Churches in southern Africa respond to devastation of Cyclone Idai

20 Mar 2019
Aerial view of flooding caused by cyclone Idai in Mozambique. Photo: Lutheran Media Forum

Aerial view of flooding caused by cyclone Idai in Mozambique. Photo: Lutheran Media Forum

LWF stands in solidarity and prayer with communities in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe struggling to cope with severest storm in a decade

(LWI) - Churches in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are calling for support and prayers in response to the crisis provoked by Cyclone Idai which has battered the southern African region over recent days.

Severe flooding first hit Malawi, causing over a hundred deaths, before the tropical storm made landfall in Mozambique’s eastern port city of Beira on Thursday, flattening buildings and cutting off all power and communications.

As aid workers arrived in the region, hundreds of people were confirmed dead or missing, with Mozambique’s president Filipe Nyusi saying the death toll could reach 1,000 in his country alone.

Mudslides have washed away houses and bridges

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has been monitoring the crisis in the worst affected area of Manicaland province on the border with Mozambique, reporting that mudslides have washed away houses and bridges in the town of Chimanimani.

A ZCC statement said the Salvation Army church in the town was destroyed, with the minister and members of the congregation being offered shelter by the local Roman Catholic church. Injured, traumatized and homeless people are being cared for in churches as there is no access to the local hospital.

The statement says emergency supplies of food, clothing, blankets and tents, as well as medical assistance and clean water supplies are urgently needed, with psycho-social support also required for those worst affected by the disaster.

Churches, mosques and schools offer shelter

Leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi (ELCM) are also calling for prayers and support for all those who have lost family and friends, houses and livelihoods in the flooding. They say local churches, mosques and schools are opening their doors to provide shelter for the homeless, after hundreds of thousands of people were affected, mainly in the southern deaneries of Lowershire, Blantyre and Zomba.

We desperately need your urgent support and prayers.
ELCM Bishop Dr Joseph Bvumbwe

Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika has declared a state of national disaster, with roads cut off by the flooding and many people needing to be rescued by helicopters. ELCM Bishop Dr Joseph P.  Bvumbwe said: "We have experienced and seen floods over the past years, but never before anything so destructive as the scale of what is being experienced now. Both life and property are being lost almost on a daily basis since the floods started.” He added: “We desperately need your urgent support and prayers.”

Solidarity and prayer

In a message of solidarity to the heads of all three churches in the region, The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge said the communion was praying with them, asking God to give “strength and hope” to survivors, as well as “wisdom and compassion to those providing help and assistance.”

In the letter sent to Bishop Bvumbwe, Bishop Chemist Faindi of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe and Bishop Eduardo Sinalo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mozambique, Junge said: “With pain we have received the news of massive destruction, injuries and death caused by Tropical Cyclone Idai.” Offering the solidarity and accompaniment of the whole communion, he added: “Please be assured of our prayers surrounding you in these moments of pain and distress. We pray for the safety of those affected, for those who had to flee their homes, those faced with uncertainty, those who are injured and for those who grieve lost ones.”