OPENING ADDRESS AT THE 6TH STANDING COMMITTEE MEETING OF THE REGIONAL EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF WEST AFRICA (RECOWA) IN PRAIA, CAPE VERDE, 27.01.2018, BY ARCHBISHOP IGNATIUS A. KAIGAMA, PRESIDENT OF RECOWA.
Your Eminence, Your Excellencies, The Members of the Standing Committee,
Your Excellencies, The Presidents of the National / Inter-Territorial Conferences,
Your Excellency, The Representative of the Government,
Your Excellency, The Mayor,
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Catholic Relief Services (CRS),
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Christ Lay Faithful of Praia,
It is with special joy that I greet you, brothers and sisters in faith and mission. I bring you the greetings of Peace and Love of our Lord Jesus Christ. The 6th Ordinary Session has brought us here in Praia, at the invitation of our Brother His Eminence Arlindo Cardinal Gomes FUTARDO. May I extend to him, the clergy and the Lay Faithful a special greeting and special thanks for the honour of inviting us and by accepting that the workshop on “Significance of Social Enterprise and Impact Investing to the Church” be incorporated into the 6th Ordinary Session of our Standing Committee.
On behalf of the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, and in communion with our communities across West Africa, I express my deep and heartfelt gratitude to the representative of the Government of Cape Verde, and the Municipality of Praia for their presence at this opening ceremony. It is indeed a sign of the excellent collaboration between the political and the religious order. This is what we want to see in West Africa; for we are pursuing the same goal which is the good of our people, especially the less fortunate.
My dear Brother Bishops members of the Standing Committee, we have every cause to be grateful to God for what he has helped us to achieve during these two years since our election into office.
1. Capacity building Workshop on Electoral Process for all Justice, Development and Peace Commissions (JDPCs) of the Region at Daughters of Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre (DRACC) in Abuja, from 20th to 23rd September 2015 in partnership with CAFOD.
2. Capacity building Workshop on Electoral Process at the RECOWA/CERAO Centre for Mission and Pastoral in Abidjan from 24-27 November 2016 in partnership with CAFOD.
3. Courtesy visit by the Presidential Council to the then President of the Committee of Heads of States of West Africa and we used the opportunity to make a fraternal visit to the Sister Church of Liberia and her pastors.
4. Workshop on Land grabbing with reference to Laudato Si at the RECOWA/CERAO Centre for Mission and Pastoral in Abidjan from 20-24 November 2017.
5. The RECOWA Migration, Sea Apostolate and Tourism Commission and Committee conference in Bo (Sierra Leone).
6. RECOWA/CERAO has prepared a 10-Year Strategic Plan
7. This is meant to animate, facilitate and coordinate as well as to foster collaboration among the Secretaries General of the National Bishops’ Conferences, the Regional Episcopal Commissions and Committees.
May I take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to those national Conferences which in a real spirit of solidarity, have always paid their contributions so as to enable the Secretariat of the RECOWA/CERAO, function in accordance with its main objective, to assist the Bishops to discharge their Pastoral Mandate and to contribute to the political and socio-economic development of the region with a peaceful, respectful, and harmonious coexistence among our communities.
I thank those dioceses which promised to host the meeting of some Episcopal Commissions and Committees. A special thank you to the Church of Sierra Leone which sponsored and hosted the meeting of the Commission on Migration, Sea Apostolate and Tourism. We know how migration has become a crucial challenge in our region.
In spite of these positive developments there are some significant challenges within our region which need to be addressed.
The Presidential Council presented some of the challenges them to the Former President of Liberia, Mrs. Ellen Sirleaf JOHNSON, President of the Assembly of ECOWAS Heads of State, during the audience with her.
These concerns include:
➢ Tumultuous political transition with its corollary of instability;
➢ Danger of youth unemployment resulting in migration that has transformed the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean into cemeteries!
➢ Religious intolerance that has turned into extremism and terrorism;
➢ Nomadic herdsmen often associated with acts of rape, murder, destruction of farms, abductions and conflicts.
Also we stressed:
➢ The need to create a regional structure for prevention, mediation, resolution and transformation of conflict in the region;
➢ A regional liaison office to collaborate with the Commission and relevant institutions.
To remedy some of the problems, especially concerning youth unemployment, I informed the President that: “Sixty five percent of our population is made up of the youth. Unfortunately, majority of them are unemployed and therefore highly exposed to human trafficking, drug abuse, violence and forced migrations, etc. As long as they remain without jobs after their graduation from school and move about in our sub-region, they are easy preys to warlords and political criminals, who may recruit them for violent crimes and terrorism. There is an urgent need to reverse this trend by putting in place appropriate measures and incentives to create gainful employment opportunities for our youth”. What should we do as Church to address this problem?
This is where we can see the importance of the workshop on “Significance of Social Enterprise and Impact Investing to the Church”. With this workshop we shall be presented with opportunities to address some of the social problems our people are confronted with. This workshop will equip us to be not only agents of evangelisation but also agents of development, I will say integral human development.
With regard to the High level Mediation Body, the terms of references have been prepared by the General Secretariat for the selection and constitution of the Body. The Episcopal Conferences were sent letters so that they can propose some competent lay faithful who can be part of this body. We need to put in place this body here during this meeting and start work.
We also need to constitute RECOWA/CERAO Election Observation Body. With regard to this body which will work under the umbrella of the Justice and Peace Commission, we shall rely on the various National/Inter-territorial Justice Development and Peace Commissions to start the work.
My dear Brothers in the Episcopate, the time has come for us to actively engage the political, social and economic leaders of our region to address the root causes of these problems. Challenges are awaiting us. For this reason, I call on all the Conferences to respectfully and actively engage the political leaders of their respective countries.
In a region marked by a great apostolic dynamism, it is of prime importance to continue to assume with courage, our prophetic role in favor of suffering humanity.
Indeed, we must never lose sight of this essential mission of educating consciences to the love of truth and the demands of justice and to responding in a practical way to the needs of the most vulnerable populations.
Our wish is that our organized and quality work, at the service of the integral human development, can strengthen us in our mission as peacemakers, reconciliation agents, messengers of justice and agents of development in our respective countries.
In this spirit, let us continue to work together for a more united and stronger Conference at the service of the Church and the poor.
Finally, I thank you all for taking time out of your heavy schedules to be present here in Praia in order to share communion with the Church of Cape Verde.
[Finalmente quero agradecer a todos que doqstes uma parte do vosso tempo para aqui estardes presents e manifestar a vossa comunhao com a Igreja em Cabo Verde.
Renovo a minha gratidao a todos vos; leigos; ao clero e aos bispos locais; dom Ildo da diocese de mindelo e a sua Eminencia Senhor Cardeal Dom Arlindo Furtado pelo convite calorosa recepcao; somos testemunhas de que a Igreja e a expresao da sublime comunhao; unidos aos senhores cardeais;bispos da regiao CERAO evoco as bencaos de Deus sobre vos e o vosso povo.]
I now declare in the name of the Blessed Trinity the 6th Ordinary Session of the Standing Committee of RECOWA/CERAO, holding in Praia, Cape Verde open.
Thank you very much; Merci beaucoup; Muito obrigado!