It is difficult to believe there are countries in the world where suffering is an every day reality. The pope delivered the post-synodal exhortation "Africae Munus" about the Catholic Church in Africa last November, focusing on the need for change. Today the news coming out of Africa is mainly about the starvation in the Horn of Africa and the persecution of Christians in Nigeria. These headlines illustrate that in his exhortation the pope is hitting on very real issues.
Currently 11 million people are starving in the horn of Africa and in Nigeria radical Islamic groups want Christians to leave the northern territories. In light of this it seems clear that when the pope says in his exhortation that Africa must become a land of reconciliation, peace and hope, he is conscious of the pain that all Africans experience .
The images coming from Nigeria this Christmas made me think of what I saw in Madrid at WYD: a Church united as a only body different, standing firm with the same root – Christ. The contrast between these two sets of images made me feel that the suffering of African Christians is also my suffering, the suffering of all Christian. When one part of the body suffers, the entire body suffers.
The Bishops of Africa and Pope Benedict XVI know the church needs to be alert to all of this. When, in "Africae Munus", we read, “On the social plane, human consciences are challenged by the grave injustices existing in our world as a whole and within Africa in particular. The plundering of the goods of the earth by a minority to the detriment of entire peoples is unacceptable, because it is immoral. Justice obliges us to ‘render to each his due,’” it is a call to look at the plight of those who suffer, to look at those who have their life on the line every day.
We know Africa is the continent where inequality is most visible. The church has always made a great effort to fight against those problems and help Africa to be a real land of reconciliation, justice and peace. As a result the Church has thousands of missionaries working on that continent. They leave their families and travel around the world to work in Africa, not just to work to give Africans a better life but also to share in their pain.
In the conclusion of his exhortation the pope uses the words of Mark’s Gospel, “Take heart, rise, He is calling.” This citation can be applied no just to the situation of Africans, but to the whole world, to all of us, we have to raise to be the voice for the ones who don’t have a voice.
The words of the Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria, asking his people not to retaliate because that is not the way of Christ, show us the confusion the situation can create, how such deep pain can make it difficult to follow Christ’s path. Archbishop serve to call us to support these fellow children of God with our prayers. Let us ask God to protect and look out for all the people suffering in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.