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Africa's Catholics Hope Bishops Promote Good Governance
Mwansu Pintu
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Sunday, November 22, 2009
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LUSAKA, Zambia (CNS)—Just weeks after the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops for Africa in Rome, Catholics across the continent said they hope their church leaders will do more to promote good governance and to fight corruption, HIV and AIDS, poverty and injustice.

"After the synod, their task is clear. They have to make the church relevant and credible: relevant in touching the real lives of people, credible through practicing what they preach. That's their challenge," said Ife Ngwowudu, 40, a parishioner at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Lagos, Nigeria.

He said church leaders should focus on promoting reconciliation on a continent where violence and conflict are the order of the day.

"The majority of Africans are poor and victims of diseases such as HIV and AIDS due to poverty. In this area, the church can play a critical role by advocating more for economic justice," Ngwowudu said.

The three-week Synod of Bishops for Africa ended in Rome Oct. 25, but in telephone interviews from around Africa, Catholics expressed their hopes for the church's next steps.

The 57 propositions that synod members submitted to Pope Benedict XVI for his use in drafting a document on Africa's pastoral directions included calls for a new spirituality to counter bad government, ethnic tensions, disease, exploitation by multinational companies and the cultural agenda of foreign aid organizations.

Mercy Chifundo, 36, a congregant at St. John Parish in Mzimba, Malawi, said she is more concerned about the need for African bishops to ensure that governments provide their citizens with good and efficient social services.

"While I acknowledge that there is some degree of success in some countries through governments' intervention, I am still personally troubled to see what is happening in most key sectors like health, education, agriculture and governance in most African states," she told Catholic News Service.

"In my country, for instance, these areas are in chaos due to (a) serious funding crisis resulting in the unnecessary deaths of our people. I feel that only the serious intervention of the church to dialogue with governments can bring new hope to people," said Chifundo, who works for the Malawi branch of the Catholic Church's international charitable agency Caritas.

She said she was glad that, at the synod, the bishops rededicated themselves to doing more to improve the spiritual, social and economic situation on the continent.

Joseph Kalusa, a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Child Jesus in Lusaka, Zambia, said he is counting on the bishops to fight the greed and injustices being perpetrated against the weak and the voiceless in Africa.

Kalusa said the serious state of injustices, corruption, poverty and underdevelopment in Africa call for tough church leaders who can stand up and speak out against the corrupt governments.

"We have always known the Catholic bishops to be fearless advocates for us, the poor, and after the synod our hopes are that they will even do more to protect our rights and improve our lives," said Kalusa, 47.

He said that rather than relying on periodic pastoral letters and statements, the bishops should confront government officials to encourage dialogue on issues.

His sentiments were echoed by Christopher Chitabwa, 34, a parishioner at St. John Maria Vianney Parish in Samfya, Zambia.

Chitabwa said synod members identified various issues that have led to Africa's underdevelopment.

"That simply means our bishops exactly know the causes of our current state of affairs in Africa, and we expect them now to go flat out to help tackle these issues. They may not be government, of course, but they can so much help improve the situation," Chitabwa said.

Zubeir Naranjo, a student at Comboni College in Khartoum, Sudan, said the church should make an effort to protect the environment. Naranjo, 26, said church officials have not always respected the truth regarding the disastrous ecological situation facing Africa, and he said the church must promote respect for the environment.

Some Catholics across the continent also are pushing for an end to civil wars and arms trafficking in Africa through the active involvement of the church.

John Phillips, a parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima Cathedral in Makeni, Sierra Leone, said African history has been littered by civil wars, coups and other forms of political violence. He said this unstable environment has made life miserable, particularly for the millions of innocent civilians living in West Africa.

Brenda Nq'obile, a member of the justice and peace commission at St. Philip Benezi Parish in Meyerton, South Africa, expressed concern about African politics, often referred to as a "dirty game" because of the manner in which it has been practiced over the years. She said the church must find a way to minister to politicians.

"That way," Ng'obile said, "Africa will be a much better place to live, in that it shall have Christian public officers with (the) interest of the people's welfare at heart."

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