New IMBISA Leaders Set to Prioritize Youth Ministry in Their Three-year Mandate

New IMBISA leadership, from left: Archbishop José Manuel Imbamba, Vice President, Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, President, Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro, Secretary General. Credit: ACI Africa

The newly-elected leaders of the Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) will seek to focus on young people and their involvement in the activities of the Church during their three-year mandate, the new President has told ACI Africa in an interview.

On September 26, delegates of the IMBISA 13th Plenary Assembly in Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek, elected Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda as President of the regional Conference that brings together those at the helm of Catholic Dioceses in nine countries, including Angola, Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

To assist Archbishop Nashenda as Vice President of IMBISA is Archbishop José Manuel Imbamba who is the current President of the Episcopal Conference of Angola and São Tomé. 

Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro of Zimbabwe’s Gweru Diocese was elected IMBISA Secretary General at the conclusion of the September 22 to 27 Plenary Assembly that was organized under the theme, “Building forward together-Reimagining the Church’s Engagement with young people in the IMBISA Region in light of Pope Francis’ Exhortation, Christus Vivit”.

In an interview with ACI Africa, the newly-elected IMBISA President, Archbishop Nashenda reflected on the theme of their Plenary Assembly that was inspired by Christus Vivit, the March 2019 Post-Synodal Exhortation of Pope Francis to young people and to the entire people of God.


He said the theme of the IMBISA 13th Plenary Assembly will be carried throughout the next three years as an invitation to the Church to “take young people very seriously, according to the encouragement from the Holy Father, and we are trying to do precisely that.”

“That is why we have invited young people to be part of our Assembly, and the emphasis is actually to encourage them to actively take part in the life of the Church, so that they become participants and not spectators,” Archbishop Nashenda told ACI Africa during the September 26 interview.

The Namibian-born member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) added, “As you know, if young people are not really involved in the life of the Church, where they get some source of encouragement, some source of faith formation then they will just vanish into the world and they take up all different activities, which are not really conducive to their lives.”

He recalled the reflections of the delegates of the IMBISA Plenary Assembly on the challenges young people in the region face, including unemployment, formation in the faith, entrepreneurship, gender-based violence, mental health, alcohol and substance abuse, and the impact of terrorism, among others. 

In his view, “everybody should play a role” in addressing unemployment as one of the common challenges that young people in the IMBISA region face.

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“The tendency in our countries that it is only the government, which should provide the work for the young people, for everybody, is not true. Everybody should play a role, the private institution, the enterprises, and the government as such,” the new President of IMBISA said.

The government has even a bigger role, he further said, and underscored the need for national leaders “to create a conducive environment for investors and therefore they can help us to solve this problem of unemployment.”

Governments have also to put in place an education system that works “more towards job creation rather than a job providing, and that is what we are trying to work on,” Archbishop Nashenda told ACI Africa September 26.

In a September 24 statement, youth delegates who participated in the IMBISA 13th Plenary Assembly pleaded with Catholic Bishops in the region to journey with them to ensure they are more established.

In the September 26 interview with ACI Africa, the Local Ordinary of Windhoek Archdiocese highlighted some initiatives that his Episcopal See has undertaken to empower young people.


“In our Archdiocese, here in Windhoek we have two vocational centers where we train young people in different fields like cooking, computer literacy, sewing and so on, so that eventually when they are done, they can create jobs for themselves,” Archbishop Nashenda said.

Reflecting on the formation of young people in faith as a challenge discussed during the Plenary Assembly, the new President of IMBISA advocated for a collaborative approach among those at the helm of Catholic Dioceses, liaising with entities at the grassroots like Parishes. 

“Bishops should work in a coordinated manner as far as faith formation of the young people is concerned,” the 63-year-old Archbishop said.

He explained in reference to young people, “Out of this formation, they are able to have the capacity, they are able to have self-worth, they are able to really see that they are taken seriously, that they can be actively involved and hopefully will help them to model their moral formation.” 

“As Bishops, we should encourage our Parishes to take our young people on board in building up our community so that we can boost up the self-esteem of young people, so that they feel that they are taken seriously,” Archbishop Nashenda told ACI Africa September 26.

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The Catholic Church leader who has been at the helm of Windhoek Archdiocese since his installation in November 2004 described young people as “the future of the Church”.

Young people, he went on to say, “can contribute to the building up of the Church, the body of Christ; that is one of my expectations.”

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.