committed to tackling it in all its forms as best as we are able.”

Magwaza encouraged the workshop participants to improve their life skills and develop positive behavioral changes in order to better serve the church and the wider society.

“It is about young people developing personal values and qualities which enable them to effectively play a key role in the church’s growth and sustainability and in society’s social development agenda,” they said in a final statement.

LUCSA brings together 15 Lutheran churches in the sub-region, 13 of which belong to the LWF.

By Felix Samari, LWF ALCINET, edited by LWF Communications