THE CHURCH IN AFRICA AND HER RESPONSE TO NEW DEVELOPMENT AGENDAS

SECAM POSITION PAPER

1.0 Introduction

The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), which brings together the Bishops of the Church in Africa, has taken note of sustainable development goals and Africa Union (AU) Agenda 2063 to take place in Africa. The programme is designed in such a way that it enhances inclusive development and thereon poverty reduction from the African soil. This has attracted our attention and we are witnesses that there are countries which have achieved significant growth in their economy over the past few years. But, there are still countries with a lot more needs to be done to enhance equitable growth as well as the processes that govern them so as to promote peace and stability, and thereon development in the Continent.

For many decades, “the development of people has the Church’s close attention”[1] in African soil and beyond. The Church sees the misery of those who cannot make the ends meet in their lives and gives due attention through her development initiatives in reaching out to those who are, in one way or another, neglected and marginalized to contribute towards a desired freedom from the bondage that they are in. Freedom from misery, the greater assurance of finding subsistence, health and fixed employment is the day to day strive of the people specially youth and women.

2.0 An overview of the Church’s role in the society

In her endeavour, the Church in Africa continues to play the role of being the voice to the voiceless, marginalized and downtrodden; those who are poor not because they are meant to be poor, but “an economic system which has removed the human person from the centre and has replaced him with the god of money”[2] has made them. Thus, to the view and understanding of the Church, development cannot be limited to mere economic growth, but it must be complemented and integral, in that it has to provide the good of every man and woman[3]. We believe and it is our conviction that for every initiative of development, the centre is man endowed with intelligence and freedom; he is responsible for his own fulfillment. However, self-fulfillment is not soothing optional, but it is necessity that everyone on the board of development agenda of the peoples must contribute to its fulfillment[4].

It is God’s will that we human beings “fill the earth and subdue it”[5]. So, we have duty and responsibility for equal share of resources of this earth. Due to human irresponsibility, we witness the inequalities, when it comes to the common goods of this earth. By the common good we mean that “the totality of social condition that contribute and foster in human beings the integral development of the person and the whole person”[6]. In order to ascertain the integral development of the human person, we feel that the African Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals jointly pave the path to economic freedom and ascertain all the hindrances from the path to development. Both agendas count the person as the centre for his own development. These inclusive agendas have given us, the African Bishop Pastors, hope that the joint effort of local and international communities would make poverty history in short period. Both development agendas have set common vision that without inclusive approach to development and participation of all stakeholders, specially men, women and young, the plans of implementation may be stifled. To this end, it is our appreciation that the leaders of the nations have confidence in the people that they lead through to the destination of prosperous world, more specifically Africa, free of poverty, malnutrition, disease, conflict, political instability, bad governance and corruption.

3.0 The dream comes true

The ideals of the founding fathers of Africa are still being felt from the horizon. Thus, it is our desire that the vision of African agenda 2063 is fulfilled in their honour and the honor of Africa they brought into the light in view of the Africa they wanted to see. For all that effort we salute them! It is in this regard that the international communities’ confidence over Africa is growing from time to time as one of the growing economy. The steps that the African leaders have taken with their people in fulfillment of MDG has given the UN to take up yet another step forward to sustain the progresses that are witnessed in many African nations. Many of the African nations have registered satisfactory achievement in the areas of education for all, gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality and ensuring maternal health and fight against the pandemic of HIV and AIDS.

4.0 Sustainable development for sustainable future

What has been achieved need to be sustained and take the African nations forward to prosperity, with assurance of equitable share of resources. It is in this line that the leaders of Africa have envisioned the continent free of lack of good governance where democracy takes root, human rights are respected, justice and rule of law are ascertained by putting in place law enforcement machineries and institutions. These all aspirations should not be illusions, but strong cultural identity of Africans. It is only when a peaceful and secured Africa in the future to come, emerges with confidence and walks hand in hand with its brothers and sisters from other continents with a motto: “we are no longer slaves, but brothers and sisters” because the reality in our eyes shows that our children’s children will benefit from these efforts put forward by the African leaders.

5.0 A call for solidarity

SECAM upholds the African vision of the founding fathers, ascertain with confidence that we put our effort towards the fulfillment of Sustainable Development Goals and the African Agenda 2063. Our effort is directed more than ever towards expanding, in our capacity and competence, inclusive educational and health facilities, development initiatives bearing in mind that “development demands bold transformations, innovations that go deep”[7] in the hearts of those who await to harvest the fruits of joint endevour. Thus, we assure you that we shall walk side by side to ascertain the sustainable development and African 2063 agendas set before us, because we believe that ‘individual initiative alone and the mere free play for competition never assure sustainable development’[8].

Therefore, we want to call on all stakeholders to solidarity to achieve the intent of the vision. We call upon once again all who have participated in drawing these sustainable development agendas for the world and for Africa to stick to the integrity of the vision in order to avoid “the risk of increasing still more wealth of the rich and the dominion of the strong, whilst leaving the poor in their misery and adding to the servitude of the oppressed”[9]. Otherwise the indication is that economic marginalization will continue through its current trajectory and we will not see any improvement in poverty levels. Uneven resources distribution and exploitation of resources will remain as facts of the day. Therefore, we call upon the African leaders to do the same in order to achieve Agenda 2063 as it is aspired for the good of the nation. On our behalf, we  want to assure you, as religious leaders who stand for development whose success brings about human and national peace, resolving conflicts which often arise at different levels and areas due to unequal and exclusive interventions.

6.0 Appeal for ending conflicts in view of advancing sustainable development

At this juncture, we are obliged to think that current conflicts and intolerances have put Africa in precarious situations. The war with Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighboring countries, inter ethnic conflict in South Sudan, the nation which has just emerged from protracted war of self-determination has taken again arms failing to settle their own differences in peaceful manner, the protracted war in CAR, Alshabab which unleashes cruelty over innocent civilians, the war in Darfur and protracted instability in Democratic Republic of Congo, influx of our young people to Middle East and Europe as undocumented migrants looking for green pasture, but raises concern of us all.

Therefore, we call upon our leaders to look into these issues which mar all the effort made with soot. We urge the leaders to find immediate solution for the sake of human and national security. We call upon to the end of corruption which steals from the mouth of the poor. We call farther upon solidarity of nations where in many parts of Africa, ethnic division has taken root; otherwise we cannot ascertain, in this regard, the Africa which we all dream of for 2063. To maintain momentum, national, regional and international actors must stay engaged and listen to communities’ experiences at this critical moment, ensuring long-term political commitment to security in those areas where the conflicts and lack of good governance strife as a whole and the concerns of Nigeria, Central Africa Republic, Republic of South Sudan, the Sudan and Somalia in particular. We all of us are witnesses that there is no nation which emerges prosperous from protracted inter/intra conflicts. Lessons learnt from the past must be reflected in the decisions made to engage closely with these countries, and thorough, deep-rooted reform of national institutions, particularly the security sector, must be implemented in order to advance human and national security in all the nations in general and in those specific countries in particular.

It is our concern also that many African countries are going for national elections at the dawn of the declaration of sustainable development goals and African Agenda 2063. Peaceful elections are one means and civilized way of installing and strengthening democratic transition of power. Often a time we witness that such transitions are stifled because of many interests. We are convinced that such a move hinders the visions that we set for ourselves. Therefore, we call upon all the countries which are due for national elections to take responsibility and commit themselves to set up reliable institutions to oversight the election process by opening up political space. The African Union has an opportunity to learn from the election processes of the past that have not worked for decades because of different interests. Thus, it is our ardent call that attention should be given to the forthcoming election process such that all political powers are assumed through ballot box to ensure lasting peace and stability to achieve the development goals and agendas that are set before us.

7.0 Conclusion

We witness that people who continuously experience hunger, malnutrition, disease of all kinds, illiteracy, displacement, migration, exclusion from resource sharing and ownership, seeking for humanitarian assistance all the time are tired of their being part of the whole society and even to the extent of being part of human society. Majority are experiencing in our eyes “conflict fatigue” and “humanitarian agencies assistance”. Many are weary of absence or inadequate social service due to lack of good governance in their respective countries. The lists of miseries are enormous to enumerate. However, we believe that the Lord of hope is always with us. The year 2015 has started with achievable hopes. Our hope for the future is bright with ever inclusive sustainable development agendas at our hands. Let’s therefore, put all our efforts together to materialize the hope that is jealously awaited by our people become true. Let’s bring the dream of our forefathers true by handing over to the next generation Africa free of hunger, disease, illiteracy, conflict, but prosperous and free of all miseries that begot our people for generations.

May God bless Africa and its people!

 

1 Pope Paul VI. Populorum Progressio, 1967. P.1.

2 Pope Francis. New forms of ideological colonization (sermon CANAA)

3 Pope Paul VI. Populorum Progressio, 1967, p. 4.

4 ibid

5 ibid, p. 6

6 Pope Benedict, Charity in Truth, 2013, p. 11.

7 Pope Paul VI. Populorum Progressio, 1967. P. 9.

8 Ibid,

9 Ibid, p.9

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