Year of Africa

NCRCafe (aka John Allen) offers this exceptional idea for a New Year's Resolution: make 2009 the Year of Africa, just as the Vatican has proposed.

Why? Here's a start: Upheaval in the Democratic Republic of Congo alone, according to one estimate, has left four million people dead – conflict fueled in part by a global scramble for Congo’s mineral resources, including cobalt, which is used in cell phone batteries. On a recent trip to the United States, Bishop Fulgence Muteba Mugalu of Kilwa said that “Catholics and governments should understand that each cell phone contains a drop of innocent Congolese blood.”

What can you do? Catholic institutions of all sorts could be attentive to opportunities throughout 2009 to shine a spotlight on Africa. For example, whenever a visiting African bishop, religious sister, or lay activist happens to be in town, make a big deal out of it.

What to avoid? For example, an utterly predictable chorus is likely to arise on the Catholic left in ’09 to the effect of, “If the pope wants to do something for Africa, why doesn’t he come out in favor of condoms to fight AIDS?” Such stale polemics often get in the way of doing something constructive. Conservative Catholics, meanwhile, talk a good game about “thinking with the church,” but can be selective in their follow-through. If the pope criticizes abortion, they’re ready to mount the barricades; if he tackles poverty and war, many will quietly suggest he’s out of his depth, or that he’s wading into matters of prudential judgment that don’t oblige conscience...The economic crisis in the United States creates a powerful temptation for Americans to turn inward, focusing on domestic problems. Whatever attention we have left over for foreign policy may be occupied by the crisis du jour in the Holy Land and by ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Resolve to turn towards Africa this year.

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