“When I Give Food to the Poor, They Call Me a Saint, When I Ask Why the Poor Have No Food, They Call Me a Communist” Don Helder Camara, Catholic Bishop
We are aware of the growing ideology in the European Union that sustainable development does not come about with “development aid” as we have seen practiced for many years now. In fact, “development aid” corroborates how Steve Sackur, once in a BBC Hard talk interview with the Head of UN Missions in South Sudan, described the UN mission in South Sudan as simply “a sticking of plaster on wounds that continue to fester”.
At the just-concluded Annual General Meeting of AEFJN, the Executive Secretary gave us a pictorial view of the current global trends, a view of what is happening in our world today. This situation impels us, he challenged, to move away from the unproductive “missionary logic of development aid’’ to asking some honest but hard questions about the situation in Africa. Why have all the development efforts of Africa and development aids to Africa gone down the drain? Why is it that the most naturally endowed continent in the world is the most impoverished? What are the root causes of the problems that keep Africa from having her pride of place in the committee on nations? This is the time for us all to re-examine where we invest the resources of our Congregations and the result that we want to achieve.
There are two things we need to keep in mind about Africa. First, the problem in Africa is not religious but economic. Second, the social change we desire must come from the grassroots because the corrupt African political elites are part of the problem. The fairer and more equitable economic policies/partnerships we wish to see exist between the North and the South, will only come about when Africans, at all levels, take on the front seat themselves to create their own future.
The roadmap to achieving this goal lies in bringing both the Faith and non-Faith actors on the same platform to catalyze grassroots social Movement building and actions. In this way, the people themselves assume the responsibility to identify and name their common struggles/ sufferings/demands they wish to make and, in a public action, act collectively to address them alongside with relevant policy makers. . AEFJN has already through the year created a niche for herself as a bridge bringing the actors together In the coming year, the Secretariat would further strengthen her position through the African antennae.
A very important success story during the year was the outstanding effort of the Belgian platform of Civil Society on food (Coalition contre la Faim- CCF) in April 2019, to bring the West African dairy farmers to sit side by side with their counterpart from the EU to discuss the terrible impact the dumping of European produce has had on them and on the food security of Africa. The end-result of this face-to-face and rather emotional meeting was a call for sustainable production in the North and the South to ensure the survival of important farming structures in Africa and a balanced agricultural and trade policy in the EU. AEFJN is a very active member of this platform.
Another success story is ‘the Caravan West Africa’, organized by Church (AEFJN) and non-Church actors (a coalition of Social Movements and Civil Society), in November 2018. This activity brought people from all the countries ECOWAS together, harnessed their energies and voices to speak directly with governments and traditional rulers about their common struggles and how some government policies/laws, negatively impact their lives on a daily basis and make some concrete policy demands from the policy makers. It is hoped that the caravan would be scaled up in the future to include other regions of Africa
In spite of the challenges, the AGM looks into the future with hope. AEFJN must continue to engage the various African governments through strengthening her African driven advocacy without neglecting engagements with the EU institutions. It is the roadmap to bringing complete healing to the ‘festering wound’ of inequitable economic national and transnational policies. Together we can bring about social change we would wish to exist between the North and the South!
AEFJN Executive team,