Archbishop Michael Kpakala FRANCIS 
(Archbishop of Monrovia, Liberia; 
President of AECAWA)

Because they contradict Gospel?s values, not all systems of government are acceptable to the Christian faith. That is why the Catholic social teaching, after centuries of hostility and ambivalence, has come out strongly in recent years in support of democratic forms of government which are accountable to the people and promote people?s dignity and human rights. Even though there is war and civil strife in many parts of the African continent, people across Africa are demanding more democratic participation in the gestation of their country and are judging the performance of governments that should promote the common good of everybody. Why this? Africans look at themselves as persons naturally and necessarily enmeshed in a web of relationships and a person is perceived as good in proportion to his/her loyalty to these relationships: it is the problem of the "extended family". The Western "cogito, ergo sum" is replaced in Africa by "we are, therefore, I am". I am what society makes me to be.

The distinction between a person and the office he/she holds is not readily grasped and acknowledged; therefore an identification of law with the arbitrary decisions of the one in power is almost instinctively accepted by both ruler and ruled. As a consequence, human rights have to vanish because they inhibit the selfish advantages of the ruling hegemony. The African society as a whole tends to accept this situation. Corruption thus becomes endemic and it seems as if there were no remedy at hand except a violent overthrow of the existing junta, only to have the same pattern to continue under the new rulers. Groups tend to use slogans culled from political science treaties but only as rhetorical weapons in their efforts to attain power, and not as thoroughly understood or committed convictions.

There is no serious effort to identify the origin or the source of this malady which seems to be a sort of blindness to the unity of the whole human race. Not adverting to the individual status of each person, that he/she is a total, complete, and separate entity apart from his/her family, Africans fail to recognise the basic similarly of nature; the similarity in dignity and the equality of all humans. In short, the value of the African pre-acceptation with the social, relational aspect of man has to be acknowledged. But, likewise its imperfections have to be supplied for. This working out of the correct balance of social and individualistic concerns is a top priority for Africa, both at the theoretical and practical levels.

The fundamental mission of the Church is the evangelisation of the Gospel-values where they do not exist or where they exist and need strengthening. They ought to be proclaimed not just to people but also to structures, situations and contexts. Church leadership in Africa must especially enter more deeply into the reality of the life of the oppressed. The life-style and bearing of Church leaders ought to manifest a clear option for them.

Peace-making and ministry of reconciliation should be exercised not only to resolve wars of conflicts, but more so to prevent them. In a few instances, Church leaders have tried to do this especially in the recent years of the democratisation process. Sometimes the Church is involved at the level of Bishops, other times the principal actors are the grassroots Catholics. As a consequence they have suffered harassment, repression, and even assassination. The few instances of prophetic witness in this regard should not blind us from fully recognising the sin of omission amidst the prolonged situation of institutionalised oppression of the African people.

The social teaching of the Church Magisterium should be made more easily available to Christians. Justice and Peace should be the focus of evangelisation, rather than being seen as a mere "link", as it is proposed in the Instrumentum Laboris (n.112). Human promotion is not just an incidental aspect of evangelisation, but its backbone.

Women in Africa have been and continue to be the bearing structure of the Church. But the institutionalised Church has not done enough to identify with their genuine struggles and to support their cause.

Original text: English



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