Opening Remarks by ANIEDI OKURE, Executive Director, Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN), Washington DC
Thank you all for being here. We know that you are here because you care about our mother earth. You are here because you care about the welfare of our sisters and brothers who suffer. You are here because you are committed to be the voice of those whose voice are suppressed.
In the next three days, we will learn from one another as we share insights and experiences. We will learn as we share insights from scriptures. We will deepen our knowledge as we share cultural perspective of what the land means to us as a gift from the creator. We will share insights as we here real stories of human struggles and sufferings brought about by land grabbing.
This gathering has been brought about by a series of events and a process that can only been attributed to Divine Providence.
Three years ago, as the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN – Washington DC) prepared to celebrate its 30th anniversary, and its sister organization, the Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN – Brussels) was gearing up for its 25th anniversary, we decided to take a look at the history of the organization. A SANKOFA process. As we did that we discovered many accomplishments. However, one thing became clear, namely, that some of the issues we deal with in Washington and in Brussels have their roots in Africa and were attributed to poor governance, or lack thereof. So a discussion started as to how we can tackle the issue of governance.
We approached SECAM to initiate the discussion only to find out three months later that SECAM was preparing a document to that effect that resulted in a masterpiece publication – Governance, the Common Good and Democratic Transitions in Africa, a must read for all of us.
In the document the bishops tackle the issue of governance, the lack of space for civil society engagements, the distance between the government and the people and corruption which the Bishops describe as a cancer that stand in the way of Africa’s development.
After the decision was taken to hold the conference in Kenya from November 22-26, 2015, we learned that the Holy Father, Pope Francis was coming to town at the same time. This could only be attributed to Divine Providence. As you are aware Pope Francis published an Encyclical Laudato Si – on the care of the earth our common home. So to be talking about the issue raised in Laudato Si, when the author is in town is God’s work.
Today we gather to tackle an aspect of corruption and poor governance – land grabbing and the dislocations of people from their homes, their lands and their sources of livelihood. There are tens of thousands of internally displaced persons around the world, not because of war, or natural disasters but because of land grabbing
You are here because you want to do something. Together we will reflect and come up with practical steps to tackle this menace. Do not think the problem is too big for us, that we about 150 persons and can do very little. I remind you of an African proverb: if you think one is too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with one mosquito in it. I bet some of you have already experience the might of one tiny mosquito.
Together we will come up with ways to help our sisters and brothers regain their rights and dignity. We are a formidable coalition here. We can do what seem impossible. Remember an African proverb: When spider web unite, they can tie up a lion.” Together we will bundle up this menace.
Thank you for being here.
God bless you.