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Francophone Africa Conference Recommends Training, Small Christian Communities Initiatives

Francophone Africa Conference, part of a series of continental conferences by the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) that have been organized for the celebration of last October’s Extraordinary Missionary Month

The need to develop initiatives that advance knowledge about dialogue among members of different religions and the new way of being Church in Africa through Small Christian Communities (SCCs) were among recommendations during the French-speaking Africa conference that brought together dozens of participants from 16 countries who deliberated on the contemporary evangelization ministry on the continent.

“At the end of this very instructive and engaging conference, given the quality of the various conferences, ten recommendations were made,” ACI Africa correspondent at the six-day conference held in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, reported.

The conference recommended the development of “a training module in interreligious dialogue” that would see the establishment of programs toward the formation of agents to be engaged in missionary apostolate, “a pedagogy of interreligious dialogue,” as well as the encounter between members of different faiths within “the context of religious pluralism.”

The training module envisaged, ACI Africa correspondent reported, would also see the realization of “a critical approach to the different forms of religiosity and groups and esoteric movements.”

Convened under the theme, "Witnessing, Announcing and Celebrating the Faith in the Mission of Evangelization in Africa Today," the conference that concluded Saturday, February 1 was part of a series of continental conferences by the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) that have been organized for the celebration of last October’s Extraordinary Missionary Month, ACI Africa correspondent reported.

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The conference focused on the Second Vatican Council’s decree on missionary activity (mission Ad Gentes). Specifically, the convention had the objective to have participants reflect about contemporary missionary activities in Francophone Africa and to come up with concrete proposals for a more fruitful missionary and pastoral commitment.

Some of the pastoral issues that characterize contemporary missionary realities within the French-speaking Africa addressed by the various speakers at the conference included “terrorism and religious extremism, corruption, interreligious and intercultural dialogue, the place of women in Church, inculturation, new religious movements and esoteric sects, self-financing of churches, peace, Basic Christian Communities,” among others.

Guided by 15 speakers, 14 national PMS Directors “with strong and active participation of the Bishops of the Burkina-Niger conference,” the close to 50 participants also recommended rethinking of the apostolate of SCCs in way that they become “places of meeting and hospitality,” ACI Africa correspondent reported.

Related to the new way of being Church in Africa through SCCs, participants recommended that new forms of awareness among the laity on the need for their financial participation in the mission of local churches be established.

Additionally, the participants recommended the creation of “interdisciplinary research laboratories at the level of national episcopal conferences” within Francophone Africa as well as the establishment of “a database of educational institutions of the Catholic Church in Africa, from preschool to university, indicating training or teaching programs,” ACI Africa correspondent stated.

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To facilitate synergies on the continent, the participants recommended that the education system in French-speaking Africa be re-examined so that competition is redirected “towards cooperation, to promote solidarity and universal brotherhood.”

In view of ensuring the conservation, development and transmission of the experience of faith in Francophone Africa, participants recommended the creation of departments of African arts and cultures in Catholic Universities to promote “painting, architecture, sculpture, music, dance and choreography.”

The development of “a compendium of Pacem in terris and all the Popes' messages on peace, which will be a tool for use by the justice and peace commissions” was also recommended alongside the designing, in African magazines, “the papal documents on the mission from Maximum Illud.”

To enhance the prophetic stance of the Church in Francophone Africa, achieved through awareness of current affairs, the participants recommended the “setting up of observatories of the socio-political and economic life of our countries in national episcopal conferences.”

Among the countries represented at the conference were Burkina Faso, Togo, Ivory Coast, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali, Libya, Senegal, Rwanda, Congo Brazzaville, Benin, Chad, Gabon, Guinea Equatorial, Canada Francophone, and Italy.

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Fr. Donald Zagore of the Society of African Missions (SMA) contributed to this story.