(President of the Pontifical Council for
the Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerants People,
Twenty-five years ago there were in Africa 700,000 refugees; today they are 7 million. Internally displaced persons in Africa today are estimated to be 16 million; in 1980 they were 4 million. Of the estimated 100 million international migrants of all kinds in the world, 35 million are in the sub-Saharan countries.
In Africa, as in other parts of the world, the Word of God, the "Good News", continues to be sown in a field often devastated by the "bad news" of civil wars, military coups, ethnic fighting, drought, disease, extreme poverty, refugees, displaced people and migrants.
This Dicastery invited the Pastors of the Church of Africa to two regional Consultations on the Pastoral Care of Refugees, Displaced People and Migrants: the first was held in Lusaka, Zambia, in January 1993 for Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, the other was held in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, in January 1994 for Western and Northern Africa.
Perhaps the time has come for the Church in Africa to play an even stronger role in the work of preventing the migratory flow of so many people, by assisting in the development of better conditions that will lessen and ultimately remove the causes that force people to leave their homes and homeland.
Each Episcopal Conference is Africa is asked to give priority on the issues of refugees, displaced persons and migrants, in close co-operation with other Episcopal Conferences. At the national level, effort must continue at sensitising priests and faithful to the plight of refugees, displaced people and migrants with the inclusion of specific programs in this field in the seminary formation.
At all levels, the Church must continue not only in denouncing situations leading to the exodus of populations, but also in inspiring and supporting - in the light of the Gospel - all efforts aimed at the solution of the problems which are the causes of displacement and in reconciling groups in conflict.