As Africa emerged from colonialism, indigenous people had to take charge and lead. There was no room to fail, no more excuses to blame the colonialists, who were all leaving Africa. Africans were in charge now. The world was watching. Church institutions were no exception. It was time for the indigenous leaders to take the helm and continue the Lord’s work.
Bishop Kibira was one of those early leaders who inherited a young growing Lutheran Church in 1964. Bishop Kibira took over from a very strong and experienced missionary, Bishop Bengt Sundkler, from Sweden. Kibira was to lead the church and convince his people that with his leadership and God’s grace, they (Tanzanians in Bukoba) could build a self sustaining church.
This documentary remembers him because not only did he succeed in leading an exemplary diocese to be reckoned within Tanzania, but his accomplishments transcended his own country, his continent, and the Lutheran body in the world. In 1977, he was elected the first ever African (Black) president of the Lutheran World Federation.
Bishop Kibira did not do it alone. There were many people who contributed to the Lutheran church in Bukoba, in Tanzania, and the whole continent of Africa. There were many challenges along the way ranging from the Cold War, the changing policies within the government, tribal strife within the diocese, war with Idi Amin, Apartheid in South Africa, and of course, challenges of being in a developing country.
Bishop Kibira inspired many people in and out of his diocese. He inspired a small boy and paved his way to go to a seminary, and he is now a bishop in a neighboring diocese. He inspired an American seminary student to become a pastor after spending seven months with him as his secretary in Bukoba.
Above all was his compassion for those with the least amongst us. One of the institutions he found in his home diocese was a home for the disabled. This was an extraordinary step in a society where even those who are not disabled have little to live on.
He set high standards and demanded them of the people he worked with. This was very crucial in a church where most of the business was conducted in almost an “honor mode”.
He insisted on being just and transparent. He stressed on not abusing church property. Upon his retirement, he refused to take a car given to him by the church on the principle that it belonged to the church and so it should be used by the next person.
When he came on the international stage, he never forgot who he was or where he came from. He reminded the churches in the north about the challenges of the churches in the South, reminding them that, in the final analysis, Jesus is the savior of the whole world and that in the eyes of God; we were all sinners who depended on his redemption.