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Synod/3 – Celebration of life

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At the heart of the first part of the document there is a section entitled: Behold, I make all things new. It is a long a long section on the African vision of life, the huge capital Africans can count on. The excitement of life, the joy of opening your eyes and contemplate creation, the endless beauty of the African horizons that attract many tourists and inject the “nostalgia for Africa” on those who lived there, these are real gifts. Life is celebrated and welcomed, like when it is greeted with joy at a child birth. Life is celebrated in families with an average of 3 children and over. Life is venerated in flora and fauna of incredible variety. This is the life that crosses the boundaries of physical death because of the faith in God; in communion with the ancestors and Saints. Life, even the one terribly threatened by AIDS, malaria, drugs, violence, petty wars, epidemics caused by lack of clean water, malnutrition and hunger, desert advances, abortion often imposed on helpless women.

c2The Church has a formidable tradition of service to life. Africa Munus wants to raise with power the song to life not just with words but with concrete initiatives. On the one side, it promotes the dissemination of a culture of life that counters the culture of death, through education and mass media. On the other side, to improve the network of incentives and assistance for the life that goes beyond the clinics and hospitals that the Church has built and manages in the whole of Africa. The service to life includes reconciliation and ecumenism with an invitation to all religions to join hands to sustain life and ecology. Here is the true manifestation of the faith: the service to life. This is the core of the message that Africa sends to the world.
To celebrate life goes through living one’s faith. There is a real explosion of ministries in Africa. In Africa, people cannot understand a passive participation to rites. The person must be involved, participate actively. This is seen during liturgical celebration, where all sing and dance. It is seen in the many services required in a community. There is today an escalation of new vocations, ministries, roles. In this, Africans bring a new vision. They do not subscribe to Western individualism. They want community, family. This vision of society as an enlarged family helps also in the search for reconciliation within society.
Africans appreciate the idea of communion with the ancestors. There have been many people of faith who have left a mark in Church and society in the past century. They are the real ancestors of the local communities of today. They should not be forgotten, and their lives should become examples for the new generations of believers. We should never forget Julius Nyerere, for his commitment to the nation; Wangare Maathai, for her stubbornness in defending nature and work for peace; Maurice Otunga, for his service as bishop and the humility to retire with the poor; Bernardin Gantin, the first African cardinal to occupy a place of responsibility in the Vatican who died in 2008 and is considered a national hero in Benin. And there are many more, some famous, other little known, all have preceded us in the communion with God and lead us in the paths that take us to him.
c3The experience of the African Church can also influence the structures of the Universal Church. At the moment, the Church is still too pyramidal, with a small group of people centralizing all power and decision making. The experience on the ground suggests the possibility of a Church that delegates many decisions to local communities, empowering people to let the Word of God and the Tradition of the Church guide them in responding to the challenges of life.
While the West laments the financial crisis and seems unaware of the crisis of human values, Africa lives a very different moment. Africa is not in crisis. People are used and capable of suffering and accept the sacrifices that life demands today. The present situation opens the door to new perspectives for Africa. The World order we live is was born of colonialism and the exploitation of people. Today Africa can propose a society based not on grabbing, but on relationship. Maybe this would mean to accept a poorer life style. Yet, the irruption of the poor in history could also be the turning point for the whole humanity, geared to a different quality of life, in respect of all, in respect of the environment.

Francesco Pierli

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