By: Ellen Teague
“Love for the people of Africa has inspired the Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network”, reflected Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald at Saturday’s Jubilee Mass in London to celebrate the Network’s 25th anniversary. The Missionary of Africa and former head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, with experience of working in Egypt, Uganda and Sudan, complimented the missionary congregations who formed the Network in 1988, saying they were inspired by seeing Africans suffering because of unfair trade, debt and the activity of multinational companies. “They realised the former colonial powers had particular responsibilities in relation to Africa” he said, “and greater awareness of issues affecting Africa had to be created amongst decision-makers”.
Around 250 people attended the Mass and the preceeding study event at Westminster Cathedral Hall, many of them from the 50 Missionary Congregations of women and men who founded the Network, and colleagues from African countries. There were several African choirs who led music in the Acholi language of Uganda and the Twi language of Ghana, dancing down the aisle for a lively Offertory procession carrying baskets of fruit and presenting a large map of Africa.
Before that, study sessions were led by Robin Palmer, author of several works addressing Land Grabbing in Africa, particularly for bio-fuels, and Jenny Brown of Christian Aid who spoke about Tax Justice. She pointed out that developing countries lose three times more money to tax havens than they receive in aid. In 2010 Ghana spent $32 million of aid money to provide healthy lunches for 713,590 primary school children. But that same year it lost $36 to tax dodging in the mining sector alone. She urged participants to join the ‘Hungry for Change’ campaign which will be lobbying the G8 meeting of world leaders in June to do more to stop tax dodging. Martin Kalungu-Banda, a Fellow at Future Considerations Oxford, addressed the issue of Corporate Social Responsibility, calling for Trade Justice for Africa and more action to tackle the impacts of Climate Change. “The wars of the future could well be about Water” he warned.
“Missionary work for Africa must be done in Europe as well as Africa” said Sr Pat Robb, a sister of the Congregation of Jesus who has supported refugees and displaced people throughout Africa over four decades. She and other organisers, such as Mill Hill brother Eddie Slawinski who has worked in Cameroon and Sudan, aimed for the day “to highlight injustices facing our African brothers and sisters, as well as celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Network.
The Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network has an Office in Brussels which coordinates advocacy work and lobbying the European institutions on issues affecting Africa. Fact-sheets on issues and a monthly bulletin are available on the Network’s website, plus information about national branches or ‘antennae’: [ ]www.aefjn.org