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Angola's new United Methodist bishops emphasize rebuilding

11/15/2000 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

NEW YORK (UMNS) - After years of living with civil war, the two new United Methodist bishops in Angola are concentrating on plans to rebuild their communities and revitalize their congregations.

Bishop Gaspar Joao Domingos, 39, of the Western Angola Annual Conference, and Bishop José Quipungo, 50, Eastern Angola Annual Conference, were both elected last August. They spoke with United Methodist News Service about their plans on Nov. 15, during a visit to the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

In response to the devastation caused by war, the Western Angola Conference has created a Department of Studies and Projects to identify, implement and monitor projects "to promote sustainability and spiritual/social welfare."

One of the more urgent needs, according to Domingos, is rebuilding a destroyed infrastructure, including churches, parsonages, boarding schools and training centers. Other projects will include a micro-enterprise and livelihood assistance program, particularly aimed at unemployed youth, and programs in farming and cattle raising, commerce, industry, transportation and communication to strengthen the church's financial capacity.

The United Methodist Church in Western Angola is divided into 10 districts, with a total of 249 churches and 187 active pastors. Membership stands at 120,979.

In Eastern Angola, plans over the next four years call for rehabilitation of administrative headquarters in Malanje and renovation of the education and health buildings at the denomination's large Quessua Mission, just west of Malanje. While that work is being done, education and evangelism will continue through a variety of training programs.

"We're also at a stage of reorganizing our conference," Quipungo said. Membership statistics are difficult to confirm because of the number of internally displaced people, but the church's four districts in Eastern Angola include at least 50 churches, 58 active pastors and 16 lay workers

Random groups of soldiers still carry out sporadic attacks, but "the conventional war activity no longer exists in any part of Angola," the bishop noted. "We do have the minimum condition necessary to start working again."

Both conferences, however, continue to need relief supplies, such as food, clothing, tools and medicine, as Angolans try to re-start their lives. Even the capital city of Luanda faces serious problems because the number of displaced people has increased the population from 2 million to 6 million and created massive unemployment. As the schools and health care system continue to deteriorate, Domingos said, the crime and prostitution rates have increased.

The two bishops hope the land-mine removal project of the Board of Global Ministries will expand to include Angola. "The estimate among some of the experts in Angola is there are one and a half land mines waiting for each Angolan," Domingos added.

Quipungo said the Angolan government has begun land-mine removal efforts but only in selected areas. One of those areas was the Quessua Mission, where most of the mines have been cleared.

A native of Xamuteba, Quipungo was trained in Brazil and returned to Angola in 1987 to become pastor of Central Church in Luanda. In 1992, he was elected a member of Angola's first multiparty parliament and served until 1998, when he became pastor at Mt. Sinai Church in Luanda. His wife, Laurinda Vidal Quipungo, is a pediatrician. They have three sons and two daughters.

Domingos, who also trained in Brazil, returned in 1988 to assume multiple jobs: secretary for the annual conference, director of conference youth ministries, pastor at Galilee Church in Luanda and general secretary of the United Methodist Africa Central Conference. In 1994, he joined the staff of the Council of Christian Churches in Angola and was elected to lead the council in 1998.
A native of Sagua, in the old province of Luanda, he is married to Lucrécia Manuel Alexandre Domingos, a physical therapist. They are the parents of three sons and three daughters.

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