afrol News, 1 September - Zimbabwean theologian Ishmael Noko has been elected to serve a second seven-year term as General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). 60-year-old Mr Noko is the first African to lead the Lutheran church community, which represents 62 million Lutherans worldwide.
The 49-member Council of the LWF elected the Zimbabwean theologian in a closed session at Chavannes-de-Bogis near Geneva, where the LWF governing body is meeting. Mr Noko was first appointed as General Secretary in June 1994 and assumed office on 1 November the same year, becoming the first African to hold this position in the LWF.
Born in 1943 in what was then Rhodesia, Mr Noko received his primary and high school education locally. He pursued his theological studies at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, and at the University of Zululand. After his ordination in 1972, he studied in Canada and lectured at the University of Botswana.
As General Secretary, Mr Noko is the Chief Executive Officer of the entire organisation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with a staff of 70 persons from 20 different nations. There are also over 60 expatriate staff persons from 24 nations working alongside some 5,800 national staff in LWF field programmes.
In addition to administrative responsibilities, he is the LWF's chief ecumenical officer, relating to Christian world communions and communities of other religious traditions. He led the process that resulted in the October 1999 signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church.
Mr Noko is also responsible for international affairs in contact with governments and political leaders. In recent years, he has had audiences with numerous heads of state and government.
The worldwide Lutheran church is one of Christianity's leading communities. Originating in 16th century Germany, the Lutheran church is dominant in northern Europe. Mission has spread the Lutheran doctrine to North America, Asia and Africa.
The LWF under Mr Noko's leadership is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF now has 136 member churches in 76 countries, representing 62.3 million of the estimated 66 million Lutherans worldwide.
In Africa, the LWF has 29 member churches, totalling 12.98 million members. This makes Africa the second largest Lutheran region after Scandinavia, which counts on more than 20 million Lutherans. In Zimbabwe, however, Lutherans are a relatively small group and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe has about 110,000 members.
Before Mr Noko's appointment, the LWF had mostly been led by Europeans. Mr Noko was reported to have "expressed deep appreciation to the Council on his re-election." With regard to his term, the 60-year-old expressed the hope that he would attend the next LWF Assembly scheduled between 2009 and 2010 "as a guest."
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.