HIGH PROSPECTS – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops renewed a long-standing commitment to solidarity with Africa, underscoring a thriving Catholic population and the need for the U.S. government to provide more support to the continent.
The document, “A Renewed Call for Solidarity with Africa,” released July 26, seeks to “commemorate and rekindle the grace and vision” of a similar 2001 document and “recommit the Church in the United States.” United in solidarity with Africa”.
“Given the challenges and opportunities facing Africa and given the strong bonds of communion that the Church in the United States and Africa share, we believe that now is the time for us, as Catholic Church in the United States, to renew our solidarity with the Church and the people of this land,” the document read.
“The Committee for International Justice and Peace pledges its continued support to the Church and in many countries and will continue to encourage the U.S. government to increase financial and other assistance to strengthen humanitarian assistance, integral human development and peacebuilding efforts in Africa, with respect for the cultures, traditions and ethical principles of each of the nations of Africa,” the document continues.
It comes at a time of particular turmoil for Catholics in Nigeria. The country was also recommended as a country of particular concern in the annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which cited “widespread and gross violations of religious freedom by state and non-state actors.”
More recently, the corpse of a Nigerian priest was discovered on July 19, four days after he was abducted from a rectory in the central region of the country. A total of 20 priests have been kidnapped in Nigeria since the start of 2022, including five in the first week of July. In early June, gunmen killed dozens of parishioners praying in a Catholic church in the southwest of the country.
The USCCB document notes that the Committee for International Justice and Peace is working with the Church in Nigeria to address the escalating conflict and establish a voter monitoring and education program to promote elections. fair and free nations in 2023.
Across the continent, the document cites both the rise of terrorism and governance as challenges that threaten progress. It notes that nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa face violence from terrorist organizations, including Boko Haram and Al Shabab. The Fragile States Fund index shows that 20 of the world’s 30 most unstable countries are in Africa.
In terms of governance, the document cites a 2020 Freedom House report indicating that only four African countries are free democracies: Ghana, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. Twenty-one are partly free, with flawed electoral democracies, and 18 are ruled by authoritarian regimes.
“Poor governance remains a root cause of most of Africa’s problems and threatens to hold back future progress on the continent,” the document states, noting beforehand that “economic and social progress must also be based on greater political stability”.
The continent faces challenges in education, health, agriculture and climate change that also threaten future progress, according to the document.
Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Va., chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, unveiled the document during the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM ) held in Accra, Ghana.
In a statement, Burbidge said the committee “recommits to standing with the Church in Africa,” which has grown exponentially in recent years.
Africa accounted for almost 60% of the global increase in the number of Catholics in 2018, added almost 1,700 priests in 2019, and in 2019 was the only continent to increase the number of major seminarians, with 509. The Church in Africa also has more health centers, hospitals and primary and secondary schools than any region in the world, according to the document.
The USCCB invites Catholics to contact their members of Congress to “encourage them to give more attention to the promotion of integral human development and peace in Africa”, as well as to make a financial donation to the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa through their parish. online collection or donation platforms. The fund has provided $31.7 million in grants to most episcopal conferences in Africa.
Commenting on the document, Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith of Portland, Oregon, chair of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Church in Africa, said it “invigorates the bishops’ vision for the Solidarity Fund of the sub -committee for the Church in Africa which directly supports the pastoral capacity of the local Church in Africa.
Smith said, “I recommend the reading and study of this document to the faithful and to all who wish to strengthen our Christian solidarity with the Church throughout Africa.”