ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, November 22, 2017–In preparation for the fifth summit of the African Union and the European Union, the Catholic bishops’ conferences of both continents issued a joint statement of support.
“The Commission of Bishops’ Conferences in the European Union (COMECE) and the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) … welcome this event and the decision to focus on ‘Youth’ as its central theme,” the bishops said.
“The Catholic Church is deeply rooted in both continents and as bishops we wish to address the spiritual expectations of people, and especially the youth.”
Taking place on Nov. 28-29 in Abidjan, capital of Ivory Coast, the summit will draw political leaders to discuss future partnerships between the continents. The bishops observed that youth will also be a major theme of the 2018 Synod of Bishops, held next year at the Vatican.
“At this particular moment in the history of the long-standing relations between Africa and Europe, the summit presents the political leaders of both continents with the unique opportunity to initiate an authentic mutual partnership,” the bishops said.
The two continents are connected by historical roots, they observed, citing the presence of the Christian faith that has developed in both continents over centuries of theologians, martyrs, and saints.
On a more negative note, past and present injustices also tie the two regions together, the bishops said. They acknowledged challenges including migrant issues, political unrest, and religious violence, which oppose the dignity of the human person. They also recognized the need to address current ideologies negatively affecting the youth.
“Coherent answers must be provided for the youth as they face new, wayward ideologies regarding culture, the sanctity of human life, marriage and the family, and loss of spirituality in a world where a materialistic culture is dominant.”
The statement said the summit should promote economic and sociological growth on both continents by developing opportunities for better education, career training, and jobs.
This should be aided by public policies allowing for private investment and infrastructure projects, they said. Policies should be just and ensure fair trade, they said, addressing intercontinental strains over migration concerns and African resources.
“New local industries and sustainable development of agriculture may furthermore help to reduce the stress which forces young people to leave,” the bishops said, referencing the poor economic policies and proxy wars that have displaced thousands of African migrants.
Corruption problems must be countered by institutional transparency, they said, noting a general lack of trust from the people toward politicians.
The statement also encouraged joint projects and regular conferences between the continents, stating that respectful discussion must be procured to bring “inter and intra-continental healing” where transgressions have sown ethnic strife.
Conference such as the upcoming one “should bring to light different forms of disillusionment, especially among the youth, and identify ways of addressing them in a spirit of mutual respect for persons and for different cultures,” the bishops said. (CNA)