by Jack O'Sullivan A HISTORIC meeting of all the Bishops' conferences of Southern Africa that could change the direction of the Church in the region began this week in Harare, Zimbabwe. More than 70 archbishops, bishops and representatives of the Church from nine different countries gathered for the first time on Wednesday to discuss the Church's response to the escalating problems of the region. Among those present is Archbishop Denis Hurley of Durban, who recently slammed those participating in the elections currently being held for
the separate Coloured and Indian Houses of South Africa's new tri-cameral Parliament.
He condemned them on the grounds that blacks will still be excluded from government by the new constitution, which, he said will perpetuate apartheid. Planned for two years, the Inter-regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) has come together for the first time since its creation in 1975. It is confronted with the disastrous three-year regional drought and the accompanying problems of famine and refugees. Equally pressing is South Africa's aggressive stance towards the front-line states, breaches of human rights in Matabeleland, Namibia's drawn-out struggle for independence and continuing guerrilla warfare in Angola and Mozambique. Observers feel that the repercussions of the conference for Southern Africa may be as momentous as those of the 1968 Medellin conference in Columbia, which galvanised the Church in defence of the poor in Latin America. The meeting, previously postponed in the hope that the Pope would be able to attend, ends next week, when a statement is expected from, the Bishop's outlining the conclusions of the conference.