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Cp70-7 12 July 2012
Press Release n. 07
The voting whether to have General Congregation or not took place today. The Procurators decided almost unanimously by secret ballot that it wasn't necessary to convoke a General Congregation.
Today was dedicated to the Assistancy of Africa and Madagascar. It started with a panel of speakers: Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe, Provincial of the East-African Province, on "Religious traditions and faith: challenges and opportunities for evangelization"; Fr. Paul Beré, professor at Jesuit Theological College of Abidjan,( Ivory Coast), on: "Reconciliation, justice and peace: a look at socio-economic and political changes in Africa"; Fr. Michael Lewis, President of JESAM (The Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar), on: "Africa and the universal Society of Jesus".
Father Orobator opened his talk with a quote from Molefi Kete underscoring that Africa remains the least understood and the most stereotyped of all the continents in the Western world. He went on to describe four lessons which we could learn about Africa. These four lessons were to think about Africa from a different perspective; Africa as a deeply religious continent; Africa as bearer of a multiple religious tradition; and African religions as something alive. There were two challenges: religious tensions and religion and development. He concluded by saying that "On then basis of current data is indisputable that Christianity's centre of gravity is shifting dramatically from the global North to the global South, that is mainly from Europe and North America to Africa, Asia and Latin America".
Father Beré started by tracing a panorama of present-day Africa and talked about political, economic, and social changes that have characterized the continent for a generation. He then went on to talk about his theme: "The Church and the Society of Jesus can contribute greatly to the redemption of the Africa and humanity in the long term, in proposing responses to the challenges of reconciliation, justice and peace", he said.
Father Lewis, after clarifying some aspects regarding Africa's position as a preferential option of the Society of Jesus, underscored the continent's diversity with its multiplicity of cultures, thus the difficulty of talking about a single African identity. He mentioned a series of problems, such as the erosion of national identities; globalization as an opportunity for both the Church and the Society but also a source of alienation and poverty; and how the "vision" of a "global village" has led to competition under the form of growing tribalism, ethic chauvinism, nationalisms and religious intolerance, cultural conflict, etc. The Society of Jesus must face various apostolic challenges: education at all levels, which includes professional training; greater awareness for the option for the poor, not only in the form of charity but also more formation in numerous social centres.
Father Lewis concluded his talk by saying: "I would like you to go home with the idea that Africa is a hugely complex and beautiful reality, one that is developing in many diverse ways among its many and varied people, and that the Society in Africa is both there with the people and at the same time part of the universal Society of Jesus."
The presentations were followed by an interesting session where the Procurators had the opportunity to comment and ask questions.
In the afternoon, the delegates gathered by Assistancies, each of which had at least one African procurator present. The day ended with an African-style mass which crowned a day filled with inspiration and interesting points for reflection.