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Nigerian Archbishop Says Synod Includes 'Self-examination'
Cindy Wooden
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Tuesday, October 20, 2009
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VATICAN CITY (CNS)—In their wide-ranging discussion of political, social, economic and environmental issues, members of the Synod of Bishops for Africa kept asking themselves, "What can we do?" a Nigerian archbishop said.

Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja told reporters Oct. 16 that the question led participants to do "a lot of self-examination" about the life of the church, its outreach to political leaders and other faith communities, and how to find more effective ways to end the injustices afflicting the continent.

In particular, questions about environmental destruction and economic exploitation by multinational companies extracting Africa's natural resources were repeatedly raised at the synod, he said.

"There are certain things which should just not be done," the archbishop said.

The African bishops still are concerned that foreign companies are not paying a fair price for what they remove from the continent and they also object to the fact that the companies feel free to ignore the environmental safeguards they follow on other continents when they are mining or drilling in Africa.

"Some of these multinationals operate with double standards," he said. "I can't see BP, Shell or Mobil doing what they are doing in the Niger Delta in the North Sea or in Texas."

"Things they do not tolerate at home they do quite freely in Africa," the archbishop said.

At the same time, he said, synod members have focused on the responsibility African leaders have for allowing companies in, signing contracts with them, and not insisting on a fair price and respect for the environment.

Several bishops asked the synod to adopt a resolution calling for an international code of conduct for the multinationals and for a commission that would monitor compliance both by the companies and the governments giving them access to African resources.
Archbishop Onaiyekan said the bishops also are aware of their responsibility to educate Catholics—especially Catholic politicians—about Catholic social teaching and moral accountability not only when it comes to the exploitation of Africa's resources, but also in addressing ongoing ethnic tensions, poverty, corruption and other problems.

"We realize that no matter how beautifully you craft your messages and your sermons and homilies, at the end of the day there are the politicians—those who have power— who must do things to bring about justice, peace and reconciliation," he said.

The bishops must begin a dialogue with their own government leaders, "starting with those who are supposed to be Catholic and who you should expect to listen to your guidance," the archbishop said.

And, he said, the church must recognize the importance of working with Muslim leaders and leaders of other Christian churches to solve those same problems.

In dialogue, too often the sides ending up looking "only at where you are different and where you are quarreling," he said. "But when we start talking of conflicts, wars, poverty, reconciliation, disease, bad governance, corruption, we suddenly discover that these are things that are hitting everybody."

"Religions ought to be one of the positive instruments for overcoming these problems," the archbishop said.

In Nigeria, where Christian-Muslim tensions once were common, he said Catholic and Muslim leaders have worked together to condemn violence in the name of religion, to promote free elections, to end discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS and to strengthen a U.N. program to combat malaria.

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