How Botswana’s Language Culture is Enabling Vibrant Participation in Synodal Process

Members of the IMBISA Standing Committee. Credit: IMBISA

The people of God in a Catholic Diocese in Botswana are finding it easy to fully participate in the ongoing Synod on Synodality conversations using the language they are most familiar with, the Local Ordinary of the Diocese has said.

In a Wednesday, March 23 interview with ACI Africa, Archbishop Frank Atese Nubuasah of Botswana’s Catholic Diocese of Gaborone said that those leading the Synodal conversations in his Episcopal See are locals who are able to address the people in the language that they know.

Asked to share what the people’s experience with the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality process had been so far, Archbishop Nubuasah said, “Language has not been an issue because they are able to express themselves and those leading the discussions are local people.... People are excited to speak about their Church.”

An estimated 90 percent of the population in Botswana speak Setswana in a country that recognizes English as one of its official languages.

The Local Ordinary of Gaborone told ACI Africa that Synodal conversations had taken deep root in Small Christian Communities (SCCs), attracting eager participation of Church members at the grassroots.


“We have been living the Synodal process all these years. We have been practicing it in SCCs.  Our groups are Synodal because we consult, discuss and then make decisions,” the 72-year-old Catholic Church leader who was elevated to the rank of “Archbishop ad personam” in July 2021 said.

He added in reference to the Synod on Synodality, “Since the document came from the Holy See, we have started the process. We have finished consultations on the ground so we are now compiling to be able to have the diocesan celebrations, hopefully in the next two weeks, then head to the conference level.”

The member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) said that in Gaborone, the approach to the Synodal conversations had been left open.

“We had no questionnaires so we just opened it for the people to talk; talk about your Church, where you are, where you want to be and the issues involved,” he said, and added, “Some people expect to be making decisions now but that is not the process. The process is to make us aware that we are a Synodal Church where we move and work together to evangelize.”

In the March 23 interview with ACI Africa, Archbishop Nubuasah addressed other topics, including the Church’s initiatives to end human trafficking in Botswana and the Diocese’s plan to start an online radio.

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Highlighting the country’s hospitality to migrants, the Ghanaian-born Archbishop said, “Botswana has very few migrants, mostly from SADC countries so it's (Human trafficking) not really an issue for us. We support whoever comes; we integrate them.”

He said the biggest challenge in the fight against human trafficking in Botswana is the fact that the country is used as a conduit place.

The Archbishop explained that those coming from North, Central and West Africa use Botswana as a starting point to be able to go to South Africa or outside. 

“We have been cooperating with the government in arresting some of these situations and repatriating people. We are involved in counseling, providing facilities and even repatriation of people to their homes,” Archbishop Nubuasah told ACI Africa March 23.

On adapting new strategies to evangelize in the COVID-10 times, the Archbishop said, “We are starting an online radio station to be able to evangelize our people in the remote areas who may not be able to come to Church especially with COVID-19 restrictions.”


Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.