The Rt. Rev. Benson K. Bagonza is an STM graduate of Wartburg Theological Seminary . Bishop Bagonza had had some training in law during his undergraduate studies in Tanzania.
WASHINGTON (ELCA) - The Rt. Rev. Benson K. Bagonza, bishop of the
Karagwe Diocese, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), shared
stories of impoverished people in Africa with more than 25 Christian,
Jewish and Muslim leaders in a meeting prior to the G-20 Summit in
"Tanzanians were among the poorest even before the present economic
crisis," Bagonza said. "Therefore this economic crisis was yet another
blow that has sent millions into a critical and vulnerable situation."
Organized by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA),
Bread for the World, the Alliance to End Hunger and other organizations,
the religious leaders urged world leaders to fulfill their promises to
help people who have suffered from the global economic recession. The
Group of 20 (G-20) met Sept. 24-25 to discuss global economic issues.
"The recovery programs that they are undertaking need to mean
something to the people who live on the fringes, who live on the bottom
level of the economic ladder," Bagonza said. He explained that for
recovery programs to have meaning "the hungry people in Africa must get
food to eat and that the poor people get their basic needs met."
"The welfare of our people in our different [religious] traditions
is affected by what decisions are made (at the G-20)," he said. "At the
global level, I was very impressed to see our religious differences were
diminishing and we were forced to focus on the issues that threaten the
existence of humanity. (Those are) poverty, climate change, hopelessness
and powerlessness of human beings before a magnitude of forces that human
beings have created."
During his trip to the United States, Bagonza met with the staff of
U.S. Senators Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., as well
as U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J. Bagonza asked that the United
States "be more inclusive in its participatory process of reforming the
foreign aid policy of this country." U.S. foreign aid policies
should "reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people affected by the
bill," according to Bagonza.
The ELCA Washington Office and ELCA Global Mission brought Bagonza
to the United States to visit his diocese's companion synod, the ELCA
Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod, as well as speak to religious leaders
and members of Congress.
"We believe foreign policy issues can be advocated very effectively
through Bishop Bagonza's personal stories," said the Rev. Andrew
Genszler, director for advocacy in the ELCA Washington Office.
In the ELCT, Bagonza chairs a special office commissioned to do
advocacy. "The churches in Tanzania offer more than 40 percent of the
social services in the country. Therefore we feel that we should be
involved in advocacy," he said.
He cited three challenges facing the ELCT -- dependence on
international support, concern for the ministry among people in poverty
and the secularization of society. "We Africans, by our very nature, are
notoriously religious, but globalization is bringing things that we've
never seen that are shattering and frustrating our structure of families,
our harmony and our communities," he said.
Despite the challenges "my commitment to lead the church is
increasing every day, being ready to face whatever comes," Bagonza said.