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H. Em. Card. Jean-Louis TAURAN, President of Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (VATICAN CITY)
Traditional African religion strongly influences Africans who are naturally religious.
Long before the arrival of Christianity and Islam, the populations recognized the existence of a Supreme Being, the “Great Life”: the Christian missionaries did not reveal God to the Africans (they already had an idea): they brought them Jesus Christ, “God who has a human face” (Spe salvi, 31)!
Islam is making constant progress for three reasons: the confraternities, Koranic schools and mosques. It is generally tolerant, except for some well-known situations (Nigeria).
The activity of the sects, because of the simplicity in their beliefs, attracts many Africans who find themselves in a situation of instability. Faced with this situation, the Bishops react and the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue makes an effort to support their action by helping them teach about the different religions in Africa, in formation for the priesthood and religious life, by organizing sessions of formation for the educators in loco. The Catholic Church has a very suitable instrument for the promotion of reconciliation, justice and peace: Catholic schools and universities.
The development of sects could also be an invitation to the pastors to take better care in the transmission of the content of the faith in the African cultural context. If we wish to answer the question: what the Gospel has to say to the Africans that is new, it is necessary to know and appreciate the religious roots of the peoples in this continent since, according to African wisdom, “It is in sinking roots into the nourishing earth that the tree grows.”
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H. Exc. Mons. Tarcisius Gervazio ZIYAYE, Archbishop of Blantyre, President of the Episcopal Conference, President of the Association of Members of Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (A.M.E.C.E.A.) (MALAWI)
As the Church in Africa, we should not be comfortable only with increasing numbers of Catholics; the genuine goal of our evangelization should be an appropriate focusing on the Word of God as the basis of evangelizing human hearts, which will pave the way to more quality Christian life rather than just quantity.
We face the call to move to a more mature catechesis promoting a true Christian identity and a profound conversion of hearts. It is disheartening that, in Africa today, Catholics could participate in political and ethnic clashes and that Catholic politicians could be involved in serious corruption of public resources , and that some of our Catholics revert to occult practices in times of difficulties. All this tells us that we still have a long way to go to promote a faith that transforms the heart and a faith that does justice.
There is a need at every level of the Church in Africa for more serious formation in the Church’s Social Teaching (CST) and deeper implementation of an inculturation in our theology and not only in our rituals.
To this effect, I reiterate what the Catholic hierarchy in Malawi presented in their Pastoral Letter, “Deepening our Christian Life”. The message is that of intensifying in our hearts the burning desire to live good Christian lives that reflect a praying, witnessing, and servicing Church.
The surest way to overcome persecutions, injustice, tribalism, regionalism, political and economic corruption, is a human heart fully catechized!
Through reconciliation, those who are estranged could join hands in friendship and nations will seek the way of peace together.
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H. Exc. Mons. Robert SARAH, Archbishop Emeritus of Conakry, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (VATICAN CITY)
The theory of gender is a Western socializing ideology in relations between men and women, which attaches itself to the marital identity of the human being, to the anthropological complementarity between man and woman, to marriage, to motherhood and fatherhood, to the family and to procreation.
It is contrary to African culture and to the human truths illuminated by the divine Revelation in Jesus Christ.
The idea of gender separates the biological sex of masculine or feminine identity in stating that it is not intrinsic to the person but is a social construct. This identity could – and must – be torn down to allow woman to reach an equality of social power with man and for the individual to “choose” their sexual orientation. Man-woman relations would be governed by a struggle over power.
In the name of this unrealistic and disincarnate ideology, which denies God’s Plan, it is stated that from the start, we are indeterminate: society models the masculine and feminine gender according to the changing choices of the individual. The right to choose being the supreme value of this new ethic, homosexuality becomes a culturally acceptable choice, and access to this choice must be promoted.
The new ideology is dynamic and imposes itself at the same time on cultures and politics. It puts pressure on the legislator to write laws favorable to universal access to information and contraceptive and abortion services (concept of “reproductive health”) as well as homosexuality.
In African culture, man is nothing without woman and woman is nothing without man. Both are nothing if the child isn’t the center of the family created by a man and a woman and the base of society. Ideology of gender unbalances the meaning of marital and family life that Africa has maintained until now.
Society needs truth regarding relationships. There is no peace, no justice, no stability in society without family, without cooperation between man and woman, without a father and without a mother. For the sake of non-discrimination, this ideology creates serious injustices and compromises peace.
Africa must protect itself from the contamination of intellectual cynicism in the West. It is our pastoral responsibility to enlighten African consciences about the threats of this lethal ideology.
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Rev. Raymond Bernard GOUDJO, Secretary of the Commission “Justitia et Pax” of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Francophone Africa (CERAO) (NIGERIA)
Peace is not a catch-all word, it cannot be used as a trampoline for any idea. Peace is a goal constantly sought after that presupposes the practice of certain median values, in many combinations.
Faced by critical, not to say explosive, social situations, modules of education to peace are being developed. These modules are more interested in the behavioral mechanism than in structural values.
Structural values model the human person immediately and permanently, on the spiritual level as well as on the psychological and moral levels, by giving him the ability to radically choose, in a localized context, the good for himself which is also the good for all.
By education, one must understand the pedagogy of receiving the value in a human being: that is to say that the pedagogical work which consists in opening the human being to an integral vision of all of man and all men so that in relations that, despite constant conflicts, he pursues friendship, so that it can self-manage itself in virtue of the Spirit of advice/counsel, towards the highest personal and social good.
I would like to make two propositions:
1. The Church-Family of God in Africa (plea to SECAM – SCEAM), tied to the Pontifical Council for Christian Education, should put into place as soon as possible a team of researchers for pedagogy and the communication of social and Christian values. These researchers would think and produce a syllabus and a grammar on the social to serve as a foundation for the different Regional and National Episcopal Conferences. In turn, these would enrich them thanks to the devotion of their Justice and Peace Commissions, of social (Caritas) Pastoral, of Catholic teaching, of the Apostolate of the Laity and family
2. The Church-family of God in Africa (SECAM – SCEAM) should hold as a whole education, the formation at the base (children in families as the place for the natural insemination of human values) and the difficult dialogue without prejudice with the managerial and elite class (also facing immediate and pressing problems that pure moral statements cannot resolve, but rather have a tendency to distance the truths of faith and mores, in a word of the charity of the Church-Family of God).
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H. Exc. Mons. Ambroise OUÉDRAOGO, Bishop of Maradi (BURKINA FASO)
In Niger, Islam is present in a substantial way and colors all activities in social, cultural, economic and political life. Mosques and madrasahs are everywhere. We are also witnessing the establishing of orphanages, medical centers and help centers. Certain new reformist Islamic movements provide programming for private radios and television networks with the aim of helping Muslim believers to live and practice their faith better.
Living in the heart of this socio-cultural and religious context, the Church Family of God here in Niger, conscious of being a minority, tries to live and testify to the love of God to be at the service of reconciliation, justice and peace.The Church of God here in Niger has made Islamic-Christian dialogue a pastoral priority in its mission of Evangelization. Without pretending to be carrying out anything extraordinary or doing anything striking, the Christian communities, supported and encouraged by their pastors, are striving to study and live a life of universal brotherhood in a spirit of free giving with their Muslim brothers and sisters, through a dialogue of life, listening and mutual respect and the exchange of the proper procedures when events mark human life.
At the level of the interdiocesan commission for Islamic-Christian relationships, we organized training sessions that brought together Christians and Muslims. These sessions, led jointly by priests and imams, not only allowed Christians and Muslims to meet round a table, but above all to pray, exchange and reflect together on the role of religious leaders in civic education, conflict prevention and the struggle against poverty in Niger.
Finally, the presence of the Archbishop of Niamey on the ad hoc committee entrusted with the prevention of political and social conflicts in Niger says a great deal about the esteem and credibility that political authorities have towards the Church in Niger.
Our conviction today is that dialogue between Christians and Muslims is not only possible but essential and urgent with regard to the conflicts, wars and violence that afflict our Africa and our world. If we want a reconciled Africa where justice and peace reign, it would be utopistic and counterproductive for African believers not to work in unity. We must join our strengths and talents to pray and work together for the advent and birth of an Africa of peace, justice and pardon. We should not fear risking our lives by basing ourselves on the Word of God which saves and frees us from all evil.
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H. Em. Card. Francis ARINZE, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacrements (NIGERIA)
To give the Church greater credibility and courage in her prophetic mission of preaching reconciliation, justice and peace, care should be taken that reconciliation, justice and peace be lived within Church structures, especially by leading Church workers such as bishops, priests, consecrated people and lay faithful. Here are suggestions treated by the Instrumentum laboris in various articles (e.g. 17,38,45,53,61,109 and 110).
People rightly look up to bishops for leadership. They are the most prominent people to show that ethnic belonging, language or social class do not become predominant in the assignment of work in the Church and that the national Episcopal conference works as a collegial body, and speaks with one voice, without being influenced by tribal considerations.
Priests give example of unity and harmony when the diocesan presbyterium functions as a sacramental brotherhood, when they are happy to live in communities of two or three diocesan priests instead of preferring to be parish priests who live alone, and when they wholeheartedly accept a new bishop appointed by the Holy Father without organizing factions with a “Son of the soil” myopic mentality. The success of the Church in appointing bishops outside their language area is a powerful message to some African communities wounded by the politico-social virus of extreme ethnicism. Tribute is due to some priests who were reportedly killed during tribal massacres because they preached charity and harmony without and beyond tribal boundaries.
Religious Congregations give good witness to universality because their members generally come from many different ethnic backgrounds.
Justice: To serve the justice of the Kingdom of Christ, the Church “must first live this justice within herself, i.e, in her members” (Intr. Laboris: 45). Dioceses need to take care to honour contracts with Religious Congregations and especially to see that consecrated men and women, catechists, parish house workers and other Church-employed men and women are adequately paid. It is a scandal when these humble workers have only holy water to take home at the end of the month. Moreover, parish priests should remember that the offerings brought by the people at the Offertory Procession are not meant for the clergy alone but for the poor and the Church in general; and this includes the consecrated people and the catechists (cf General Instr. of the Roman Missal, 73; Redemptionis Sacramentum, 70).
Women are in some dioceses or parishes not given sufficient participation in councils (cf Instr. laboris, 61). Where their collaboration has been properly appreciated, very positive results have been verified.
This Synod can help the Church in each country to give a greater witness to reconciliation, justice and peace. “The life of an ecclesial community, which truly incarnates the Word, becomes a lamp on the threshold of society as a whole, enabling people to avoid the paths which lead to death and take instead those which lead to life, that is to say, in following Jesus, `the way, the truth and the life”‘ (Instr. laboris, 38).
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H. Exc. Mons. Adriano LANGA, O.F.M., Bishop of Inhambane (MOZAMBIQUE)
It has been known that since the Reformation, the Catholic Church has been facing challenges at various levels with regard to other churches and beliefs. These challenges have intensified and increased recently with the emergence and spread of the Evangelical Movements. In this situation today, we are seeing an exodus of Catholics towards these churches and movements. The evidence of this fact is the huge growth of those religious groups and the emergence of a Catholicism of “A style and a language that is foreign to it”, a phenomenon which should not be seen as being in line with ecumenism but rather as a desertion in the face of defeat.
How did this phenomenon emerge? Various reasons can be found for this. But I wish to underline a very important fact, which is among the causes and is the lack or insufficiency of inculturation in its various aspects.
In fact, marginalizing, disparaging and even fighting African cultures; underestimating native languages; centering its evangelization more on children and less on adults, even in the recent past; forbidding the reading of the Bible, also in the not very recent past; not translating the Bible into local languages, the Catholic Church fails to give African Catholics a language in an appropriate style. For this reason, the African Catholic, faced with believers from other beliefs experiences an inferiority complex and sense of alienation. Thus, the African Catholic, trying to escape the European and Latin American style, and wanting to feel himself as a truly African Christian Catholic, leans towards his African brothers of other faiths and creeds and takes on th
eir language and style.
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H. Exc. Mons. Francisco João SILOTA, M. Afr., Bishop of Chimoio, First Vice-President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (S.C.E.A.M.) (MOZAMBIQUE)
In chapter II of the Instrumentum laboris, N. 66 says: “Some think, however, that a more basic reason for the instability of societies on the continent is linked to cultural alienation and racial discrimination, which have engendered along the course of African history an inferiority complex, fatalism and fear” (IL 66).
I myself, in keeping with this search for the deepest meaning, realize that such an inferiority complex and other questions have gone even further, provoking serious damage to many Africans, something that I would call, more or less, an anthropological alienation. On the other hand, the facts reveal that many Africans not only reject values typical of them, but they go even as far as rejecting themselves.
They do not accept their “African-ness”. The legitimate pride that Mr. L. Senghor would like to instill as the ideology of “Blackness” is something that many let wash over them. The campaign for “Authenticity” undertaken by Mr. D. Mobutu, in his own way, has been ridiculed! The “African communalism” with which Dr. K. Nkruman would like to classify the African man’s manner of being is regarded with scepticism and pointed out as something anachronistic!
Therefore, the questions which arise are the following: Where are you, Africa? Where do you place yourself? Would it be by chance that certain void, landless and without support to sustain yourself that, paradoxically, is at the root of your drama? On the other hand, how is it possible to reconcile your welcoming and hospitable nature with the ethnic, tribal and regional discrimination that reigns at the heart of your societies, but also in the Church? Could it be, perhaps, this discrimination, the fruit of “transfert” that some of your children do to others in order to deny themselves? How can the obvious contradiction which exists between unconditional love for life, which is characteristic of the African, and the betrayals that some of your children committed against their own brothers, causing them dehumanizing suffering or even loss of life, be explained?
What is the way out of this contradictory situation, o Africa?
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H. Exc. Mons. Fulgence RABEMAHAFALY, Archbishop of Fianarantsoa, President of the Episcopal Conference (MADAGASCAR)
At the hearth children play an irreplaceable role so that their parents can experience peace and pardon. At every moment, they are capable of breaking everything: however they are also instruments of peace to allow parents to understand that there is no need to use violence to impart important lessons.
Violence in families is intolerable.
Between brothers and sisters, children are instruments of peace; ancestral wisdom requires that the elders be less strict towards the younger. They even correct themselves in their usual language. They learn words of peace, worthy and respectful. Parents are the models for their behavior and transmit the spirit of sharing, of love for one’s brother, obedience and reconciliation.
In a family with several children, many types of behavior are learnt quickly. It is a different story in a family with one child, who in fact, being too spoiled, acts like a king, and the parents don’t dare to contradict him. The child will try to be served everywhere, and exposes himself to all the dangers of manipulation and excess.
Thus, I would say, if we want peace, we must learn how to teach our children how to act properly in the family. It is this peace that shines from every home that brightens society; knowing how to live; the meaning of common good, respect for the elderly; the sense of sharing, care for the youngest, and listening to parents.
Children who have not had the chance to live in important family communities will not have enough of the sense and value of sacrifice and obedience. The family, the first community of life, is thereby the teacher “par excellence” of peace, and not ourselves, the Church-Family of God in our century.The important values in society, among others: justice, love, mutual respect, pardon and reconciliation, are learnt in the family. The problem is that in today’s world, family law is constrained; the rich countries believe that with their wealth they can silence the whole world, the small and the poor, and through violence, they can override justice and reconciliation, to be served.
We the Church are called upon to answer objectively, in a more humane and Christian way, the pleas of our fellow citizens afflicted by violence, injustice and social insecurity. We are the parents within our society. We are mother, teacher and protector. We must always be up to our task.
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H. Exc. Mons. Louis PORTELLA MBUYU, Bishop of Kinkala, President of the Episcopal Conference (REPUBLIC OF CONGO)
The Church has an urgent prophetic mission in Africa.
Faced with the desolate spectacle offered to the world by Africa, whose people are almost deprived of their sovereignty which is theirs, mostly by their own children, the Church must cast a clear eye on all situations where human dignity is disparaged, analyze the causes, reveal the mechanisms and call upon those responsible tirelessly. The danger is when faced with so many injustices and exploitation the Church stops being moved by this, becoming used to it, and no longer speaking about it, thus becoming an accomplice in people’s unhappiness, when her mission is to be “the voice of those without voice”.
However, this prophetic mission cannot be put into practice with moral authority unless the Church can offer the testimony of a reconciled community. On all levels (ecclesial base communities, movements, religious communities and priests, etc…) the Church is called to be a human space where reconciliation is always present. The fruitfulness of her presence is tied to this testimony. Finally, it is also up to the Church to participate in an active way in the elaboration of autonomous political and economic thinking, which can favor the emergence of an Africa reconciled with herself and in control of her own destiny.
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H. Exc. Mons. Maurice PIAT, C.S.Sp., Bishop of Port-Louis (MAURITIUS)
For the Church-Family of God to be at the service of reconciliation, justice and peace, and spread thus the salt of the Gospel to African societies, she must lean on the family, the base cell. The Instrumentum laboris, no. 20 underlines the urgency for this, to be creative in answering the spiritual and moral needs of families.
I would like to turn your attention to one of these needs, that of parents. Divested before the violence that falls upon their families, or heckled by the modernity that upsets the traditional paths for the transmission of values, they must be supported.
When war tears their families apart, parents may ask themselves what meaning is there to their lives, and which values can they still transmit to their children. They need a word that denounces the deep causes of violence, allows the fight against fatalism and shows the meaning that a fight for more justice can give life. Even if they do not reach the end of this fight, they could at least transmit the taste for the battle and suffering for justice to their children.
Parents who are victims of violence need to be accompanied on their healing path, which necessarily passes through the narrow door of non-violence, which is the only one that can give back a taste for life, and enable them to transmit a reason for living to their children.
For other parents, it is the indifference or aggressiveness of their children, sucked into the vortex of a consumer and communications society from all directions, which is the source of their deep suffering. The mechanisms of the traditional transmission of faith and values seem to have broken down. They look for pla
ces to talk about them and need to be supported.
When through the “Living Ecclesial Communities”, parents are reunited with their desire to find the taste of transmitting, and are put into contact with the Word of God, they discover, starting with the small trials, an unexpected proximity with Christ’s suffering which encourages and gives them back a meaning to their lives. To accompany these families on the Paschal path, it would seem essential today for the Church-Family of God to spread the salt of the Gospel in African land.
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H. Exc. Mons. Joseph AKÉ YAPO, Archbishop of Gagnoa, President of the Episcopal Conference (IVORY COAST)
How can the Church in Africa be the salt of the earth and light of the world if she does not question herself about the management of the faithful and of priests, in the practice of power and authority? If the Church wishes to play an effective role as an artisan of peace, reconciliation and justice, she must start by putting into practice from within what she teaches and pay attention to placing the necessary and essential structures for the formation and education of her faithful.
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H. Exc. Mons. Fulgence MUTEBA MUGALU, Bishop of Kilwa-Kasenga (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO)
To promote a culture of peace, justice, reconciliation, tolerance, dialogue and conviviality within our populations, the Churches of Africa should use the media efficiently and rise to certain challenges. At this time, it is an imperative that cannot be ignored in a media environment polluted by manipulation, political propaganda, non-edifying entertainment and activism by sects, but also marked by the imperialism of foreign media who propose themselves by imposing themselves.
On one hand, to be effective, ecclesial communication must become a pastoral priority. To do this, the means of social communications must be truly placed at the service of evangelization and the evangelized themselves. We hope, with regard to this, that our ecclesial structures and our ecclesiastical institutions arrange, within the availability of material resources, their own proper means for communication (radios, newspapers, information bulletins, internet site, television, telephone, etc…) and truly use them. When lacking the material and financial means, one could use, for example, sponsorship from media organisms of other continents, as well as active solidarity with people of good will.
Pastoral agents, bishops, priests and seminarians, must learn how to use the new technologies of communication and information in pastoral care, especially in the pastoral care of justice, peace and reconciliation. Our people must also be trained in the discernment and critical use of media instruments, in the light of ethical principles and human rights. As for the operators of communication in our societies, it is an imperative that they be sensitized to the professional ethics of their job and to the responsibility they have in the promotion of peace, justice, reconciliation and the dignity of the human being. As recommended by the doctrine of the Church, we must create associations of Catholic communicators.
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H. Exc. Mons. Jean-Bosco NTEP, Bishop of Edéa (CAMEROON)
In his message for the World Peace Day in 2004, Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory, said that true peace is not possible unless it is based on pardon and reconciliation. This is an admission of the impotence of negotiation and weapons.
Since the beginning of democracy in Africa, the government turned to the Church for guidance. This plea gave them a new mission which made the Fathers of the First Special Synod for Africa say: “education towards the common good as well as to a respect for pluralism will be one of the pastoral tasks which are a priority for our time” (nuntris N. 34). Pope John Paul II refused any type of improvisation concerning this burdensome responsibility.
In speaking about “new perspectives of reconciliation”, we would like to echo the Holy Father’s plea and understand reconciliation as a way of being and living; consequentially a way of living with others, with God and with oneself, even with nature. Reconciliation should be manifested in all its aspects of our social and religious life and become a witness of love.
Reconciliation, as it has been organized in certain African countries has not brought about the expected fruits. It has not made resentment and fear disappear. It has not encountered the adhesion of hearts sufficiently. In fact, it cannot be limited to the social, public aspect. It is first of all a personal process. The Church has the advantage of speaking to the heart of an individual more than politics. She must directly address the individual consciences, the abilities of reflection and choice of each person towards the option of reconciliation as the basis for peace and therefore as a guarantee of a credible social order. The individual, the Christian in his country, will be led to the essential need for personal conversion, to reconciliation, to peace as the basis for ecclesial life.
The new perspective of reconciliation that we are hoping for calls upon culture. A culture of reconciliation must be established in the Church, a necessary path, essential for peace.
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H. Exc. Mons. George NKUO, Bishop of Kumbo (CAMEROON)
Apart from greed, corruption and lack of confidence in our political leaders, one of the great
obstacles to justice, peace and reconciliation in Africa is poverty. There is poverty in Africa and there is hunger in many parts of the continent of Africa. There are greedy people in Africa including our leaders who do not care about their brothers and sisters.
Poverty means that basic needs for food, water and shelter are not being met. Poverty means that security in the community is not available. Poverty means that the means to heal our families is not available. Poverty means that our children will have no future with hopes of having a family and a means of support. Poverty means that sadness and fear have replaced joy and serenity. This is the poverty of many places in Africa. Poverty is the single greatest cause of hunger.
There is poverty in Africa but Africa has almost all it takes to be the richest continent on earth. Africa is about the wealthiest continent in natural resources in the world. Farmers are poor in Africa because the productivity of their land and labour remain so low. Rural poverty of this kind was once the norm in Europe and North America as well. It would seem this poverty must be overcome with ways we have not met before. True enough there are no quick fix solutions to solving large scale poverty but we must begin somewhere.
The eventual escape from these impoverished rural conditions in Europe and America came when the new discoveries in science were applied in farming. It was the availability of productive new technology for farmers that allowed Europe and America in the early and middle years of the twentieth century to bring a final end to widespread rural poverty.
Today we are faced with the issue of introducing Genetic Engineering (GE) crops in Africa. The question is: Are these new technologies inherently harmful or can they have positive contribution to people’s lives in poor African countries. Is GE intrinsically immoral or is it just another technology applicable to agriculture? Is this Biotechnology an evil empire as some people want us to believe?
On the other hand, this new science says that not only will the quality of life for the poorest of people be raised tremendously but they will also begin the process of economic development. It is a technology that offers to the poorest farmers, one of the keys to making the breakthrough out of poverty.
But because this technology is still relatively new and requires long term study of environmental and human health impacts, we in Cameroon suggest that Africa should not rush blindly to embrace it. This technology should be pursued with the greatest care even if it
promises economic salvation for Africa.