Africa Synod Propositions 21-30
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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here are Nos. 21-30 of the 57 propositions that were published unofficially Saturday by the synod press office at the conclusion of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops on the theme The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace."
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Peace is primarily a gift of God and then the fruit of our efforts. That is why peace should begin in the hearts of people as a grace given (cf. Jn 14:1). "My peace I give to you," says Jesus (Jn 14:27). As peace is a universal good, depending on respect for everyone’s human rights and all creation, we should dedicate all of our energies to its service.
The Synod therefore proposes that:
-- an African Peace and Solidarity Initiative be established to intervene in an act of solidarity and assist the local Church in conflict resolution and peace-building throughout the continent with its wise counsel on justice, peace and reconciliation. This initiative will draw on those within our Church who have experience, integrity and the respect of others. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace would be asked to liaise with SECAM to promote this initiative;
-- Diocesan, National and Regional Peace-Building Councils be set up within the Justice and Peace Commission, with a counterpart on the continental level, established to liaise with the "African Peace and Solidarity Initiative" at SECAM;
-- these Peace-Building Councils should be well resourced with personnel and material to train the clergy and laity in the practice of peace-building, dialogue and mediation;
-- Justice and Peace Commissions, at the national and regional level, set up a monitoring desk for the prevention and resolution of conflicts;
-- small groups and programmes of formation be developed which are suitable for each level (primary, secondary, college and university) to impart a real culture of peace;
-- seminary formators follow a course which would include peace studies and conflict resolution;
-- a permanent organization for inter-ethnic dialogue be established for the sake of a lasting peace;
-- prayer for peace and elections.
D) Argumenta adnexa
Environmental Protection and Reconciliation with Creation
Our Christian faith teaches that God the Creator made all things good (cf. Gn 1); and gave the earth to us humans to cultivate and take care of as stewards (cf. Gn 2:15). We observe that many human beings, at all levels, have continued to abuse nature and destroy God’s beautiful world by exploitation of natural resources beyond what is sustainable and useful. There is an irresponsible degradation and senseless destruction of the earth, which is "our mother".
In complicity with those who exercise political and economic leadership in Africa, some businesses, governments and multinational and transnational companies engage in business that pollute the environment, destroy flora and fauna, thus causing unprecedented erosion and desertification of large areas of arable land. All of these threaten the survival of mankind and the entire eco-system. This has raised among scientists and stakeholders the awareness of the deleterious effects of climate change, global warming, natural calamities (like earthquakes, sea-quakes and their consequences like tsunami).
To make the earth habitable beyond the present generation and to guarantee sustainable and responsible care of the earth, we call upon the particular Churches to:
-- promote environmental education and awareness;
-- persuade their local and national governments to adopt policies and binding legal regulations for the protection of the environment and promote alternative and renewable sources of energy; and
-- encourage all to plant trees and treat nature and its resources, respecting the common good and the integrity of nature, with transparency and respect for human dignity.
Because of the prevalence of armaments and land mines on the Continent and its Islands, the Church in Africa, gathered in Synod, associates itself with the Holy See and gladly welcomes UN initiatives, African Union and regional intergovernmental organizations like ECOWAS - Small-Arms Embargo, to stop illegal arms-trafficking and to make transparent all legal trading in arms. The Synod recommends that the Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace" update its document on the arms’ trade.
The Synod Fathers encourage national governments to support the on-going study and preparation of an Arms’ Trade Treaty (ATT) within the UN, with binding universal standards for the global commerce of conventional weapons, which would respect human rights and humanitarian international law.
The Synod Fathers, making their own the call of the prophet Isaiah, for love of God and neighbour, "they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks" (Is 2:4), propose that the design and production of all kinds of arms be drastically reduced for the sake of education and agricultural development which respects the environment.
Moreover, the Synod Fathers absolutely condemn the production of nuclear arms, biological arms, anti-personnel and every sort of weapons of mass destruction. They demand that these be banned from the face of the earth.
The Episcopal Conferences in arms-producing countries are encouraged to advocate that their governments pass legislation restraining the production and distribution of arms to the detriment of African peoples and nations.
The common good should find legal expression in the Constitution and requires the exercise of good governance. Its practice also needs to respect the principles of democracy: equality among persons, the sovereignty of peoples and respect for the rule of law. Otherwise, democracy loses its vitality and dies.
The Synod Fathers therefore call on leaders conscientiously to exercise stewardship and to uphold the common good over the interests of family, clan, ethnic group or political party and to protect and promote the social, economic, political and religious rights of every citizen, as enshrined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights.
The Synod Fathers urge Episcopal Conferences at all levels to establish advocacy bodies to lobby members of parliament, governments and international institutions, so that the Church can contribute effectively to the formulation of just laws and policies for the people’s good.
To fully exercise her role and contribute to a culture of peace and human rights, the Church in Africa requests to be present in the national, regional and continental institutions in Africa (AU). The Synod urges Episcopal Conferences to support the NEPAD - Peer Review Mechanism within the African Union. The Synod also urges African countries to submit themselves for the Peer Review Mechanism.
The Synod Fathers welcome positive developments in the political and socio-economic sphere in those African countries which are governed according to their constitution and where human rights, justice and peace are upheld. The Synod Fathers value the increasing maturity of civil society which, in certain countries, is gradually taking shape and influencing decisions about the Nation’s future. They compliment and encourage those politicians who are clearly devoted to the service of their people.
However, the Synod also noted the sad fact that in many countries in Africa, there are rampant violations of human rights, injustices, corruption and impunity, which fuel coup d’etat, violent conflicts and wars. In these places, the principles of democracy are torn up at their very roots – equality among human beings, sovereignty of the people and universal respect for the rule of law.
In these cases, the democratic process is increasingly spiralling downwards, a situation which ultimately compromises the peace, development and stability of Nations. Anti-democratic systems, such as despotism, one-party rule and military governments are expanding and governing their States as if they were a prize of war. These countries find themselves in debt, ravaged and over-exploited.
In such circumstances, the Church’s mission is to promote a culture of respect for the rule of law and the rights of all. Therefore, the Synod Fathers call upon all Pastors to offer present and future leaders in political and economic life a fitting doctrinal, pastoral and practical formation as well as spiritual support (by setting up chaplaincies). They request Catholic universities to establish faculties of political science. Catholic Social Teaching is a valuable means which should be spread as much as possible.
We call upon all Episcopal Conferences to promote multidimensional programmes of civic education; implement programmes to foster the formation of a social conscience at all levels; and encourage competent and honest citizens to participate in party politics.
Citizens by their vote freely express their political choice. Thus, democratic elections represent the mark of legitimacy for the exercise of power in Africa. Failure to respect a national Constitution, the law or the results of free, fair and transparent elections, therefore, is unacceptable under any circumstances.
Accordingly, the Synod Fathers call upon the local Churches to educate the candidates at various times of voting to respect, the principles of fair elections (electoral transparency, respect for one’s political opponents, the Constitution, the ballot and the impartiality of the various observers as well as accepting legitimate defeat), and to contribute through Justice and Peace Commissions to monitoring elections, so that they be free, fair, transparent and secure for us. While encouraging all Christians to take part in political life, the Church in its prophetic mission will continue to speak out against electoral abuses and all forms of cheating in the conduct of elections.
Religious leaders are called upon to maintain impartiality and, in no case take a partisan position. They are to be a discerning, objective and realistic voice for the voiceless, without compromising their impartiality.
Religious liberty (which presupposes the possibility of professing one’s faith both privately and publically) and the freedom of each person’s search of God as Creator and Saviour are fundamental human rights.
Consequently, the Synod Fathers urge that all countries in Africa recognize and protect religious liberty and freedom of worship and that all forms of intolerance, persecution and religious fundamentalism might be eliminated. They also ask for the restitution of Churches, Church property and the property of other religious institutions, confiscated by some countries.
Migrants and Refugees
On the African continent there are about 15 million migrants who are looking for a homeland and a place of peace. The phenomenon of this exodus reveals the face of socio-political injustices and crises in some areas of Africa. Thousands have tried, and are still trying, to cross deserts and seas to reach "greener pastures", where they believe they will receive a better education, earn more money and, in some cases, enjoy greater freedom. Unfortunately, this phenomenon afflicts many countries of the continent.Even now, many of the refugees are languishing in prisons; hundreds have already died.
This precarious situation for so many foreigners ought to win the solidarity of everyone; instead it causes much fear and anxiety. Many consider immigrants a burden, view them with suspicion and indeed consider them a danger and a threat. This often gives rise to expressions of intolerance, xenophobia and racism.
Among some recent worrisome developments are: legislation which penalizes all clandestine entries into foreign countries and consulates and the border police discriminating against travellers from Africa in airports.
Indeed, migration within and outside the continent is a multi-dimensional drama, which affects all countries, causing destablization, the destruction of families and a waste of Africa’s human capital.
The Synod Fathers believe, first of all, that the principle of the universal destination of created goods and the Church’s teachings on human rights, freedom of movement and the rights of migrant workers are increasingly violated by the world’s restrictive migration policies and laws against Africans.
Therefore, the Synod is convinced that it is necessary and urgent to:
-- demand that the government apply international migratory law evenly and fairly without discriminating against African travellers;
-- provide special pastoral care for the vulnerable segments of Africa’s population in a joint-effort between the Churches-of-origin and host-Churches to extend pastoral care to migrants;
-- advocate for a just treatment of refugees in cooperation with the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, the International Catholic Migration Commission and Justice and Peace Commissions at all levels of the Church;
-- establish offices or "Commissions" for the Movement of People in the secretariats of Episcopal Conferences, charged with the task of working together and with Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples;
-- develop programmes of pastoral care for migrants and their families.
The Synod also calls on African Governments to create a climate of security and freedom, to implement programmes of development and job creation, to dissuade their citizens from leaving home and becoming refugees, and to undertake initiatives encouraging refugees to return with a programme to welcome them.
The earth is a precious gift of God to humanity. The Synod Fathers gave thanks to God for the abundant riches and natural resources of Africa.
But they also stated that the peoples of Africa, instead of enjoying them as a blessing and a source of real development, are victims of bad public-management by local authorities and exploitation by foreign powers.
A strict connection exists today between the exploitation of natural resources, the trafficking of arms and a contrived insecurity.
Some Multinational corporations exploit the natural resources of African countries oftentimes without concern for populations or respect for the environment, with the complicity of many privileged local people.
The Synod Fathers condemn the culture of consumerism which is wasteful, and advocate the culture of moderation. The Synod appeals to the international community to encourage the formulation of national and international legislation for the just distribution of revenue generated by natural resources for the benefit of local populations and to ensure their legal management to the advantage of countries possessing these resources, while barring, at the same time, illegal exploitation. The Synod also proposes to address the global economic system, which continues to marginalize Africa. We highly recommend to the Church Family of God in Africa to press our governments to adopt a suitable juridic framework which takes into account the interests of our countries and their populations.
We ask Church institutions which are active in these societies to press for allowing populations to enjoy the management of their natural resources.
For her part, the Church will seek to establish a desk in various countries of the continent to monitor the management of natural resources.
Land and Water
Since large stretches of fertile land and water resources are unscrupulously exploited by foreign and local investors in many African countries, causing the displacement and dispossession of poor persons and their communities, who are often powerless to oppose this "assault", this Synod urgently calls upon all governments to ensure that its citizens are protected from the unjust alienation of their land and access to water, which are essential goods of the human person.
The Synod Fathers urge that:
-- the Church in Africa seek information and learn about land and water issues in local churches in order to educate the People of God and enable them to challenge unjust decisions in these matters;
-- all negotiations on land deals be conducted in full transparency and with the participation of the local communities who may be affected;
-- land alienation deals should not be contracted out nor signed without the free, prior and informed consent of the local communities concerned, nor should people forfeit their land without proper compensation;
-- agricultural workers be guaranteed a fair wage in light of the fact that investments promote the creation of employment;
-- promote the professional formation of youth in farming and the raising of animals as a way to stem the uncontrolled flight from the village to the cities;
-- the models of agricultural production respect the environment and not contribute to climate change, soil depletion and the exhaustion of drinkable water reserves;
-- food production for export not endanger food security and sovereignty the needs of future generations;
-- traditional land rights be respected and recognized by the law; and
-- water not be exploited as a private economic commodity without due attention to people’s interests.