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USAID Announces Funding for the Inter Religious Campaign Against Malaria in Mozambique

“Malaria does not discriminate between Muslims and Christians." The Inter Religious Campaign Against Malaria in Mozambique, working with the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., USA, was recently awarded a major grant to fight malaria from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

By Washington National Cathedral

Officials of the U.S. Agency for International Development announced Thursday major funding to combat malaria in Mozambique, Malawi, Senegal, and Rwanda. The funds, granted as part of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), are part of a five year $1.2 billion program for malaria prevention and treatment throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Similar funds have already been allocated to Angola, Tanzania and Uganda.

Bishop Dom Dinis Sengulane, Anglican Bishop of Lebombo, Mozambique, spoke at the announcement on a panel entitled Fighting Malaria in Africa: Challenges and Partnerships. He is working closely with Washington National Cathedral’s Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation which supports the Inter Religious Campaign against Malaria in Mozambique (IRCMM). The IRCMM is co-chaired by Bishop Sengulane along with the Christian Council of Mozambique and Roman Catholic, Muslim, Seventh-day Adventist and Assembly of God leaders.

Long known as a peacemaker (he negotiated the peace between the Frelimo government and the Renamo rebels in 1992), Bishop Sengulane has focused his recent efforts on integrating the church into issues of economic justice, including health and education. “Before creating human beings, God who is a good mathematician, started by putting on the ground the resources necessary to their survival,” he says. “The principal reason of the poverty of our populations is thus primarily the bad distribution of these riches.”

With malaria killing an African child every 30 seconds, prevention and treatment of this mosquito-born disease is imperative. Bishop Sengulane says religious organizations can play a pivotal role, “If we pool our resources, the faith community can reach all over the country. We are in every village all over the country. We go where government cannot go”.

Twenty-six Christian, Muslim and other faith leaders came together in Maputo, Mozambique on April 19, 2006 to formalize their commitment to collaborate against malaria and to establish the Inter Religious Campaign against Malaria in Mozambique. Co-Chairs of the IRCMM are leaders of the Christian Council of Mozambique comprising 22-member churches, which includes Anglicans, United Methodists, Presbyterian Churches, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Roman Catholic Church, the Assemblies of God, the Islamic Congress of Mozambique, and the Islamic Council of Mozambique.

Dr. Mouzinho Saide, Mozambique’s health director said on April 19, 2006, in Maputo, “Civil society has the responsibility to participate in the communication efforts to change attitudes towards malaria. Specifically we expect religious leaders to use their knowledge and spiritual power in helping transform the efforts of the struggle against malaria in a way that is culturally appropriate for our people”.

All 26 religious leaders signed a statement that reads:

“We, Mozambican Religious Leaders Met at the S. Cipriano School on April 19, 2006, in the context of the celebration of the Africa Malaria Day (25 April). We are deeply shocked for the continuing loss of human lives in the country due to malaria. Having in mind our communities’ sensibilities inside and outside the country, with regard to the protection of human lives put by God in Mozambique, we commit ourselves to strengthen the fight against malaria as Mozambican citizens, and also as God-fearing men and women.”

The religious leaders then committed to mobilizing resources to support various actions in prevention, treatment and research.

Mr. Hassan Makda, chair of the Mozambique Islamic Congress and co-chair of the IRCMM, says that issues of social justice can be addressed by religious organizations without being “religious.” “Malaria does not discriminate between Muslims and Christians. Our whole society suffers when Mozambican children and pregnant women die. We embrace collaboration with other faiths against malaria. Working together against the common problem of malaria binds us also in other ways.”

Bishops Sengulane and Mr. Makda called a Working Group to action in support of their efforts to urgent action on March 16, 2006. Members of the Working Group include the United Methodist Church, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Episcopal Relief and Development, Catholic Medical Mission Board, Population and the Friends of Charities Association.

Advisors to the Working Group include Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, UN Foundation, and USAID. The Working Group is convened and staffed by the Washington National Cathedral’s Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation. The Center, which operates under the auspices of the National Cathedral’s Cathedral College, is organized to promote global justice and reconciliation through inter religious and ecumenical collaboration. Drawing upon the biblical imperative to end poverty as a requirement for justice, the Center forges partnerships among Christian denominations, with interfaith partners, governments, NGOs and the private sector to address the root causes of human suffering.

General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation Dr. Ishmael Noko, who was among the leaders of the September 2005 Consultation on Global Poverty calling for interfaith partnership to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, reiterates the importance of collaboration. “This commitment to pool capacities and resources for humanitarian relief of suffering from malaria is exactly the kind of interfaith partnership we imagined when we called for urgent action by the worldwide faith community in the ‘Call to Partnership’ consensus document delivered to the UN General Assembly on the eve of its opening meeting.”

“Speaking from a public health perspective, and as a member of the Working Group to support IRCMM, I am tremendously hopeful that by combining the extensive congregational resources of the various faith communities we can make a significant and lasting impact on malaria in Mozambique,” remarked Dr. Allan Handysides, Director of Health Ministries of the World Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Among the Center’s current priorities is forging inter religious collaborations to address the scourge of malaria. Although preventable, malaria is the leading cause of death throughout the world. Closer collaboration between religious centers, health organizations, and government programs will increase the effectiveness and reach of anti-malaria programs. The Center has established an Inter Religious Working Group on Malaria and was considered by many to be instrumental in assisting Mozambique in gaining anti-malaria funding.

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