Help people to have more abundant lives, Mbeki urges church

Unacceptably high levels of poverty and inequality are a serious threat to society's values and ethos, President Thabo Mbeki has warned.

Mbeki told delegates at the 20th Pentecostal World Conference in Johannesburg last night that the church, as a custodian of the nation's morality, should strive to improve the lives of the people.

Mbeki said he hoped the people of South Africa would continue "to count on the church ... to use its capacity and infrastructure positively to impact on the process of transformation and change".

The conference was attended by delegates from more than 80 countries.

Mbeki reminded delegates that they were meeting on a continent that continued to experience violence.

"It is, however, also a continent that is striving hard to heal the wounds and correct the mistakes of the past, that deeply understands the important message of this conference and Pentecostal movement," he said.

He called on the movement to help bridge the poverty gap between nations throughout the world.

"The many and varied challenges facing all of humanity in the age of globalisation also have a bearing on the Pentecostal movement.

"Because this movement attracts especially the poor of the world, it is possible to unite and collaborate with many others everywhere who are working for a better and more human global community.

"You have come to us as bearers of an important message of hope, especially for the poor and downtrodden."

Mbeki, who was accompanied by his director-general, Reverend Frank Chikane, was blessed with a prayer by Thomas Trask, chairperson of the Pentecostal World Fellowship Advisory Committee.