With the support of CIDSE, AEFJN participated in the second edition of Caravan across the ECOWAS region in November 2018. It was an initiative of the Civil Society and Social Movements in the ECOWAS sub-region under the auspices of Convergence Globale, to bring their human and material resources together in the struggle against extractism and preserve the resources of Africa for future generations. It incarnated the African proverb that, ‘’when spiders unite their webs, they tie a lion.’’ However, the involvement of the Church and her actors is the outcome of the November 2017 Abidjan conference on resource grabbing which AEFJN/AFJN, CIDSE, and RECOWA co-organized with Civil Society where the participating bishops committed to working with the civil societies in their different dioceses and countries.
The just concluded edition of the caravan began from Guinea Conakry, passing through Côte D’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, and terminated at Benin while the other countries of the sub-region joined the caravan at different points. The choice to terminate in Benin was given the fact that the President of Benin is the current Chairman of the ECOWAS. In each of the countries, the caravan stopped over in three different communities plagued by resource extraction, land grabbing, water or environmental pollution etc. or a combination of them as a gesture of support, bringing the Government officials to hear the testimonies of the victims and making specific demands for policy changes to address the situation.
Before the commencement of the caravan, CIDSE and AEFJN lobbied strongly for the active participation of the local Christian communities on the route of the caranvan. As expected we received varying degrees of responses in the different countries and dioceses. While most of the local Christian communities in most of the countries traversed allowed their facilities for the activities, the dioceses in Togo were strongly engaged with the civil society all through.
The description of the presence of AEFJN in the caravan as a great symbolic accompaniment and collaboration of the Church is a strong signal to the Church. The regular invitations to AEFJN to say the opening prayer in a Muslim-dominated group speaks volume. It can be understood as a quest for the leadership of the Church in the struggle for economic emancipation of the region. It can also point to the power that the Church has to contribute to change things for the good of all. However, AEFJN underlines that the Church must not in any way understand or conceive this gesture as an invitation to ‘Christanize’ the Social Movement and must engage in this collaboration devoid of any religious undertone. It is a COMMON STRUGGLE against what affects humanity irrespective of religious inclination and it must be approached with the sole aim of improving the quality of our shared humanity and nothing more.
After three years, the evaluation of the 2015 Limuru Land Grab Conference which catalized this collaboration between Church and non-Church actors begins in Addis Ababa on January 7, and surely; the 3rd edition of the caravan and; more productive and proactive engagements and collaboration with non-Church actors will be key issues on the agenda and we patiently wait for the outcome of this meeting.