This report is contributed by Esther Gaitan-Fuertes of Aid to the Church in Need.
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At last month’s UN Sustainable Development Summit, the “Common Declaration of the Bishops of Africa and Madagascar” appealed to political leaders and international organizations to end the promotion of what the document called a “civilization of death” on the continent.
The prelates wrote: “The agents of the civilization of death are using ambivalent language, seducing decision-makers and entire populations, in order to make them partners in the pursuit of their ideological objectives… They take advantage of poverty, weakness and ignorance in order to subject peoples and governments to their blackmail.” Prominent among these policies is the implementation of a “sexual and reproductive health and rights” agenda.
In Benin, Father François Tiando faces this monumental challenge first-hand in his work overseeing family pastoral ministry in the Natitingou Diocese. He also faces the challenge that “some people are not quite open to modernity or Christianity. The major challenge is still polygamy… It is difficult for the young to understand the importance and benefits of monogamy.” Matters are made worse, he told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, by the pressure of international organizations to implement a “reproductive health” agenda in Benin as they do throughout Africa.
Father Tiando points to the slogan of the “Amour et Vie” (Love and Life) youth centers for reproductive health: “Learn to live your personal life without risks.” The centers offer a confidential service, which in practice means that teenagers and young people can receive advice on reproductive health without parental consent. “Parents are disarmed… there is a serious crisis of values in Africa,” the priest said.
The Natitingou Diocese offers families a formation program to help them embrace Catholic family values and practice—with ‘graduates’ looked to for the inspiration of other families. Indeed, says Father Tiando, the goal is the “evangelization of families by families; the other families can see that Christian values truly lived in the family are good for the family and society as a whole.” Suggesting such formation is needed for families in the West as well,
Ms. Christine du Coudray, head of the Africa department at Aid to the Church in Need International, said that, when it comes to Christian family values, “something good is coming from Africa.”
This mission of the African people for humanity at large is also stressed in the “Common Declaration.” It quotes Pope Benedict XVI who said that “Today Africa is the spiritual lung of humanity.” The Declaration charges that “the reproductive health agenda” aims for the “the efficient control of demographic growth in Africa, according to the Western ‘model,’ which has become a zero growth model in Europe today.” The bishops denounce the “terrifying resurgence of a colonialist spirit under the guise of the appealing names of liberty, equality, rights, autonomy, democratization and development… It can no longer be denied that under the euphemism of ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’, such programs are plainly imposed as a condition for development assistance.”