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AIDS is a pandemic, together with malaria and tuberculosis, which is decimating African populations and severely damaging their economic and social life. It is not to be looked at as either a medical-pharmaceutical problem or solely as an issue of a change in human behaviour. It is truly an issue of integral development and justice, which requires a holistic approach and response by the Church.
Those who are sick with AIDS in Africa are victims of injustice, because they often do not receive the same quality of treatment as in other places.
The Church asks that funds destined for those with AIDS be actually used for this purpose, and recommends that African patients receive the same quality of treatment as in Europe.
The Church vehemently condemns all deliberate attempts on the part of individuals or groups to spread the virus, either as a weapon of war or by their personal lifestyle.
The Synod offers encouragement to all Church institutions and movements who work in the field of health and especially of AIDS and asks international agencies to acknowledge them and support them in respecting their specificity. The Church urgently recommends that current research into treatments be expanded so as to eradicate this severe affliction.
Moreover, this Synod proposes:- the avoidance of whatever helps the spread of the disease, such as poverty, the breakdown of family life, marital unfaithfulness, promiscuity and a life-style which is devoid of human values and Gospel virtues.
— a pastoral care which offers those living with HIV and AIDS access to medication, food, counselling for a change in behaviour and a life without stigma;
— a pastoral care which offers orphaned children, widows and widowers a genuine hope of a life without stigma and discrimination;
— a pastoral support which helps couples living with an affected spouse to inform and form their consciences, so that they might choose what is right, with full responsibility for the greater good of each other, their union and their family; and
— that SECAM develop an HIV / AIDS pastoral manual for all those involved in the Church’s AIDS ministry (priests, religious, doctors, nurses, counsellors, catechists, teachers) applying the Church’s moral and social doctrine in the different situations, where the People of God in Africa are facing the various challenges of the pandemic.
Malaria remains the worst killer on the African continent and its Islands, contributing enormously to the aggravation of poverty. We appreciate all the initiatives directed towards combating this sickness. However, we acknowledge that more needs to be done if any remarkable results are to be expected. Therefore the Synod proposes the following:
— that malaria be taken up in all the Church’s health endeavours;
— that concerted initiatives be taken, aimed at educating people on issues of malaria and preventing occurrences of the sickness;
— that governments be urged to develop more consistent and sustained policies and programmes aimed at the eradication of malaria;
— that manufacturers of medicines make them affordable, so as to save more lives; and
— sustain efforts to develop a vaccine against malaria.
Drugs and Alcohol
The diffusion and selling of drugs is a waste of Africa’s human capital. Similarly, misuse of alcohol leads to many serious problems; break-up of families, health deterioration, misspending of scarces resources, conflicts and accelerated spread of HIV AIDS.
The Church sees this as a threat to persons, especially youth, and a cause for crisis in education institutions, in families as well as on public morality.
— the Church ought to become engaged in the fight against the production, selling, trafficking and consumption of drugs in Africa;
— the Church should encourage government and private institutions in their fight against drug and alcohol abuse in our countries;
— the Church, in forming youth, should encourage the moderate and conscientious use of alcohol, if not complete abstention;
— Pastoral agents should offer pastoral care for alcoholics and drug users and their families by promoting recovery programmes, reconciliation with their families;
— priests and religious should be keen to show good example by moderate use of alcohol;
— training priests, religious and laity in counseling; and
— offer pastoral care to drug abusers and offer them assistance to deliver themselves from substance abuse.
Concern for Prisoners
The Synod Fathers express deep concern about the increase in crime and its effects in African societies, affecting innocent citizens and their families. We commend peace officers and law enforcement agencies which seek to protect citizens and ensure their safety. We also express great respect for the judiciary system which seeks to maintain law and order. We consider unfortunate the very many instances of the misapplication of the law and the miscarriage of justice, which amount to violations of the human rights of those unjustly incarcerated.
The Church-Family of God in Africa takes up her prophetic mission to those affected by crime and their need for reconciliation, justice and peace. However, she also denounces all instances of miscarriage of justice and mistreatment of prisoners.
Therefore, we recommend that:
— governments and stakeholders initiate penal reforms, improve the prevention of crime, and apply international minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners, including a more humane treatment in terms of food, accommodations, clothing and healthcare, recognizing the rights of prisoners and granting them decent conditions of detention;
— laws be judiciously applied and human rights be greatly respected;
— prison pastoral care be organized and supported under the Commission of Justice and Peace, with a desk at the regional, national, diocesan and parish levels, in which Small Christian Communities take part;
— a holistic approach be adopted in the pastoral care of prisoners by properly trained personnel who work as a team;
— pastoral care workers in prisons commit themselves to study and practice restorative justice as a means and process of fostering reconciliation, justice and peace, and the reintegration of offenders, victims and ex-offenders into communities; and
— “rehabilitation centers” be established to help prisoners’ re-enter society.
Abolition of the Death Penalty
“The Church sees as a sign of hope a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as an expression of justice and a kind of legitimate defense on the part of society. Modern society in fact has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitely denying them the chance to reform” (“The Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church”, 405).
The dignity of the person requires that his or her fundamental rights be respected even when one does not respect the rights of others. The death penalty frustrates such an aim. At times, the death penalty is used to eliminate political opponents. Moreover, poor people, who cannot defend themselves, are more easily subjected to this final un-appealable punishment.
This Synod calls for the total and universal abolition of the death penalty.
By nature, the human person is always (created to be) a “being-in-communication”, with a vocation to communion. Thus, communication is a priority for human development and evangelization.
Furthermore, in a globalized world, the improved use and greater availability of the various means of social communication (visual, audio, web and print) are indispensable for the promotion of peace, justice and reconciliation in Africa.
This Synod, therefore, calls for:
— an increased presence of the Church in the media;
— the networking of audio-visual centres, publishing houses and media centres;
— the professional training and ethical formation of journalists to promote a culture of dialogue which avoids division, sensationalism, disinformation and the offensive trivialization of human suffering, all of which could harm the harmony and peace of societies and communities.
— use of the modern media for the spread of the Gospel and the fruits of the present Synod, for the education of African peoples in truth, reconciliation, the promotion of justice and peace.
— the development of a satellite network, under the coordination of CEPACS (the media organ of SECAM) to serve the Church-Family of God in Africa; and
— set up diocesan, national or regional commissions of communication with competent personnel to help exercise the Church’s prophetic ministry in society.
In summary, we should ensure educational and formative media which are ready to convey morally healthy cultural and Gospel virtues.
Mary, Our Lady of Africa
The Synod entrusted every aspect of its work to the prayerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Our Lady of Africa, Queen of Peace.
Mary is our model in the ministry of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. By her obedience to the Father and her docility to the Holy Spirit, she collaborated in the mission of her Son up to his death on the cross, by which humanity is definitively reconciled to God. As a compassionate mother, Mary is a model of the ministry of Reconciliation in both mercy and love of the Church-Family of God; and Mary intercedes for her from heaven in her on-going task of transformation of Africa and its Islands.
The Synod therefore urges the Bishops and all pastoral agents of the Church in Africa and the Islands to commend their own ministries to the prayerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that they may obtain the grace to be credible witnesses of the Risen Lord and, through their service of reconciliation, justice and peace, become “the salt of the earth” and “light of the world”.