By AFJN Executive Director Aniedi Okure, OP
On February 16, 2013 the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) issued a pastoral letter titled “Governance, Common Good, and Democratic Transitions in Africa” calling on the Church to be fully involved in an “in-depth transformation of our society.”
The letter builds on Benedict XVI’s “Africae Munus” (2011) which stressed that “the Church cannot remain indifferent and isolated in the face of Africa’s socio-political and economic challenges” noting also that “the common good, the respect for human rights, and the promotion of good governance are essential elements of the Gospel message” and a requirement for individuals and groups to realize their full potential in society.
Referring to the role that the Church played in National Transitional Conferences in Africa in the 1990s, the Bishops point out that the Church as an agent of reconciliation, justice and peace “has been at the heart of all efforts toward good governance” helping to ensure “peaceful democratic transitional processes with a lot of success.”
The Bishops note that the demands for justice call for “practical, down-to-earth actions, which take place to ensure that the weak are protected from abuse, that the poor have what they need, and that the socially disadvantaged are cared for,” the bishops wrote. “It means giving to everyone what God has intended for them regardless of any distinction.”
They observe that the development of African countries “is strongly mortgaged by corruption,” a cancer that has affected all the vital sectors of society. They appealed to Africa’s political elite to promote good governance and make “poverty eradication a priority by using proceeds from the continent’s natural resources for the benefit of all its citizens.”
They observed that, aided by corruption and “personal interest and the frantic quest for gains” which “have become stronger than the sense of the common good, “Africa remains a prey of foreign multinational companies (which) continue to plunder the continent of its resources; in some cases they even evade the tax system both in African countries and in their own countries of origin by putting away the revenues of their activities in fiscal havens, thus depriving local communities of resources they are entitled to.”
Interestingly, the Bishops note that “Perhaps time has now come for Africa to strive to invent models of government that really respond to our needs and fit our contexts, inspired by the wisdom of African traditional governance systems and structures.” Read the full document here.