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Catholic Bishops in Burkina Faso, Niger Call for Safeguarding of Human Life amid Threats

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina-Niger (CEBN)/ Credit: Fr. Paul Dah

Bishops in Burkina Faso and Niger have, in their latest Pastoral Letter circulated Tuesday, May 25, called on the people of God in the two neighboring West African nations to commit themselves to safeguarding human life.

“The value of human life has always been recognized in all human societies. This is why every human culture is committed, in its own way, to safeguarding, protecting, promoting and perpetuating all human life, whether individual or collective,” members of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina-Niger (CEBN) say.

In their letter shared with ACI Africa, the Catholic Bishops in the two-nation conference explain, “More than in the past, the relationship between humans and their own lives has become very complex today, and is undoubtedly a major concern of contemporary society. Thus, here and there, we can see many and varied initiatives that take on the task of defending and promoting human life.

They note that “for some decades now, remarkable divergences, and even real oppositions, have become apparent in practice, leading to questions about the requirements and conditions for an authentic promotion of human life in its proper dignity.”

“This worrying context in which our Church Family of God lives in Burkina Faso and Niger obliges us, your pastors, to invite you to discernment and vigilance in order to remain faithful to the demands of our faith in the God of life revealed in Christ our Savior,” the Bishops further say in their collective message dated May 23.

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Reflecting on the commonly shared value of human life, CEBN members say that nations have enshrined the universality of the right to life that seeks to enable people lead meaningful lives.

“The primary and referential framework at international level for this defence and promotion of human life is well known: the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” they underscore, and explain, “In a world where everything seems to be bought, man is the only one who has no price: he has dignity. If everything must be measured against an ultimate reference, then the only value that cannot be bargained for is the dignity of the human person.”

They bemoan the fact that in recent years, “the debate has become more diverse and complex, particularly in relation to population policies and population planning for development.”

They observe with “great humility and awareness that our times are more than ever marked by multiple and multiform threats to life.”

The Bishops go on to highlight some of the practices that threaten human life, from abortion to anti-pregnancy vaccines, to homosexuality, and drug addiction, among other vices.

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“Induced abortion, which is the major attack on human life, essentially because the victim is totally innocent and totally defenseless, is legalized in some countries, which even present it as a new right,” the Bishops lament.

They add, “Anti-pregnancy vaccines are also being tested on a large scale on other continents. Sterilization, by which life is cut off at the source, is becoming commonplace. Contraception, the most widespread practice of which is the use of condoms, separates the unitive end from the reproductive end of the conjugal union, and deserves to be mentioned as an attitude of closure to life.”

“Homosexuality and drug addiction have a detrimental impact on life, as one leads to life-denying lifestyles and the other to unsociable behavior leading to self-destruction,” the members of CEBN say.

Against this backdrop, the Catholic Prelates say, “For the authentic promotion of the human right to life, the very first consideration to be mentioned is the responsibility of spouses.”

“As co-operators with God in the transmission of human life, spouses have the duty to be at the service of this life despite the reasons for despair and the threats that debase it,” they note, adding that the African family has an important role to play in the authentic promotion of human life.

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“In this Year of St Joseph and the Family, the context of the threat to human life obliges us to take a special look at the African family in general, and the Christian family in particular,” the Bishops say.

They add, “In our cultures, the family is considered the basic unit of society, the sanctuary of life and love. It is also the first school of education, socialization and integration of the child, and by extension of the human person.”

“We are convinced that the future of our societies and of our Church Family of God depends on the future of our families,” they further say, adding, “Pastoral agents, the various Christian associations for the family, men and women who are sentinels of hope, concerned about the continuity of family values, should all measure the challenges and consequences of current demographic policies on the family.”

CEBN members invite the people of God in Burkina Faso and Niger to “campaign for a development process that respects the values of life, the family and human dignity. On this subject, let no one be mistaken: the path to development in our countries is not primarily conditioned by limiting births, but rather by a fight against illiteracy and endemic diseases, good management of socio-economic and industrial investments and a consistent response to the problems of corruption, injustice, poor management of social and security crises, etc.”

They also highlight the need to enlighten women who are wives, mothers and first educators; and of girls as future wives and mothers, and add, “It will be necessary to work towards their liberation. But the liberation of women and girls cannot forget the values they carry and which make them, in our country, a sacred sign of the greatness and beauty of life and the family,” the members of CEBN say.

“sexual liberalism, same-sex marriage, the trivialization of abortion, sterilization and the lack of respect for human dignity, especially that of women, are contrary to African values and the religious convictions of Africans,” they note.

As a way forward, the Bishops invite the people of God to “continue with us, without respite, to defend, in accordance with the demands of our faith, the right to life and freedom of the children of God.”

They further invite the faithful to exercise with greater rigor, at Parish level, “the training of young people and engaged couples during marriage preparation sessions, according to the manuals drawn up for this purpose.

“Marriage preparation centres must set up teams experienced in the presentation and follow-up of natural methods of birth control; and other leaders, Priests, Religious, Catechists or any other committed lay person, must exercise their responsibilities in training in accordance with the Church's provisions,” CEBN direct.

They call on “political, judicial and administrative authorities to commit themselves to working in all truth and justice for the real well-being of our working people, and not to compromise their health and the future of generations to come.”

To men and women of goodwill, the Church leaders say, “All of us will benefit from promoting a policy that favors the natural spacing of births rather than limiting them by means and strategies that damage women's health and do not honor human dignity according to the design of God the Creator.”

“It is urgent to develop a mentality of new vital creative energies, new wills for civic and political action, new forces of moral and spiritual regeneration that we, your bishops, call Christianity of Life,” they add.

In this year dedicated to St. Joseph and the Family, the Bishops “entrust all our human families to the care and protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth for an ever-greater commitment to life.”

“May Saint Joseph, the protector of the Holy Family, help us to do so,” the members of CEBN implore in their May 23 pastoral letter shared with ACI Africa.