From MISNAOct. 7, 2009
“It is imperative that we challenge the provincialism of the
Italian press toward Africa” bellowed father Alex Zanotelli, opening the first
meeting of the Observatory on the African Synod graciously and remarkably and
usefully sponsored by the Conference of the Missionary Institutes (CIMI) and by
the Catholic Union Italian Press, Lazio branch, (UCSI).
This momentous occasion took place last night in Rome. Zanotelli and father Fernando Zolli, two of the most eager Observatory aficionados could have done more to stress the importance of bringing the groundbreaking ideas and motions of the Synod beyond the Vatican chambers, such that the wider media might also revel in the magnitude of the event and pay more attention to the Synod and Africa’s current problems.
Father Rocco Puopolo, a Xaverian missionary residing in the USA, and executive director of the popular ‘Africa Faith & Justice Network’, focused his presentation on the all too often ignored but crucial subject of “restorative justice”. This theme is “only hinted in the Instrumentum Laboris but it should be expounded further because it is profoundly connected to the synodal conception of Reconciliation, which is apparently happening in Africa, even if it a very slow leisurely pace among the various ethnicities.
“In Sierra Leone this path was being followed in 1996 already and now as then the aim was to propose a different way of actuating justice, without the use of violence or police. Apart from lacking even the faintest root in reality, such a process has no visibility in Africa, while there have been many cases where, in direct contact with the Court in The Hague, African governments attempt to modify the sentences issued against various war criminals in exchange for a return to the native land aimed at the recuperation of the human person and popular reconciliation”.
Firstly, analyze the problem well and understand wherefrom the clashes are born. Secondly, reduce tensions by planning reconciliation projects... Third, do not underestimate the apparent tranquility obtained, monitor the situation and keep the warlords at bay
Bringing home her witness as a woman so courteously invited to the Synod as an
expert, sister Elisa Kidanč did proclaim: “We are only in the second day of the
proceedings and as experts we have the duty to listen first, then and only then
can we proceed to offer our reflections... We know very well that the situation
of women in Africa is much different from women in Europe but we shall use our
weapons well, which is to say sweetness, steadfastness and resistance, with time
we shall obtain results”. Expert words indeed.
Sister Kidanč also noted how the Synod may be the right occasion to bring to light, without any desire to settle a score, the condition of operative restrictions of women in the modern Church, still so far from the locations where laws are passed and the future of the African continent is decided. In closing the first meeting of the Observatory, a layperson also proffered their insights from Zambia. Doctor Munshya Chibilo, from the Pope John XXIII community, who attended the Synod is the form of a listener.
“Confliction – extrapolated Chibilo – is not a problem, at least until such time as it can be controlled. Should this fail to happen, it is necessary to work through well define passages. Firstly, analyze the problem well and understand wherefrom the clashes are borne. Secondly, reduce tensions by planning reconciliation projects that aim toward anticipating the intention of the groups that have created the conflict. Third, do not underestimate the apparent tranquility obtained, monitor the situation and keep the warlords at bay”.
In the wake of the declarations of Monsignor Razanakolona, who during the first press conference at the Vatican did declare that wars among African ethnic groups are the result of political interests and not of actual social disputes, the clarity of Munshya Chibilo leads him to add that: “in Africa people of various ethnicities live well but the brainwashing of local politicians often leads the human persons involved to be unable to explain the reasons for such hatred”. As all good things must end, eventually, Chibilo too reached the end of his point, concluding: “the Church must assume, as a politically uninterested (sic) party, the responsibility to actively participate in the peace process among African peoples”.