Methodist Church

Kenyan Bishop Imathiu given World Methodist Peace Award

MERU (Kenya) — A Kenyan Methodist bishop who spoke out against the violent regime of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin is the 2005 recipient of the World Methodist Peace Award.

Bishop Lawi Imathiu was given the award during a Jan 29 ceremony at Kenya Methodist University in Meru, Kenya. The presentation was made by His Eminence Sunday Mbang of Nigeria, Chairman of the World Methodist Council, which sponsors the award.

A council statement said: “Lawi Imathiu has given his entire life as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and more than 50 years as a courageous, creative advocate for the cause of peace and reconciliation around the world, particularly in the continent of Africa.

“His faithful witness reflects the values of the World Methodist Peace Award and the criteria for receiving the award: courage, creativity and consistency.”

Bishop Imathiu was President of the World Methodist Council from 1986 to 1991, the first African to serve in this capacity. Now retired, he serves as the Africa continent secretary for the council’s Division of World Evangelism.

In 1977, as Idi Amin, a brutal political tyrant, caused upheaval in East Africa, Bishop Imathiu was a strong advocate for peace and justice in the region.

When Amin attempted to silence the witness of the church by ordering the death of the Anglican archbishop of Uganda, Bishop Imathiu took a courageous stand and called Amin a murderer and an oppressor. The bishop was serving as a member of the Kenyan Parliament at the time.

The bishop “showed great courage, with a clear voice for peace, reconciliation, salvation and hope for all the people,” noted the Rev George Freeman, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council.

He also took a stand against South Africa’s apartheid system. As council president, Bishop Imathiu reinforced the World Methodist Council’s call for the people in South Africa to be set free from apartheid, and he led a delegation that met President P. W. Botha of South Africa.

As one African to another, the bishop urged President Botha to release Nelson Mandela from prison and to remove the shackles on the people. A second council delegation met Presdient Botha’s successor, President F. W. De Klerk, to press again for the release of Mandela and the dismantling of the oppressive apartheid system. Mandela, who was finally released in 1990 and was elected President of South Africa in 1994, received the World Methodist Peace Award in 2000.

Bishop Imathiu’s faith journey began with his family. His father became a Christian as a boy in 1910, one of the first Christians among the Meru tribe. The bishop himself attended Methodist mission schools for primary, secondary and teacher college training. After serving as a teacher for a year, he accepted the call to ministry and studied at St Paul’s Theological College in Nairobi. He completed his studies at London University and in Limuru, Kenya.

He also studied at Epworth College in Zimbabwe and received a master of divinity degree from Claremont Theological Seminary in California. Emory University honoured him with a doctor of divinity degree in 1990. He was the first bishop elected to serve the Methodist Church in Kenya, which became autonomous in January 1967.

During his tenure, the Methodist Church in Kenya grew from 8,000 members in 1970 to more than 225,000 in 2000. The denomination also developed mission outreach to the nomadic Boran, Kisii and Masai people in Kenya and started Methodist work in Uganda and Tanzania. — United Methodist News Service


Methodist activist joins new Bolivian Cabinet

LA PAZ (Bolivia) — The recipient of the 2003 World Methodist Peace Award has been named Minister of Justice for the new government of Bolivia.

Ms Casimira Rodriguez Romero has become a member of the Cabinet of President Evo Morales, who was inaugurated on Jan 22 in La Paz.

Ms Rodriguez is Chief Executive of the National Federation of Household Workers, a union that successfully lobbied the Bolivian Parliament to pass the Household Workers Law in 2003. Since 2001, she also has headed the Confederation of Household Workers of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Even as a teenager, she was an advocate of workers’ rights. The union struggled for 12 years to get the Household Workers Law passed. Of the 132,000 household workers in Bolivia, 99 per cent are women.

Mr Morales, an Aymara Indian, is leading the first indigenous government in Bolivia’s history.

Ms Rodriguez, a Quechua Indian, attends Emmanuel Methodist Church in Cochabamba. — United Methodist News Service.