Ailing Africa: "Everything Is Decided by External Forces"

Interview with Head of Continent´s Bishops´ Conference

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ROME, JUNE 21, 2001 ( In order to resolve Africa´s problems, «it is necessary that those who decide the future are Africans, and not external forces,» says a leading bishop.

Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kisangani, Congo, is president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM). In this interview with ZENIT, he also speaks of the surprising growth of the Church in the «forgotten» continent.

Archbishop Monsengwo Pasinya: The Church continues to grow in Africa. Catholics are no more than 14% of the whole population, but our influence is great, either in the social field with hospitals, or in the cultural with schools.

The Church is often the one that helps to construct roads to foster cultural and commercial exchanges among the people. The Church allows the African population to receive medicines in the remotest corners.

The Church preaches the word and works by building development structures. The Church is also an economic agent that is concerned about the population. I cannot imagine what Africa would be like without the Catholic Church.

–Q: You are a young Church. What are your pastoral problems?

–Archbishop Monsengwo Pasinya: We have the problems of adolescence that are typical of the growth of young Churches. It is necessary to recall that the evangelization of the majority of African countries began 150 to 100 years ago.

A work of purification and inculturation must be done in African religiosity. Inculturation is a challenge of holiness and integrity to embrace Christ. The problems that arise cannot only be addressed from an intellectual point of view. The community of faithful, with their pastors, must reinforce hope and confidence in the Holy Spirit, in order to have a Church that is the family of God.

This means that all of us must work for the emergence of universal fraternity in Jesus Christ, not only among the different tribes, but also among the different races present in the different continents. We are all brothers; therefore, we must be able to forgive one another and reconcile with each other, avoiding wars and conflicts. If we carry this message of fraternity and peace forward, we can do much good.

–Q: Yet, Africa offers a panorama devastated by wars.

–Archbishop Monsengwo Pasinya: Unfortunately, the forces opposed to the Kingdom of God spread weeds. The principal challenge is that the problems of our continent are not resolved by the African people, but everything is decided by external forces.

Think, for instance, of my country, the Congo. We obtained independence in 1960. In 1964, a constitution of federalist character was approved. Then, according to this constitution, the 1965 elections were held. However, instead of planning policies according to the constitution, respecting the election results, Mobutu Sese Seko was imposed as head of state, with the help of external forces.

Mobutu remained in power for 32 years, until 1997. Before he was replaced by Laurent Desire Kabila, the Congolese people had found a solution to the crisis, and called a National Conference. There was agreement on 916 points, which were to be respected to improve the political, socioeconomic and administrative system. A federal constitution was promulgated with a plan for society.

All this was signed by the delegate of the secretary-general of the United Nations, with the guarantee of the ambassadors of Belgium and France. When only three months were left before the constitutional referendum was held, they brought Kabila to power by force.

Then, an oppressive and repressive system was established. Since then, we have been going through a very grave crisis. With Kabila´s death, the danger is that [things] will continue without leaving the Congolese the possibility to resolve the crisis themselves. The imposition of a new system by external powers that does not enjoy consensus will go nowhere. The same causes will produce the same effects.

Unfortunately, the Congo´s problem is that it is too rich. Everyone profits by abusing it.

–Q: What are the effects of globalization in Africa?

–Archbishop Monsengwo Pasinya: If globalization is carried out as the imposition of the strongest on the weakest, then Africa will suffer very serious damages. I am especially worried about financial globalization based on speculation.

The groups that have money and control the financial movements can easily do away with the weakest competition. Whoever has more money, has more possibilities to speculate; whoever has nothing, is excluded from the market.

The only possibility for Africa to enter the process of globalization without damage is that it become powerful and modern, to the degree that it can use Internet for commerce, have a more solid internal market and, above all, effect political and economic unity. At present, Africa is an ensemble of small regional groups with no weight, from the point of view of globalization.

–Q: What is the Church´s role in this context?

–Archbishop Monsengwo Pasinya: The Church looks favorably on the unity of Africa. As we said in the Synod for Africa, the Church must help Africa to achieve unity. The Church is a factor in the unification of peoples. For this reason, she is not afraid of globalization. The Catholic Church is universal and is not afraid of global processes.

The ethics of economic processes remains outstanding and, on this point, the system should be more rigorous, favoring production, discouraging speculation and [fostering] globalization that is in the service of man.

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