From the dawn of this new year, my heart has not seized to savor the experience of the Convergence Globale caravan through the ECOWAS region in November 2018. There has never been an iota of doubt in my mind about the power and value of collaborative advocacy but my participation in the caravan against resource grabbing heightened my convictions. My heart continues to relish the huge potential available for the Church if she makes more intentional decision to collaborate more with the civil society and the Social movements in the campaign against resource-grabbing in Africa. But more importantly, the call of Laudato SI makes this strategy an imperative for the Church in Africa if she wants to remain credible to the populace.
There is no doubt that the Church in Africa has huge power structures, down to the grassroots and, to a good extent, enjoys some credibility. However, the Church needs the expertise of the Civil Society and the energy of the Social Movements to make this power transformative for the common good. It has been established that resource grabbing is one of the biggest contributors of climate change and the Church needs to be practically engaged with non-Church actors to take on the menace of resource grabbing in Africa frontally. Climate change is a human problem without religious a boundary and the urgency therein requires that we pull together every human and material resource to checkmate it now.
Reports have repeatedly pointed at Sub-Sahara as one of the most vulnerable to climate change. That puts the already delicate food security of Africa on a precipice, waiting to cave in. The Church must avoid any inaction or loss of opportunity that would lead to regrets in the future. The description of the earth by Laudato SI as “our common home” rings an unequivocal bell. It is not a question of saving one’s soul for heaven but a question of surviving either together or perishing together because the earth is our common home, the same home that received the Incarnate Word.
The West African caravan is a framework for popular mobilization of social movements in West Africa that aims to protect through legislative processes the natural resources and the environment of Africa for future generations of Africans. It is an effort to make the natural resources of Africa beneficial to the people and not for elites and private investors. AEFJN underlines that it is important that the Church in Africa throws her weight behind this movement.
The sight and ambience of the caravan was reminiscent of the biblical Jews and gentile lepers sitting together to ask for alms. Ordinarily, Jews and gentiles have very little in common but in the presence of misfortune, religious and tribal identities and differences become trivial while our shared humanity takes prominence. The coming together of grassroots communities, social movements and civil society from all the countries of ECOWAS region and Mauritania to stand up together against resource grabbing within the region wouldn’t be anything but inspiring. The resilience to stand up collectively against the poverty and resource grabbing in the ECOWAS region is a space that the Church must tap into and support. Surely, the involvement of the Church will not only strengthen the movement in the region but it will have a multiplier effect on the other parts of Africa.
The disposition of the Church to make her facilities available for the caravan is commendable but she needs to do more. The Church needs to be seen standing with the poor in their struggle to take their future in their hands. This requires personal conversion of the church actors as well as her institutions. Through the years, the Church in Africa has been in the back row; now, she needs to be in the frontline in the vanguard for the liberation of Africa from her economic re-colonialization. A few local churches like Congo DR are now involved in breath-taking initiatives, but it is not yet enough to constitute the critical momentum for African social change.
As a network, AEFJN is committed to be the bridge between Church and non-church actors as enshrined in her new work plan beginning from January 2019. No doubt, this will be a windy terrain to navigate, but what is certain to us is that resource grabbing in Africa need to stop and the process to this end must be via collaborative action, driven by Africans themselves.