CENTRAL AFRICA: Botswana bishop asks media to be more 'gracious and balanced'

August 27, 2008

A senior African Anglican bishop has issued a plea to the world's media to be more "gracious and balanced" in its reporting about issues facing Christians, particularly those relating to the 77-million-strong Anglican Communion. The bishop of Botswana, Trevor Musonda Mwamba, told Ecumenical News International that by concentrating on the current gay and lesbian debate at the expensive of other "real issues", such as poverty, malnutrition, drought and the spread of HIV/AIDS, the integrity of people outside the Northern hemisphere was demeaned. "The rest of the world needs to know that apart from press coverage in the West, the gay issue is not a pre-occupation of the poor," said the Zambian-born Mwamba. "And we don't want it imposed on us as a priority agenda. Our agenda is about basic survival, food for the hungry, and we cannot focus on other agendas. In the words of a Swahili proverb, 'An empty stomach has no ears to hear with'." Mwamba added, "I can only pray that the media will be as passionate in reporting on these issues as they are on the homosexual debate." He was speaking before his return to Botswana after attending the 2008 Lambeth Conference between July 16 and August 3 in Canterbury, where his comments on the issue of homosexuality in the church did not coincide with those bishops who decided to boycott the once-every-10-years meeting. As Mwamba spoke, reports from Africa said that rapidly rising food costs have contributed to the worst hunger crisis ever seen in East Africa, where 14 million people face starvation this year. Aid agencies claim that 10 million people in Ethiopia alone face starvation. Mwamba, whose wife is the deputy secretary general of the Commonwealth and a daughter of Botswana's second president, Sir Quett Masire, told ENI, "The Millennium Development Goals, issues of governance, HIV/AIDS, poverty, the environment, indeed the development of people, these are the issues before the [Anglican] Communion." His call for what he believed would be better and more balanced reporting on African issues came only a few weeks after Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said in an interview with ENI that for some people in the media, morality means sex. "In the Bible," Williams said, "morality means justice, compassion, and the defence of the needy. It means humility, realism and questioning, repentance and generosity. That's quite a lot to be going on with."