Sr. Jecinter Antoinette Okoth, FSSA
One year since Pope Francis visited Africa specifically Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius, Bishops under their continental body Symposium of Episcopal Conferences in Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) have reinforced Pope’s main message in the continent during his Apostolic visit that Africa and Madagascar needs Peace, Hope and Reconciliation
“We hereby repeat the call of Pope Francis that; all of us must continuously say ‘no to violence and yes to peace,’ reads in part SECAM statement signed by the Deputy Secretary-General Fr. Rafael Simbine Junior.
During his seven-day visit, Pope’s message revolved around three key words to Africa and the surrounding Island “Peace, Hope and Reconciliation.” In Mozambique the motto for the visit was “Hope, Peace and Reconciliation”, in Madagascar: “Sower of Peace and Hope” and in Mauritius: “Pilgrim of Peace.”
In the statement sent to the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) one of the eight Regional Conferences that form SECAM on Thursday, September 3, the Bishops highlighted Pope’s message that “everything is lost with war and everything is gained with peace.”
Referencing the Pontiff’s observation they noted, “With war, many men, women and children suffer because they have no home to live in, no food, no schools to educate themselves, hospitals to treat their health, Churches to meet for prayer and fields to employ the labour force. Many thousands of people are forced to move in search of security and the means to survive (…) No to violence and yes to peace!”
Peace therefore is “a mission that involves everyone – a mission that requires hard, constant and unrelenting work,” Fr. Simbine who is also the Coordinator of the SECAM Evangelization Commission said in the statement on behalf of the Prelates.
According to the statement, peace is not only the absence of war, “but the tireless commitment – especially of those in a position of greater responsibility – to recognize, guarantee and concretely rebuild the dignity, so often forgotten or ignored, of our brothers and sisters, so that they can feel that they are the main protagonists of the destiny of their nation and continent.”
The bishops noted that it is through peace that reconciliation is possible, and this calls for “a constant process in which every new generation is involved” and where there is openness to true encounter recognition of each the other, strengthening of ties and building bridges.”
Even though Pope’s message was on peace and reconciliation, the Bishops disclosed that brutal acts of violence are still being witnessed in different African countries, including Mozambique where the Pope visited, “and there is little or no sign towards peaceful or harmonious co-existence, unity, food security, clean environment in most parts of continent and the islands.”
The first anniversary of the visit of the Holy Father to Africa, will be celebrated from Friday, September 4 to Thursday, 10 September.
The Bishops “thank Pope Francis, messenger of hope, herald of peace and advocate of reconciliation.”