Catholic Youth in Southern Africa Appeal for “a seat” at Inter-Regional Forum of Bishops

Youth representative's address to the Bishops of IMBISA and Vote of Thanks for being included in the Plenary Assembly. Credit: IMBISA

Youth delegates who participated in the 13th Plenary Assembly of the Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) have appealed for representation at the forum that bring together those at the helm of Catholic Dioceses in Angola, Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

In a September 27 interview with ACI Africa, the youth delegate from the Namibian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (NCBC), Kelly Muremi, said, “There's a necessity that the youth have a seat, because there is no movement without the youth, and oftentimes it's said youth have to climb the shoulders of the old to see further.”

“To allow us the opportunity to see further, we need to sit with Bishops, so that we understand their vision and we bring in our greatest horizon,” Ms. Muremi said, and added, “All the youth representatives of the IMBISA region must be included.”

She further said, “Whenever the Bishops are trying to discuss aspects of our countries, we are going to analyze what is happening with the youth so that we bring this up to the table so that there's nothing which is forgotten.”

“Given that responsibility with the youth, we are not called to sit back; we are called to continuously reflect that the Church is ours,” the Namibian youth delegate told ACI Africa at the end of the 13th IMBISA Plenary Assembly, the first to bring on board representatives of young people in the region.


The September 22-27 Plenary Assembly was held at the Safari Court Hotel Conference Center in Namibia’s Capital City, Windhoek, 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”.

Delegates of the Plenary Assembly discussed challenges the youth in the region face, including migration, unemployment, formation in the faith, entrepreneurship, gender-based violence, mental health, alcohol and substance abuse, and the impact of terrorism on young people.

In a September 24 statement, youth delegates who participated in the IMBISA 13th Plenary Assembly thanked Catholic Church leaders in the region for making Christus Vivit, the March 2019 Post-Synodal Exhortation of Pope Francis to young people and to the entire people of God, “a focal point of the Plenary Assembly.”

“For allowing youth to attend the Assembly indicates that the Church has understood that to appropriately reflect on the Young we need to do so with the young. Nothing is for us without us,” the youth delegates say in their statement.

In the September 27 interview with ACI Africa, Ms. Muremi underlined the value of communication in “analyzing the signs of our time” as the youth in Southern Africa seek unity in journeying together with IMBISA members. 

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“When we communicate, we then understand each other’s hearts and desires, and we understand each other's longing, and in that way, we are analyzing the signs of our time,” she explained, and recalling the deliberations during the IMBISA Plenary Assembly, “In that analysis of the signs of the time, we had a positive response that it was not only a stage of talking, but there is a deep desire of action.”

The NCBC youth delegate at the 13th IMBISA Plenary Assembly continued, “In the depth of our desires of action, there were two aspects. One of the aspects is to create a unity whereby whenever the Bishops meet, youth representatives are also present.”

“The second aspect is the creation of a youth structure in the IMBISA region that will mobilize for resources and capacity building for young people to be able to run functioning structures and commissions for the advancement of the body, soul and mind of a human person, which includes but not limited to faith and skills development,” she further said.

Youth delegates at the Plenary Assembly proposed the “establishment of a database that documents the skills, knowledge and profession of the young people within IMBISA.”

Reflecting on this proposal, Ms. Muremi said, “Having that skills database will be of benefit not only to the leaders of the Church but to the community at large.”


For instance, she explained, “when we have something, even at my workplace, maybe they are asking for a cleaner, and there’s someone on that website who has cleaned for so long, I will suggest that person. Therefore, we are empowering the community we live in.”

“We are the youth now, but we will also get old, so we need to take care of those who are coming after us, to empower them. By the time they reach our stage, they will have the skills necessary to take the church to greater heights,” Ms. Muremi told ACI Africa September 27.

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.