Lack of Development Could Open Door to Terrorism, Warns Official

Vatican Secretary Addresses Symposium on Africa

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ROME, MAY 23, 2004 ( Peoples excluded from genuine development might feel there is no other option in their lives but terrorism, warned a Vatican official at a symposium on Africa.

«The Social and Economic Development of Africa in the Era of Globalization» was the theme of the symposium organized Friday by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at its headquarters in Rome.

Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Holy See’s secretary for relations with states, presided over the morning session. He said that «after the terrorist attack suffered by the United States on September 11, 2001, the conditions of life of many African countries have decidedly worsened.»

The sub-Saharan region is the area «that pays the highest price with its millions of poor and the absence of an effective assistance network,» he said.

Yet, Africa’s dramas take place amid an «almost general indifference, aroused when it involves citizens or interests of the North of the world,» he noted, according to Vatican Radio.

Archbishop Lajolo warned that the «Western world must be aware that, if the path to genuine development is not undertaken, peoples who are excluded will end up by believing that they have no other option but that of terrorism. And this could become a new way of making war.»

Although Africa is the most heavily indebted continent, «considerable capital is spent on the acquisition of arms — a real scandal,» lamented the Vatican representative.

He also mentioned the «disordered assault» on the continent’s mineral and oil resources, at times perpetrated by industrialized countries.

Moreover, the archbishop alluded to the «serious lack of political culture» that Africa reflects, a circumstance that is at the root of the failure of many democratic processes in the continent.

«The personalization of power has had and has pernicious results,» he said. «One of the challenges facing Africa is called citizenship: It is necessary to transform subjects into citizens.»

Archbishop Lajolo did not overlook Africa’s positive aspects, reminding his listeners that the «continent is the cradle of humanity.»

He also highlighted «the close link that religion has with everyday life» and Africans’ capacity «to express their faith in any aspect of social life.»

It is «a value that we Westerners have lost and that Africa can propose again with pride to the whole world,» the Vatican official said.

«Africa is not a continent of desperate people, but a land populated by persons who struggle to overcome old problems and present challenges, to build a future full of hope and opportunities,» he said. «It is not a paralyzed continent, but a continent on its way.»

Archbishop Lajolo recalled the Holy Father’s concern for Africa, where the Church is «on the side of the oppressed, becoming the voice of the voiceless, placing itself completely on the side of the poor, and working for the integral development of the person with peace, justice and the improvement of the conditions of life.»

In Africa, the Church runs 5,000 hospitals, 500 homes for the disabled, 85,000 pastoral centers and 10,000 schools. It educates 13 million children regardless of their race, creed or financial resources.

About 137 million of Africa’s 830 million inhabitants are Catholics.

The symposium was attended by several African cardinals, African ambassadors to the Holy See, experts on the topics discussed, and representatives of international organizations, including the United Nations, Catholic Relief Services, the Community of Sant’Egidio and Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

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