MARYKNOLL SISTERS’ STATEMENT ON PRESIDENT BUSH’S VISIT TO AFRICA

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Washington, DC– The Maryknoll Sisters Congregational Leadership Team issued today the following statement:

“During their visit to Africa, President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush will visit Emusoi Centre, a project of the Maryknoll Sisters in Arusha, Tanzania. Emusoi (or place of discovery and awareness in Maa, the Maasai language) is an ongoing educational project that prepares school-age girls from nomadic tribes for entrance into secondary and tertiary schools. We are certain that President and Mrs. Bush will be deeply impressed by the young women of Emusoi and will see the beauty and strength that we as Maryknoll have seen so often in African cultures.

In Africa, Maryknoll missioners also have seen the ravages of deep poverty, disease, violent conflict and environmental destruction. We have been supportive of the Bush administration’s focus on Africa, particularly through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and support for debt cancellation for many countries.

PEPFAR, though far from perfect, enabled effective programs, including some sponsored by Maryknoll, to focus effectively on prevention, care and treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS. And in Tanzania alone, debt relief led to a 50 percent increase in primary school enrollment. We hope these programs will be expanded and fully funded during this final year of the Bush administration.

However, we could not welcome President Bush to the Maryknoll Center in Arusha without also raising our deep concerns about some crucial dimensions of his legacy in Africa, including:

AFRICOM – We oppose the further militarization of U.S. Africa policy through the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). We urge rather an emphasis on sustainable human security: education, housing, hospitals, decent jobs and clean water.

Climate change – Africa is already feeling the impact of global warming. A compassionate U.S. policy in Africa would join immediately the global community’s effort to address this universal threat.

Poverty – Increased commerce, predominantly in extractive industries, between the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa, has benefited huge oil companies, but not the majority of African people, even in resource-rich countries. The control of ‘big oil’ over U.S. foreign policy is perpetuating poverty and environmental damage. Genuine concern about African poverty will focus on creating a just and sustainable global economy that enables local communities to thrive.

Children – The attention of the President to the young women and girls at Emusoi is most welcome, but he could accomplish much more for all the children of Africa by supporting U.S. ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, an important convention which only the United States and Somalia have failed to approve.

We are pleased with this opportunity to emulate our African friends in providing gracious hospitality for President and Mrs. Bush. We hope that this experience will open their hearts to cry for justice from Africa.”

Founded in 1912, the Maryknoll Sisters were the first group of Catholic Sisters in the United States to devote their lives in service overseas. Maryknoll Sisters come from 29 countries and serve in 31 lands around the world, and work in ministries such as basic Christian communities, adult education, leadership training, teaching English in China, fostering income-generating projects, and working with people who live with HIV/AIDS.

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