The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) issue a joint statement proposing principles for a better intercontinental collaboration.
By Vatican News
European and African Bishops call for a people-centered, just and responsible partnership between the two continents ahead of the 6th summit of African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) leaders in October.
SECAM and COMECE issued a joint statement on Wednesday. The Bishops offered a number of policy recommendations aiming to reshape the collaboration between Africa and Europe. They are inspired by the principles of integral human development, human security, peace and integral ecology.
Their declaration entitled “Justice shall flourish and fullness of peace forever”, recall that the Catholic Church on both continents shares the concern for the many people in situations of vulnerability and weakness, affected by poverty, hunger and other social ills. In light of this, the Bishops encourage their respective leaders to orient their preparatory work for the summit on the principles of human dignity, responsibility and solidarity.
“At a time when the two continents as well as the entire world have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic,” noted the Bishops, we are “firmly convinced that Africa and Europe could become engines for a reinvigoration of multilateral cooperation.”
Partnership for integral human development
The Bishops highlight that the Catholic Church favors integral human development “of every person and of the whole person, especially of the poorest, the excluded and the most vulnerable in society.”
Therefore, they propose prioritizing access to healthcare, education, nutrition, clean water, sanitation and decent housing. They also advocate for a long-term strategy for the creation of dignified and stable employment for all and the return of misappropriated funds from Africa stashed in European Banks, among others.
Partnership for integral ecology
Citing Pope Francis’s Encyclical on Care of Our Common Home, Laudato si’, the Bishops remind us that “everything is inter-connected.”
They note that “Africa is rich is human and natural resources but several of its regions remain economically not developed.” This is due in part to the “predatory practices of foreign political and economic actors, taking control of and benefiting from Africa’s natural wealth while not empowering local economies and communities.”
“Land-grabbing and the exploitation of natural resources do not only exclude local communities from a fair share in the profit, but it also often leads to grave human rights violations and leaves behind irreparable environmental damage,” the Bishops point out.
They recommend, among other things, a transition from an “exploitative logic towards a virtuous economic dynamic.” They also propose the adoption of binding due diligence legislation for businesses, the preservation of biodiversity and the promotion of inclusive and sustainable approaches which take the common good into consideration.
Partnership for human security and peace
The Bishops state that many people are suffering due to wars, terrorism and other forms of violence. They stress that “security is essential because it protects human dignity” and can only exist in sustainable peace.
They propose the promotion of human security – of persons, property and communities, the creation of a joint framework of preventive diplomacy and mediation and the respect of the fundamental right to religious freedom. They also advocate for enabling a democratic environment and a participatory civic space.
Partnership for people on the move
The Bishops note that according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), almost 22 million people have been forced to move, either inside their home countries, or from one African country to another, fleeing persecution or looking for better economic prospects.
To mitigate this concern, the Bishops propose addressing the root causes of forced migration, welcoming migrants and their families with generosity while protecting their rights and dignity, and upholding States obligations originating in the international legal framework that protect refugees.
Partnership with Churches and faith-based organizations
“In African societies, religion and culture are deeply rooted in local realities and they are one of the key determinants of community and personal bonds,” note the Bishops.
The Bishops also recognize that “Church and faith-based organizations are among the frontline and long-standing actors for sustainable human development and peace.” Because of this, “intercultural and inter-religious dialogue can be powerful instruments to build bridges and foster social cohesion.”
They propose that religious and cultural diversity be respected, preserved and promoted as a “source of strength, trust and mutual enrichment.” The Bishops also encourage the creation of a favorable environment for “inclusive inter-religious encounters and actions.”
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