This year’s member meeting took place on April 18, 2010, as part of the 2010 conference “Justice In Africa: On Whose Terms?”
The time together for the annual member meeting was planned to reflect our very name: Africa Faith and Justice Network. Prayer was weaved through the two hour period to make our work a faith statement. The Justice component was fleshed out through the help of Sr. Marge Clark of Network who lead the group towards a better understanding of why we advocate for justice, how we do so as citizens and what outcomes for the poor and vulnerable are met. We had hoped to actually hand write letters to Congressmen and Senators on the asks for our conference, but there was little time.
We ended our meeting with the Networking piece, the very practical review of the network through the aid of the office report. We posed questions from what was reported in order to encourage some dialogue and interaction among the members. With regards to four focus areas that AFJN has been working on (Restorative Justice, Resisting AFRICOM, Peace in DRC and The African Synod), we asked: Does AFJN membership have other areas that they would want the staff to focus on? Some suggestions that arose from the discussion were: Development related to the MDG and who the actors are; a concern about African leadership; HIV/AIDS and PEPFAR; Muslim fundamentalism; and concern for the victims of the economic crisis. A second question was related to the networking of the network: Are there better ways for AFJN to link with the various JPIC offices of institutional members? A lot has changed over the years and issues that particular JPIC offices are following could be maximized through better connection with the DC AFJN office. There was a request to find a way for AFJN to help these office better know one another, even with a simple list serve. Regarding outreach, AFJN needs to reach out beyond the present membership in order to sustain itself. Initiatives have been made to universities, African Diaspora as well as parishes, and material has been generated for these outreaches, but better use of them has to happen. We have had limited success with this and we would welcome any ideas. At the meeting we also requested more feedback on the possibility of having the newsletter Around Africa sent out digitally.
The last concern that arose from the report and called for some feedback is the precarious financial position that AFJN is in at the moment. Membership dues provide only half of the finances needed to operate AFJN. Grants and donations make up the other half, and requests for funds from foundations have become more challenging. There is a very real possibility that we will not be able to continue our work if other funds are not forthcoming. We ask membership and friends to recommend ways for us to meet this financial challenge. All ideas are welcome.
Rocco Puopolo, s.x., Executive Director