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Ahead of AU/EU Summit, Bishops in Africa, Europe Call for "a people-centered partnership"

Jean-Claude Cardinal Hollerich of COMECE (left) and Philipp Cardinal Ouédraogo of SECAM (right) who have just issued a joint statement for a people-centered partnership ahead of the AU/EU summit in October.

In view of the planned 6th Summit of African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) leaders in October, Bishops in Africa and Europe have, in a joint statement, encouraged European and African policy-makers to orient their preparatory work on the principles that foster “people-centered” partnerships.

In their Wednesday, June 10 collective statement, the Bishops in Africa under their common forum of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and their counterparts under the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) offer “a number of specific policy recommendations aiming to reshape the intercontinental political and economic relations towards an equitable and responsible partnership that puts the people at its center.”

“The Catholic Church on both continents shares the concern for the many persons, families and communities, particularly those in situations of vulnerability and weakness, affected by extreme poverty and hunger, persisting lack of an equitable access to basic social services, corruption, violence, terrorist attacks and persecution against vulnerable religious communities, as well as the exploitation of natural resources and environmental degradation,” the Bishops in Africa and Europe say.

Issued under the title “Justice shall flourish and fullness of peace forever,” the Bishops advocate for partnerships that promote integral human development, integral ecology, human security and peace and for the people on the move.

“We believe that the principles and values of human dignity, solidarity, the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods, the promotion of the integral human development, the responsible stewardship of all Creation, as well as the pursuit of the common good are necessary guidance and orientation in shaping the respective policy responses and actions,” the Bishops state in their message.

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In their statement signed by the President of SECAM, Philipp Cardinal Ouédraogo and his counterpart, Jean-Claude Cardinal Hollerich of COMECE, the Bishops express their firm conviction that their respective continents “could become the engines for a reinvigoration of multilateral cooperation” in the face of COVID-19 pandemic.

“Leaders should focus on access to healthcare, education, nutrition, clean water, sanitation and decent housing,” the Bishops indicate, calling for a long-term strategy for the “creation of dignified and stable employment for all and the return of misappropriated funds from Africa stashed in European Banks, among others.”

They acknowledge the riches on the African continent and bemoan the exploitation that deprives natives of their natural resources.

“Africa is rich in human and natural resources but several of its regions remain economically not developed,” the Bishops lament and explain, “Land-grabbing and the exploitation of natural resources do not only exclude local communities from a fair share in the profit, but it also often leads to grave human rights violations and leaves behind irreparable environmental damage.”

They recommend, among other things, a transition from an “exploitative logic towards a virtuous economic dynamic.”

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Reflecting on insecurity on both continents, the leadership of the two Bishops’ conferences say that “many people are suffering due to wars, terrorism and other forms of violence” and call for the “promotion of human security – of persons, property and communities, the creation of a joint framework of preventive diplomacy and mediation and the respect of the fundamental right to religious freedom.”

In their joint statement, the Prelates also reflect on migration noting that “almost 22 million people have been forced to move, either inside their home countries, or from one African country to another, fleeing persecution or looking for better economic prospects.”

To mitigate this concern, they propose the approach that focuses on the root causes of forced migration, welcoming migrants and their families with generosity while protecting their rights and dignity, and upholding States obligations originating in the international legal framework that protect refugees.

They underscore the importance of culture and religion in building societies saying, “religion and culture are deeply rooted in local realities and they are one of the key determinants of community and personal bonds.”

“Church and faith-based organizations are among the frontline and long-standing actors for sustainable human development and peace,” the Prelates say, adding that “intercultural and inter-religious dialogue can be powerful instruments to build bridges and foster social cohesion.”

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The Bishops go on to encourage the creation of a favorable environment for “inclusive inter-religious encounters and actions” and recommend that religious and cultural diversity be respected, preserved and promoted as a “source of strength, trust and mutual enrichment.”