Last month we celebrated the Season of Creation with the theme Let Justice and Peace flow. The symbol is the Mighty River of the prophet Amos[1]. The campaign document writes: The urgency grows and we must make visible peace with Earth and on Earth, at the same time that justice calls us to repentance and a change of attitude and actions. As we join the river of justice and peace with others then hope is created instead of despair”.

We strongly believe that AEFJN has an important contribution to bring change about in the attitudes and actions, in the policies implemented in Africa and Europe. Together with other networks we focus on structural changes in the relationships between Africa and Europe. It is our way of implementing the call for ecological conversion of Pope Francis expressed in his letter Laudato Si and the update published on October 4th with the title Laudate Deum.

For our annual meeting this year we have chosen the theme Repositioning AEFJN for effective advocacy engagement. During this AGM our executive secretary Fr. Chika will show us what actions we will promote in our strategic plan for the years 2024-2028.

At first let us have a look at what was at stake for the Executive since the last AGM.

+ personnel of the executive since AGM 2022

In our meetings we welcomed Sr Susan Igelle SHCJ as officer and vice-president. She was elected at the last AGM and replaced Sr Cecilia Nya who left us and is now working in South Soudan. We co-opted two members: Fr. David Gentry of the Solidarity South Sudan Network and Sister Marie Jeanne Elonga (SHS). Today we will introduce them to you for election according to our Statutes and By-Laws. Fr. Kryzstof Pachut (SMA) is currently our secretary and Fr. Pawel Hulecki (M.Afr) the communications officer.

Two other members left us because their mandate here in Rome ended. We thank wholeheartly Sister Hortense Dossoumon (NDA) and Father Jef Matton (CICM) for their longterm commitment and service in the executive. I’m the next at the exit door in a few days.

+ staff in the Brussels’ international secretariat

As we explained to you last year we needed to find a replacement for Fr. Chika whose third mandate will expire by the end of October. We are happy to introduce to you today Brother Elvis NG’ANDWE who is a Missionary of Africa from Zambia. We are very grateful to him for accepting this new ministry and to his Society for making him available for this very important key-position in the Network.

During a short time Fr. Chika had a half-time collaborator with Dr Phoebe Sanchez but she left us after a few months. We thank Fr. Chika for his endurance working many months alone in the office. But we have been looking very much for a full time collaborator and eventually we could engage Dr Lawrence S. PEDREGOSA who is a scholar from the Philippines and who came across our vacancy on the website of the KULeuven. We thank him for accepting the position of policy officer and for being with us here today.

The limitations of our budget make it more difficult to engage qualified lay personnel and it shows clearly our precarious condition in terms of Human Resource needs in times when religious are more difficult to recruit because of the demographic shift in Europe’s religious life. However the publication of the vacancies on the website of the university was a fruitful initiative and we thank for the suggestion that was made in this assembly last year. We are aware of the increasing necessity of Africa to take more tasks in the Network to facilitate our African driven advocacy. Fr. Chika pleaded several times that the contact persons will need to consider a more radical and systemic approach to staffing the secretariat. The cost of hiring lay staff is unsustainable in our system. The budget for a full time lay staff will be sufficient to keep 3 full time religious in the secretariat. May I invite you to consider this more seriously if you think it makes sense to keep our Network alive and performant.

+ activities of the executive since November 2022

As we had no longer to deal with the COVID restrictions most of our activities were no longer hold on line. A summary of our meetings:

1/ Nov. 25, 2022 : approval minutes AGM; approval Memorandum of Understanding Dr. Sanchez; appointment of officers; co-optation new members and revision of membership of sub-committees (finance/participation); calendar 2022-23.

2/ Dec. 21, 2022 We decided an update of the Statutes was necessary

ad 6.4.2: The EC may decide whether the AGM would be held in a hybrid format (i.e. with participants present either in person or via video-conference mode). The EC would inform all those concerned about the possibility of participating also via video-conference.

ad 6.5.1: The quorum of the General Assembly will consist of more that 50% of the Institutes and Organisations actif as members of AEFJN. An active member is one that has, at least, made the due annual contribution to the Network for the current year.

Other topics: Letter to the membership about annual contribution; replacement executive secretary; sharing of Br. Alberto about COP27; suggestions to the secretariat about new Action Plan; possible relaunching antenna Italy.

3/ Febr. 13 participation sub-committee prepared the seminar/webinar for the contact persons on the topic : Binding Treaty on the regulation of Transnational Corporations.

4/ Febr. 20. We had to deal with the situation in the Secretariat facing the departure of Ms Sanchez. We also considered the evaluation made by the Executive secretary with the previous staff (Jose Luis and Odile) and contributed some ideas for the new action plan to be elaborated

5/ March 24: webinar for the contact persons

6/ April 14th : activity with the students (20) of member congregations in Rome.

7/ June 1st : sharing about zero draft Action Plan 2024-28; 5 applications for officer in the secretariat; half year report secretariat; finance – allowances staff in the future; farewell Sisters Ida & Hortense & Fr.Jef; actions about Massai in Tanzania; visit some member congregations; preparation antennae meeting.

8/ June 8th : antennae meeting on zoom

9/ Sept. 8th : interviews on line with applicants for staff in secretariat.

Sept. 12th : appointing staff in Brussel; preparation AGM


No doubt we are all worried and preoccupied because of the many calamities we witnessed this last year. The consequences of climate change and the war in Ukraine are threatening also food security in many countries. We notice the growing instability in several African countries where military regimes are taking over. The chaos in Mozambique is lasting, but many refugees try to return to their home places.

In 2020 Pope Francis gave an interview to Austen Ivereigh who published Let us dream. The road to a better future. The Pope challenged us all: this is a time for change. We need to act beyond our small personal interests, even beyond those of the industrialized countries. Our Network will be part of that process of forging fairer and more equitable economic relationships between the North and the South, we work for climate justice.

At the Amazon Summit in August, President Lula forged a coalition of rainforest countries (Brazil, Indonesia, Congo). They want rich countries to mobilise a financial arsenal to help them protect ecosystems. Besides funds into which money is poured to keep tropical forests from being cleared, the ‘new Marshall Plan’ should also include a program to write off debt of emerging countries in exchange for climate action. The swaps could reverse the destructive spiral in which poor countries sink into the quagmire of disasters and debt. Politicians such as Lula and Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados, keep stressing that vulnerable countries cannot cope with climate change because of their high debt burden.

But Lula wants more than pennies or cents. His real agenda is the remodelling of the international world order. Institutions like the UN, the World Bank and the IMF anchored the 1945 balance of power. The Brazilian is missing no opportunity to push for the expansion of the UN Security Council to include countries like Brazil, India and South Africa. This is not only a fair correction, proponents believe. In a world where climate disasters fuel conflicts, it is evident that representatives of the Global South are at the helm with them.

The G20 Summit in Delhi (8-10/9/23) is symbolic of the revolution of the emerging economies. They emerging countries no longer want to be in the wings, relegated to suppliers of raw materials and IT workers.

In that constellation, it is fascinating to watch Ajay Banga change tack at the World Bank. The new president is rewriting the bank’s playbook. He is pulling open the focus from poverty to climate, as the two are intertwined. He is pushing ahead with reforms that have been on the shelf for years, to make vulnerable countries resilient to climate disruption. For instance, immediately after taking office in June, he announced that countries that fall victim to natural disasters will get a break for their debt repayment.

‘Financing the new world,’ Banga says, ‘requires a war effort.’ Thousands of billions are needed for climate adaptation in vulnerable countries. With the billions-to-trillions concept, he wants to squeeze the most out of balance sheets. Banga believes the bank’s funds can serve as a flywheel to tap transformative amounts of private money. The billion-dollar flows to poor countries remain off for now. The frustration over this was palpable at the African Climate Summit in Nairobi (4-6/9/23). The gap between the climate finance coming in and the amounts needed runs into hundreds of billions a year. However the cards are being reshuffled. Lula, Modi and Co are going all-in. They have nothing to lose.

At the last G20 Summit (8-10/9/23) the African Union (55 countries) was invited to become a member of the club. Let us hope this is another sign that the old order is fading away. May our AEFJN new action plan contribute to foster this change and may we be successful in repositioning our network for effective advocacy engagement[2].

Thank you for your presence that is for us an expression of your constant support and thank you for your attention.


Fr. André Claessens, MSC

AEFJN President

White Fathers’ Generalate, Rome

19 October 2023




[1] “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream” (Amos 5,24).

[2] Let us have confidence in the strength of the civil society to which AEFJN belongs. Pope Francis in Laudate Deum : More than saving the old multilateralism, it appears that the current challenge is to reconfigure and recreate it, taking into account the new world situation. I invite you to recognize that “many groups and organizations within civil society help to compensate for the shortcomings of the international community, its lack of coordination in complex situations, and its lack of attention to fundamental human rights” (n.37)