We have a three person full time staff at AFJN. Beth Tuckey who has been with us since June 2007 is the associate director for program development and policy. She also assists with outreach. Bahati Ntama Jacques began in September of 07. He is the policy analyst. He is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both began here as interns. And there is myself as Executive Director since September 2006.
During the Summer of 08 we were fortunate to have 2 interns assisting us, Allison Burket from Kenyon College, Ohio and Sara Shanley from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA. During the Fall of 09 we welcomed Gbenimah Slopadoe from Holy Cross, Worcester. This spring we have five: Fr. Emmanuel Adeboa from Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg VA, Jason Bongiovanni from Houghton College, NY, Meghan Mattern from Calvin College, MI, Katie Mattern from American University DC and Andrew Fallon, from American University and Wesley Seminary, DC. All have had Africa experience and bring that passion and interest to their work at AFJN.
Highlights from the Year:
The Board of AFJN has met three times since our last Annual Meeting: July 26 by conference call, September 19th/20 ; and January 31st . The main work has been the review of the operational plan, renew Board Committees, improve outreach to new communities/parishes for membership and attend to the financial situation of AFJN. At the January meeting, Fr. Chris Promis became the new Chair of the Board. Our main focus areas remain Restorative Justice, AFRICOM and issues related to the upcoming Africa Synod on Justice and Peace. Two related issues, Northern Uganda and particularly DR Congo are followed by the staff as well.
AFJN exhibited at Jubilee USA Conference in Columbus Ohio in June, Sojourners conference in Cleveland Ohio, The Convention for the Common Good in Philadelphia in July, the Annual Africa Diaspora Day in DC in July, LCWR/CMSM in Denver in August.
Collaboration with other Advocacy groups:
ADNA (The Advocacy Network for Africa which AFJN co-chairs) has been resurrected and there is interest by many partners. We are looking forward on working on the Foreign Assistance Reform Act when it comes up in Congress, hopefully by June. The Catholic Task Force for Africa is still meeting Monthly. Congo Global Action is now housed at Trinity and is continuing its work. AFJN is the fiscal sponsor.
AFJN assisted in Congo Week in October, which promoted worldwide advocacy for Congo. Beth and Bahati were present at Notre Dame for a Conference on Development with AFJN-ND in October. Rocco was part of a seminar on Peacekeeping in Africa at Catholic University Law School. Beth was part of a symposium on AFRICOM at Howard University, Bahati spoke at American University on Congo and AFRICOM. We still hope to have AFJN chapters in a number of Catholic campuses soon.
Since our last member meeting there was one Summit in December in Chicago. There is one coming up in two weeks in Cincinnati. We hope by the end of 09 to be part of two others: Baltimore and possibly Southern California.
Response to some of our campaign requests:
1. The Situation Paper on Congo and Rwanda – “Two Rebel Groups, One Solution” was completed and circulated to offices on the Hill and at State Department as well as all our contacts. It has been very well received.
Earlier email blasts on this issue resulted in 1,433 faxes sent to Congress on Congo-Rwanda Relations plus phone calls to President Bush on this issue.
2. Through our advocacy for Water for the Poor Act which was up for reauthorization in 08 the new law now includes 125 Million of 300 Million allocated for 20 SubSaharan African Countries This is a first, meaning 2 to 3 million dollars now available for each country.
3. In part due to AFJN’s advocacy and public outreach, the budget for AFRICOM in FY2008 was cut by about 1/3.
Presence at Public Events:
AFJN was present at various public events such as a vigil and protest at the Rwanda Embassy on Oct 31st , the “March for Congo” from State Department to Lafayette Park on January 17th – AFJN, Friends of the Congo and Congo Global Action organized this. Many Diaspora attended. AFJN was also a principal organizer of the Resist AFRICOM Protest on Capitol Hill in October.
Beth had several articles on AFRICOM appear in Pambazuka, FPIF, AllAfrica, etc. Rocco was interviewed and the article appeared in the Ghana National Catholic Paper in November. Rocco was interviewed on the radio both in Liberia and in Sierra Leone on Restorative Justice. Bahati was interviewed on Africa Now! on the DC public radio station on the Congo issue. The AFRICOM group put together a 8 minute video on AFRICOM that is now available on YouTube and was posted on the Huffington Post’s website.
Connections to Africa:
Trips by Staff: Rocco spent the month of November in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone for the Restorative Justice Project. Bahati and Beth visited Burundi and Uganda in late Janaury and early February. Bahati is still in the Congo, returning at the end of March.
Visitors: We have hosted here a number of African Bishops: Bishop Menghestreab of Eritrea, an AFJN member and Comboni Missionary visted in the office and shared the situation of Eritrea with us. AFJN hosted two Congolese Bishops and a Congolese Sister who are part of the Justice and Peace National Commission of Congo while they were in DC advocating for peace in Congo who were brought here through the offices of CRS. Archbishop John Baptist Odama was in DC recently and AFJN and the Catholic Task Force organized a gathering for him. He was the keynote speaker at the recent USCCB Social Ministry Days.
Outreach: We are trying to reach out to our Africa Contacts both of AFJN as well as various Justice and Peace Offices to welcome reflections in preparations for the upcoming Synod on Africa.
Grants received and requested:
$24,000 from the Adorers of the Blood of Christ for the Restorative Justice Project. $5,000.00 from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate for parish outreach for AFRICOM, $2,000 from the Marianist Community for the Restorative Justice Project, and $700 from an online appeal for funds to support the making of a video for AFRICOM.
We have made grant requests to the Jesuits, the Holy Cross Sisters, and the Holy Child Communities recently.
Tasks for the Future:
Funding: With the help of the Board and Membership, we need to redouble our efforts to secure necessary funds to guarantee that AFJN can do its work.
Increase Membership and Donations: At the moment we have 34 community memberships, including one parish. We have around 700 individual “members” on our data base, but not not all are up to date on dues. We have over 3,000 emails on our email blast list, and we often invite them to join us as paying members if they benefit from our services. We also need to find better ways to “engage” membership in a mutual way with our work.
We are looking to develop closer mutual links with Justice and Peace Offices of Member communities as well as those in Africa. Through the creation of a new Parish Outreach Strategy in January, we will seek improved Outreach to US Parishes, Dioceses and Schools that have links with Africa.
Rocco Puopolo, s.x.
March 14, 2009
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