Mozambique

A Country Profile from the General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church


Map of Mozambique. Capital: Maputo
Government: Multiparty Democracy
Population: 18,115,250 million
By Gender: 48.6% male, 51.4% female
Under 20 yrs: 28.2% male, 27.8% female
Density: 58 per square mile
Living in urban areas: 33%
Annual growth: 2.9%
Annual per capita income: $86
Literacy: 33%
Language, official: Portuguese
Languages, indigenous: approximately 20, including Xitswa, Makua, Malawi, Tsonga, and Shona
Ethnic groups: Bantu tribes
Religions: Indigenous beliefs 60%, Christian 30%, Muslim 10%
Location: Southeastern coast of Africa
Bordered by: Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Swaziland
Area: 303,769 square miles (about twice the size of California)
Coastline: 2000 miles
Arable Land: 4%
Provinces (10): Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala, Manica, Tete, Zambesia, Napula, Niassa, and Cabo Delgado
Climate: Tropical to subtropical
Rainy Season: October to April
Rainfall: 20-30 inches (Southeast Lowlands) to 56 inches (Northwest Highlands)
Infant Mortality Rate: 170/1000
Under 5 Mortality Rate: 250/1000
Low Birth Rate: 20%
Life Expectancy: 47 male, 51 female
Temperature, Southeast Lowlands: 79-86 F (January) to 59-68 F (July)
Temperature, Northwest Highlands: 71-77 F (January) to 52-59 F (July)
United Methodist Bishop: Joao Somane Machado (elected 1988)
United Methodist Membership: 85,000+ and growing


The indigenous people of Mozambique are descendants of various Bantu tribes. The official language is Portuguese, but because of long historical links with Arab traders along the coast, Swahili is also widely spoken, especially along the border with Tanzania to the north. The climate is tropical in the north and temperate in the south.

The economy is essentially agricultural (85%), but tourism and other commercial enterprises are also important. The principal exports are cashew nuts, cotton goods, and sugar. Illiteracy is high, and medical services do not meet the nation's health needs.

The first Portuguese trading post was established in 1505. As in Angola, the Roman Catholic Church reinforced Portuguese colonial policies and opposed the overthrow of imperialism. On June 25, 1975, after a 15-year armed struggle waged by the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), Mozambique threw off 500 years of Portuguese colonial rule and became independent.

The founder of FRELIMO was Dr. Eduardo Mondlane, who studied at the Cambine Boys' United Methodist Boarding School in Inhambane Province, where he developed his revolutionary ideas. He later obtained a United Methodist Crusade Scholarship to study at universities in Lisbon, Portugal, and the United States.

When Dr. Mondlane was assassinated by a parcel bomb in 1969 while working in his office in Tanzania, his successor, Samora Moises Machel, led the country to independence. President Machel, a Maoist, instituted a rigid single-party form of government. A South African government-backed guerrilla movement, which calls itself the National Resistance Movement of Mozambique (RENAMO), relentlessly waged a bitter war of destabilization against the Mozambican government.

In 1986, President Machel and several members of his cabinet were killed in a plane crash on the South African border while returning from a meeting in Zambia. Machel was succeeded by Joaquim Alberto Chissano, who managed to bring about changes in the original FRELIMO Marxist constitution and replace it with a multiparty democratic constitution. These changes, plus the thawing of the Cold War, made it possible for RENAMO and FRELIMO to meet in Rome for peace talks.

Guerrilla warfare caused much death and suffering; as many as six million people sought refuge in camps in neighboring countries. Over a million people were killed and another million were in refugee camps inside Mozambique. Mozambique continues to have one of the largest concentrations of land mines in the world.

Droughts, combined with the malicious destruction of crops, roads, bridges, and rail, telephone, and electricity lines by RENAMO, have wrecked the country's infrastructure and brought life in Mozambique to a near standstill. The national literacy rate was only four percent at independence, which meant that the country lacked the elements necessary for building a modern economy. RENAMO's subversive activities prevented the addressing of critical social and economic problems.

The new government guarantees freedom of worship but not the right to proselytize or to baptize minors. After so many centuries of foreign subjugation, the new Mozambican leaders are trying to encourage pride in the nation and its culture. Some of them see the existence of many denominations as divisive.

Developments since independence have strengthened cooperation and desire for church union among various denominations. The Christian Council of Mozambique is encouraging the Protestant churches to speak with one voice. The Nairobi-based All-Africa Conference of Churches and the missionary church agencies in Europe and North America have also supported this posture. Because of the government's increased confidence in the churches, the Christian Council of Mozambique initiated the holding of negotiations between the government and the RENAMO group, resulting in the Rome Peace Accords and the cessation of violence in November 1992.

On October 27-28, 1994, the first multiparty elections in the history of the country were held, resulting in Joaquim Chissano being elected as president and FRELIMO obtaining slightly more than 50% of the Parliamentary seats, with RENAMO the second largest party in the Parliament with approximately 43% of the seats. The repatriation of 1.7 million Mozambican refugees officially ended in June 1995.

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The United Methodist Church in Mozambique


Late in 1990, the Igreja Metodista Unida em Moçambique (United Methodist church in Mozambique) observed the 100th anniversary of the beginning of church work in Mozambique. The theme of the celebration was, "One Hundred Years of Preaching the Gospel and Witnessing through Words and Deeds without Ceasing."

At a rousing open-air ceremony, close to 10,000 people listened to President Chissano, who was the guest speaker, heap praises on the work and role of The United Methodist Church throughout its history. His remarks probably best summarize what the church has meant to Mozambique ever since the Rev. Dr. Erwin Richards began United Methodist mission work at Chicuque in 1890.

Over the course of 100 years, The United Methodist Church has been preaching the gospel through words. But your deeds over those years have left legacies our country will cherish and honor for a long time to come. . . . These deeds were shown in your imparting education, teaching good health and better agricultural practices, and [developing leaders] among the Mozambican people. Your deeds are also evident in your teaching literacy skills to our people so that the wisdom and ideas found in the Bible no longer need to remain in the pages of the Bible, but are in the minds of our people.

Since independence, The United Methodist Church has been a partner in development with the Mozambican people. The church has work in all ten provinces of Mozambique. Both the church and government greatly appreciate the human and material assistance given them by the General Board of Global Ministries directly and through the wonderful work rendered by the Africa Church Growth and Development program. Now that peace has come to the country, the church has dedicated itself to the long task of rebuilding property and lives.

Chicuque Hospital is a joint project of The United Methodist Church and the Mozambican government. The United Methodist Church provides professional personnel through the General Board of Global Ministries, short term volunteers in mission through the VIM program, funds for running the hospital through Advance Specials, physical items such as medical equipment and supplies through overseas donations, and prayer support which undergirds the ministry of the hospital.

The government of Mozambique provides salary for Mozambican nationals (professional and non-professional staff), operating budget items such as food and fuel (good for approximately 5 months of the year), and distribution of international aid items such as medicines, medical equipment, and supplies according to the national plan for dispersement.

Attached to Chicuque Rural Hospital is a nurses' training school, and a Bible school operates on the same campus. A modern missionary house was built there in time for the centenary celebrations.

In its prime before conflict, the Cambine Mission Center was the showpiece of United Methodism in Mozambique, consisting of a boarding school, a Bible school, a dispensary, a carpentry shop, an electricity generator, and several staff houses. Unfortunately, RENAMO soldiers burned many of the buildings and destroyed the power station. The center now consists of a modest clinic and woodworking shop. Plans are under way for the rehabilitation of Cambine.

United Methodist Women in Mozambique have already converted a leprosy camp into the War Orphans Center at Teles. The children there are cared for, housed, and educated. Some children separated from their families by war have been reunited with relatives, and it is hoped that mothers who lost children will bond with and adopt the remaining orphans so that new families can be formed. A farming project, under the supervision of the well-managed CEMUDRI branch at Maxixe, helps provide vegetables and other food for the center. Another Children of the War Project has also been started at Songo in the Northwest Province of Tete.

The bookstore at Maxixe, managed by the laity, supplies valuable Christian literature in Xitswa, the predominant language of the Methodist community. The bookstore also sells books and stationery supplies for surrounding schools.

About 10 miles from Maputo, the nation's capital, is a small-scale agricultural and vocational training project called CEMUDRI, a "Butchershop in the Backyard" which experiments with better ways of raising cattle, pigs, chickens, and goats and with carrying out sustainable vegetable gardening. This is meant to improve the people's nutritional level.

Union Theological Seminary at Ricatla is the major ecumenical college in Maputo where ministers of many denominations are trained.

Especially worth mentioning is the magnificent new United Methodist Church built in Maputo, the nation's capital. Officially commissioned in 1989, it is one of the largest and most impressive Protestant churches in Mozambique, signifying the continuing presence and participation of The United Methodist Church in the spiritual growth and development of the new nation.

Public Domain Map from the Perry-Castaņeda Library Map Collection


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