“Reconciliation, Justice and Peace in Africa; Students commitment to the “New Evangelization”
We organized two sub regional formation sessions on the above theme within the period under review. The first was for West Africa Anglophone and Francophone countries, held in Lome, Togo from 6 – 12 April 2013, while the second was held in Maseru, Lesotho from 6 – 10 January 2014 for Southern Africa Countries.
The workshops were organized acknowledging the fact that the socio-economic and political situation of many countries in Africa presents a picture that can bring feelings of frustration to even the most courageous young person! The situation has created unjust structures, which has increased poverty, conflicts and suffering in the continent. Coupled with the ambiguities; and genuine and irrepressible questions on the meaning of life that come with youth age,the situation have created a deep faith crisis among the youths that has consequently caused increase in violent conflicts experienced in recent years in different parts of Africa. In an attempt to solve these crises, so many youths have fallen into the temptation of legitimizing the unwarranted separation of faith from life i.e. they try to separate Gospel acceptance from the actual living of the Gospel in various life situations. This act of separating life and faith has contributed to worsening conflict situations in the students’ milieu, in Africa and the society at large.
As Young Catholic Students, we see it as our primary role to take action to bring faith and life together and to help other young persons do same in order to build peace and to promote justice for sustainable development. We understand Reconciliation, Justice and Peace not as some specialized functions suited only to those specially trained but as part of deeper process of evangelization that needs the full participation of the youths. Thus, we decided to have these formation sessions that will properly educate the young people and equip them with basic skills and tools to develop strategic networks that will enhance their participation in constructive transformation of their countries through applying the Gospel values in their daily life situations.
Specific objectives of the sessions were:
1. To educate students on the concept of the New Evangelization and to deepen the application of the Psychosocial Conflict Analysis, the Sacred Scriptures and the Catholic Social Teaching to build peace and promote reconciliation & justice in 21 countries in Africa.
2. To provide young people with the opportunity and platform to share best practices and form strategic networks to evangelize and promote peaceful co-existence in their countries, especially through use of modern communication tools such as Facebook and twitter
3. To equip the participants with relevant advocacy skills to challenge and overcome oppressive structures, which promote injustice and conflicts or that hinders peace building processes.
A. WEST AFRICA SUB REGIONAL SESSION
Learning and reflections:
i. Workshop statistics:
Venue: FOPADESC, Lome-Togo
Date: 6-12 April 2013
Countries in attendance: Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Liberia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mali, Guinea, and The Gambia.
Absent:Niger. Due to logistics
No. of participants: 33 participants (10 Females, 23 males)
Language: English and French (with simultaneous interpretation)
ii. Expectations sharing
– To share experience and learn together so that YCSers can face the challenges in the continent as it seekto achieve peace and justice,
– That all participants are truly equipped to be peacemakers in their communities,
– Forging strong links of friendship with the representatives of various countries for a synergistic action in the sub-region,
iii. Analysis of challenges in YCS West Africa sub region using the “problem tree analysis”
– The problem tree analysis has three areas: the trunk of the tree which represents the Core problem that the YCS is experiencing; the roots which represents the Causes of the problem; and the branches which represents the Consequences of the problem
– Core problem (s): Poor leadership with weak spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship;
– Causes: poor commitment to learning, no proper transition and transmission of memory, weak communication structure, weak financial support, little spiritual formation, absence of Adult Assistants (Chaplains and animators)
– Consequences:mismanagement of funds, bad reputation for the Movement, non-committed members, loss of sectional members, no concrete action plans, poor application of the YCS spirituality, ‘sectionalism’ in the local groups.
iv. Psychosocial Conflictanalysis
– Facilitated by three team members from the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund (FASTENOPFER). Namely Felix, Johanna, and Abdoulaye
– Participants presented reports on specific conflict situation in their various countries (and how the YCS has contributed or is working to resolve it).
– As an introduction, the participants were informed of three methods of dealing with conflicts, these are: Working in conflict, Working on Conflict, and Working around conflict.The Team selected the Working on conflict method for the proceeding sessions.
– The Conflict situation: After discussing in pairs, in groups and at the plenary, a conflict situation was selected for analysis using the Psychosocial Conflict Analysis Tool.The conflict situation selected was a case of protest and riots by students (majority Muslim students) incertain Catholic Schoolover the decision of the administration to make it compulsory for all final year students to get pass mark in the internal school exams before they will be allowed to register for the final external West AfricaExamination. However, some Muslim students felt that they were been targeted by the administration, the newly appointed Vice Principal of the school in particular because some of them had not passedthe school exams. Unfortunately, the Head Prefect of the school who was a Muslim student misinformed the other students about this situation, thus the students decided to protest in which process they went on rampage, destroyed school properties, and threatened to beat up the Vice Principal. In fear, the Vice Principal locked himself in his office, hid under the table and called for the intervention of the police and the school Principal. The police responded to the emergency call by the Vice principal, they intervened and the school was closed until theschool administration is able to resolve the conflict.
When the situation had calmed, the National Team of YCS in that country had a meeting with some of their members who were students in the school to ascertain what actually happened. Following that, they requested for a meeting with the Vice Principal of the school during which firstly they apologized to him on behalf of the students, then went on to hear the Vice Principals side of the story. At the end of the meeting, the National Team reasoned that the major cause of the conflict was the miscommunication of the Vice Principal’s directive to the students by the school Head Prefect. Thus, they recommended that the administration should return to its old system of having a Catholic Student as the Head Prefect of the School to avert future occurrence of such unfortunate incidence.
– The analysis:The analysis of the conflict situation and the intervention of the YCS were done using the five building blocks of the Psychosocial Conflict Analysis tool. See appendix for details.
v. The role of Young people in the New Evangelization
– Although the definition and perception of who is a youth may differ from one organization to the other, however there are some common characteristics that we can note: The need and desire to accept others;Need and desire to feel loved; and Need to accept oneself. The Bible provides some examples on characteristics of Youths:
i. The young Daniel who is firm in resolution;
ii. Young Joseph is an example of fidelity ;
iii. The young David facing challenges from Goliath;
iv. The rich young man: an unsatisfactory life.
v. Saul of Tarsus: young fundamentalist.
vi. Eutychus : it represents the youth with a dividedmind (Acts 20:9 )
vii. The youngprophet: easily influenced (1 Kings 1:18)
– The New Evangelization: Does not mean New Gospel, but rather a new way of communicating the Gospel, it is call for renewal of the missionary world. Four important roles youth can play in living the gospel (in the new evangelization) are to engage in studying the Bible, get involved in mission and direct evangelization, commit to active involvement in life of the society, and give attention to faith lived in the family.
1. Action plans related to the theme of the workshop implemented by National Movements should be documented and communicated to the Pan African office prior to the workshop.
2. Most of the facilitators of the session on Psychosocial Conflict analysis should be mainly from the YCS and guided by an external facilitator.
3. At least one of the two regional coordinators should be present (full time) throughout the entire session; this will help in proper communication and transmission of information during and after the workshop.
B. SOUTHERN AFRICA SUB REGIONAL SESSION
Learning and reflections:
i. Workshop statistics:
Venue: Lesotho Girl Guides Association, Maseru-Lesotho
Date: 6-10 January 2014
Countries in attendance: Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and South Africa
No. of participants: 20 students, 2 Animators, 1 Chaplain (10 Females, 13 males)
ii. Opening Mass: Celebrated by the Archbishop of Maseru, Most Rev. Gerard Tlali Lerotholi, OMI. In his homily he talked about young people and the New Evangelization
– To be true evangelizers, we must first internalize th great commandment of love. Recognizing that God is love, it did not say that “God is lovable or that God is loving”; it says God is love! We as children of God must have the characteristics of our Father – we must love. By loving, we give!
– You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving. When we give things to others because we do not need those things, is that love? No!
– Love makes us evangelizers. We remember that evangelization has two very important expressions – it is a commandment and it is a commission.
– A commandment: “Come follow me…”
– A commission: “Go make disciples…”
– How far can we follow and how far should we go? To the ends of the earths. That is the map – the ends of the earth. This is the best time to be evangelizers – the best time to be missionaries. We are commissioned to reach the ends of the earth in a new way with the same Gospel. That is the New Evangelization
– Being evangelizers we are called to five things
1. To believe – in Jesus
2. To belong – to the family of God, the Church
3. To become – like Jesus
4. To behave – like Jesus
5. To be a witness to the Kingdom of God.
As Evangelizers, we should
– be humble: think less of oneself
– Think commonly: not being individualistic
– Think eternally: beyond the here and now
– Stop making excuses for not going out to evangelize
iii. Expectations sharing
– We first started with formation of committees on Time keeping, Secretariat, Entertainment, Internal Affairs, Liturgy, Health, External Affairs, and Declaration. The participants then shared their expectations and fears that includes
– Spiritual enlightenment and growth.
– Networking and new friends.
– Critical evaluation and assessment of our beliefs, doctrines and practices
– Getting to know more on New Evangelization and how youths can take active part
– Getting to know about the YCS structure and how the YCS is active at International Level
– Learning from the experiences of other countries
– The activities YCS is undertaking at International level and how they relate to the local Level
– The discussion may take a “business as usual” way which hinders critical approach to issues and growth.
– Poor time keeping
– Returning home without any written workshop materials
– Inferiority complex that could hinder full and productive participations of some delegates
– Lack of communication and practical follow up actions after the workshop
– The final action plan may not be relevant to YCS in my country
– Fear of one’s ideas being criticized
iv. Getting to know each other
Participants shared their basic information by designing a creative “Facebook” profile on A4 size papers. The profile contained information such as name, nickname, date of birth, places visited, likes, best food, contact addresses, what’s on your mind, etc. The participants interacted with one another as they went around reading what is on each person’s profile.
After this, there were some other games for bonding and getting to know each other better.
v. Getting to know the IYCS
Facilitated by the sub-regional coordinator – Benson Makusha
– The International Young Catholic Students(IYCS) also known as International Young Christian Students has its roots in the development of several YCS national movements in the late 1920’s which grew in the spirit of Specialized Catholic Action movements that were inspired by Joseph Cardjin (founder of the Young Christian Workers)
– The international coordination was founded in 1946
– IYCS aims to evangelize and transform the student milieu through forming students and encouraging them to look at the world from the perspective of the poor, with a commitment to global solidarity, freedom, justice and peace. The movement enables a meeting between the young person and Jesus Christ in order to overcome the dualism between faith and life, and has its foundation a spirituality of action, which always starts from a deep analysis and faith reflection on the reality.
– It is formative Movementaimed at transforming themselves and the society they live in.
– It is a lay Movementthat promotes active participation of students in the life of the Church.
– It is aMovement engaged in Global issues playing an active role within the United Nations (UN) System.
– An International Movement present in 7 continental regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, North America and the Pacific)
– The IYCS spirituality is “the spirit with which we do things, because we believe that it is the way that most enables us to encounter God”. IYCS spirituality identifies three truths which are Truth of Life, Truth of Faith and Truth of Method. These are also known as the See, Judge, and Act
• See: We must see a concrete experience; we must see concretely, critically and deeply, analyze it and x-ray its context and causes.
• Judge: We will confront the problem with experience of faith, examining it in the light of our relationship with God. Then identify how these challenge our own values and priorities.
• Act: The actionthat will remove, or at least minimize this contradiction. It is here, in this spirit – filled action, the finally major formof YCS spirituality that we believe we encounter God most profoundly.
vi. Psychosocial Conflictanalysis
The tool was applied similar way we did at the sub regional session for West Africa Sub region. However, the case study here was about conflict between outgoing executive members and the National team of Lesotho YCS.
Pope John Paul II Podium- The podium was erected during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Lesotho in 1989. This podium has great significance to people of Lesotho; a symbol of God’s blessings and a unifying site for the people.
Lesotho House of assembly- participants were introduced to how the parliament functions, the sitting arrangements, significance of symbols e.g the Maze, the order of authority etc. It was a good time at the parliament as the students had a chance to question on the contemporary issues that were taking centre stage in Lesotho. The visit also opened up the minds of the students to the power the parliament has and what role they have to play in influencing processes.
viii. Other topics covered during the session include:
– Solidarity and Subsidiarity for peace and development in Southern Africa,
– The Joy of Evangelization « celebrating our Catholic Faith»,
– Reconciliation, Justice and Peace in Africa; students stand up! (focus on Africae Munus),
– The role of Chaplains and Animators in student accompaniment today!
– Networking and Advocacy – Introduction to IYCS Global Campaign