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Peace, Social Justice and Integrity of Creation

Synod Assembly for Africa
Final list of propositions
October 4-25, 2009

Below is a list of each proposition in the Synod’s final document, with special focus on those topics that most closely connect to the work of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. Read the propositions in their entirety here.

PDF version here

Proposition 1: Documentation presented to the Supreme Pontiff

Proposition 2: The Synod of a New Pentecost

Proposition 3: Ecclesial Communion

Proposition 4: Ecclesial Communion at the Regional and Continental Levels

Proposition 5: The Sacrament of Reconciliation

Proposition 6: The Non-Sacramental Form of Celebrating Reconciliation

Proposition 7: Inculturating the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Proposition 8: Pastoral Practices in Reconciliation

Proposition 9: The Spirituality of Reconciliation

Proposition 10: Ecumenical Dialogue

Proposition 11: Interreligious Dialogue

Proposition 12: Islam

Proposition 13: African Traditional Religion (ATR)

Proposition 14: Justice

Proposition 15: Security in society
            The Synod calls upon all members of the Church in Africa to promote justice for everyone and respect for human rights through civic education and by building up a culture of justice and peace. To accomplish this, Dioceses and Parishes should establish Commissions for Justice and Peace, in collaboration with local community leaders, who may act as intermediaries.
            The current mobilization of African countries for the reduction of poverty and the pursuit of lasting peace open great hopes. That is why the Synod recommends, for the sake of justice, the common good and the welfare of peoples. The Synod appeals to governments to offer security in society and the basic needs of life to the most vulnerable from a just distribution of the fruits of development.
            This Synod reminds our African governments of this fact and appeals to them for security of life and property. Life is sacred and must be protected and secured. Governments should put in place a machinery to stop killings, kidnapping, etc., on the continent. Insecurity of life and property and a lack of good order increases migration and the brain drain and, this, in turn, adds to poverty.

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Proposition 16: The brain drain
            African countries and families invest great sums of money training professionals to contribute to improving the conditions of life of their people. Unfortunately, many of them leave soon after graduation in the hope of finding better working conditions and remuneration. The Synod proposes:
- that African countries take urgent steps to improve the conditions of life and work on the continent to forestall the “brain drain” in order to prevent people from leaving and being absorbed by developing countries;
- that professionals exercise a sense of sacrifice and service to their people, at whose expense they have been trained; and
- that developed countries support Africa in addressing this issue by helping to create centers of academic excellence which meet the needs of the integral development of societies.

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Proposition 17: Social justice and the eradication of poverty
            The Synod Fathers have pleaded for an economy in service to the poor and strongly denounced an unjust economic order which has led to the perpetuation of poverty. We therefore propose that:
1. The Church-Family of God in Africa recommits herself to the service of the poor, orphans and marginalized in imitation of life in the early days of the Church;
2. As in the case of the early Church, the Church in Africa and its Islands must develop an internal system for taking care of their needs. With regard to emergency situations (catastrophic disasters), it is imperative to develop relationships of solidarity between the different dioceses and within the episcopal conferences themselves. For this reason, there is an urgent need to establish a solidarity fund on the continental level through the CARITAS network. At the same time, the Church should endeavor to promote and inculcate a holistic perception of work as an expression of grace and solidarity. In this way, human talent will be acknowledged and employed as needed for the good of all.
3. Leaders take adequate measures (access to land, access to water, infrastructures, etc.), to remedy poverty and to develop policies to ensure self-sufficiency in food production and educational programs which are production-oriented;
4. the further cancellation of debts with favorable conditions be advocated and the elimination of the practice of usury;
5 African governments must be more prudent in accessing grants and loans so that they do not push their people into further debt. The poor and marginalized be empowered through initiatives such as micro-finance, agrarian and similar programs as the Church’s concrete sign of solidarity with the poor and marginalized;
6. Africa must be actively involved as an important stakeholder in decision-making processes on international trade and socio-economic issues which affect her; and
7. The above-mentioned efforts must be inspired and governed by the promotion of integral human development and authentic human values.

Proposition 18: Social doctrine of the Church

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Proposition 19: Education
The Synod Fathers voiced a concern for education, an idea which is often expressed by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. As in other places throughout the world, Africa is experiencing a crisis in education. A complete, integrated program of education is needed, intimately uniting both faith and reason, through which the faithful are prepared adequately to face all circumstances in life and avoid attempting to guide themselves by dualistic and relativistic criteria in their everyday choices. Education cannot be reduced to academics only, but should instill in youth the profound meaning of life. The family should be recognized as the prime place for education and, therefore, assisted in this mission. The Synod Fathers therefore insist on the priority of education and defend the right of citizens to education work, which cannot and should not be a monopoly of the State.
            Where Churches have established schools, intending to partner with the State to provide education, it is necessary that the right of Churches to run the Schools be respected. It would also be desirable if the State expressed it partnership with the Church in education by giving support to the Schools.

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Proposition 20: Maputo Protocol
            The Synod Fathers acknowledged the problematic effects of the Maputo Protocol on women and life, for example, regarding women’s reproductive health. However, above all, they hold unacceptable the promotion of abortion in article 14/2/c: “Protect the reproductive rights of women by authorizing medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the fetus.”
            According to the Church’s teaching, abortion is contrary to God’s will. Furthermore, this article is in contradiction with human rights and the right to life. It trivializes the seriousness of the crime of abortion and devalues the role of childbearing. The Church condemns this position on abortion and proclaims that the value and dignity of human life be protected from the moment of conception to natural death.
            The Synod Fathers call on the Church in Africa and its Islands to commit herself to employ the necessary means and structures to help and accompany women and couples tempted by abortion. Moreover, they praise the courage of governments in their legislation which fights abortion.

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Proposition 21: Peace
            As peace is a universal good, depending on respect for everyone’s human rights and all creation, we should dedicate all of our energies to its service. The Synod therefore proposes that:
- an African Peace and Solidarity Initiative be established to intervene in an act of solidarity and assist the local Church in conflict resolution and peace-building throughout the continent with its wise counsel on justice, peace and reconciliation. This initiative will draw on those within our Church who have experience, integrity and the respect of others. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace would be asked to liaise with SECAM to promote this initiative;
- Diocesan, National and Regional Peace-Building Councils be set up within the Justice and Peace Commission, with a counterpart on the continental level, established to liaise with the “African Peace and Solidarity Initiative” at SECAM;
- these Peace-Building Councils should be well resourced with personnel and material to train the clergy and laity in the practice of peace-building, dialogue and mediation;
- Justice and Peace Commissions, at the national and regional level, set up a monitoring desk for the prevention and resolution of conflicts;
- small groups and programs of formation be developed which are suitable for each level (primary, secondary, college and university) to impart a real culture of peace;
- seminary formatters follow a course which would include peace studies and conflict resolution;
- a permanent organization for inter-ethnic dialogue be established for the sake of a lasting peace;
- prayer for peace and elections.

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Proposition 22: Environmental protection and reconciliation with creation
            To make the earth habitable beyond the present generation and to guarantee sustainable and responsible care of the earth, we call upon the particular Churches to:
- promote environmental education and awareness;
- persuade their local and national governments to adopt policies and binding legal regulations for the protection of the environment and promote alternative and renewable sources of energy; and
- encourage all to plant trees and treat nature and its resources, respecting the common good and the integrity of nature, with transparency and respect for human dignity.

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Proposition 23: Arms’ trade
            Because of the prevalence of armaments and land mines on the Continent and its Islands, the Church in Africa, gathered in Synod, associates itself with the Holy See and gladly welcomes UN initiatives, African Union and regional intergovernmental organizations like ECOWAS - Small-Arms Embargo, to stop illegal arms-trafficking and to make transparent all legal trading in arms. The Synod recommends that the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace” update its document on the arms’ trade.
            The Synod Fathers encourage national governments to support the on-going study and preparation of an Arms’ Trade Treaty (ATT) within the UN, with binding universal standards for the global commerce of conventional weapons, which would respect human rights and humanitarian international law.
            The Synod Fathers, making their own the call of the prophet Isaiah, for love of God and neighbor, “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (Is 2:4), propose that the design and production of all kinds of arms be drastically reduced for the sake of education and agricultural development which respects the environment.
Moreover, the Synod Fathers absolutely condemn the production of nuclear arms, biological arms, anti-personnel and every sort of weapons of mass destruction. They demand that these be banned from the face of the earth.
            The Episcopal Conferences in arms-producing countries are encouraged to advocate that their governments pass legislation restraining the production and distribution of arms to the detriment of African peoples and nations.

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Proposition 24: Good governance
            The common good should find legal expression in the Constitution and requires the exercise of good governance. Its practice also needs to respect the principles of democracy: equality among persons, the sovereignty of peoples and respect for the rule of law. Otherwise, democracy loses its vitality and dies.
            The Synod Fathers therefore call on leaders conscientiously to exercise stewardship and to uphold the common good over the interests of family, clan, ethnic group or political party and to protect and promote the social, economic, political and religious rights of every citizen, as enshrined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights.
            The Synod Fathers urge Episcopal Conferences at all levels to establish advocacy bodies to lobby members of parliament, governments and international institutions, so that the Church can contribute effectively to the formulation of just laws and policies for the people’s good.
            To fully exercise her role and contribute to a culture of peace and human rights, the Church in Africa requests to be present in the national, regional and continental institutions in Africa (AU). The Synod urges Episcopal Conferences to support the NEPAD - Peer Review Mechanism within the African Union. The Synod also urges African countries to submit themselves for the Peer Review Mechanism.

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Proposition 25: Politics
            …In such circumstances, the Church’s mission is to promote a culture of respect for the rule of law and the rights of all. Therefore, the Synod Fathers call upon all Pastors to offer present and future leaders in political and economic life a fitting doctrinal, pastoral and practical formation as well as spiritual support (by setting up chaplaincies). They request Catholic universities to establish faculties of political science. Catholic Social Teaching is a valuable means which should be spread as much as possible.
            We call upon all Episcopal Conferences to promote multidimensional programs of civic education; implement programs to foster the formation of a social conscience at all levels; and encourage competent and honest citizens to participate in party politics.

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Proposition 26: Elections
            Citizens by their vote freely express their political choice. Thus, democratic elections represent the mark of legitimacy for the exercise of power in Africa. Failure to respect a national Constitution, the law or the results of free, fair and transparent elections, therefore, is unacceptable under any circumstances.
            Accordingly, the Synod Fathers call upon the local Churches to educate the candidates at various times of voting to respect, the principles of fair elections (electoral transparency, respect for one’s political opponents, the Constitution, the ballot and the impartiality of the various observers as well as accepting legitimate defeat), and to contribute through Justice and Peace Commissions to monitoring elections, so that they be free, fair, transparent and secure for us. While encouraging all Christians to take part in political life, the Church in its prophetic mission will continue to speak out against electoral abuses and all forms of cheating in the conduct of elections.
            Religious leaders are called upon to maintain impartiality and, in no case take a partisan position. They are to be a discerning, objective and realistic voice for the voiceless, without compromising their impartiality.

Proposition 27: Religious liberty

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Proposition 28: Migrants and refugees
            Indeed, migration within and outside the continent is a multi-dimensional drama, which affects all countries, causing destabilization, the destruction of families and a waste of Africa’s human capital.
            The Synod Fathers believe, first of all, that the principle of the universal destination of created goods and the Church’s teachings on human rights, freedom of movement and the rights of migrant workers are increasingly violated by the world’s restrictive migration policies and laws against Africans. Therefore, the Synod is convinced that it is necessary and urgent to:
- demand that the government apply international migratory law evenly and fairly without discriminating against African travellers;
- provide special pastoral care for the vulnerable segments of Africa’s population in a joint-effort between the Churches-of-origin and host-Churches to extend pastoral care to migrants;
- advocate for a just treatment of refugees in cooperation with the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, the International Catholic Migration Commission and Justice and Peace Commissions at all levels of the Church;
- establish offices or “Commissions” for the Movement of People in the secretariats of Episcopal Conferences, charged with the task of working together and with Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples;
- develop programs of pastoral care for migrants and their families.
            The Synod also calls on African governments to create a climate of security and freedom, to implement programs of development and job creation, to dissuade their citizens from leaving home and becoming refugees, and to undertake initiatives encouraging refugees to return with a program to welcome them.

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Proposition 29: Natural resources
            The Synod Fathers condemn the culture of consumerism which is wasteful, and advocate the culture of moderation. The Synod appeals to the international community to encourage the formulation of national and international legislation for the just distribution of revenue generated by natural resources for the benefit of local populations and to ensure their legal management to the advantage of countries possessing these resources, while barring, at the same time, illegal exploitation. The Synod also proposes to address the global economic system, which continues to marginalize Africa. We highly recommend to the Church Family of God in Africa to press our governments to adopt a suitable juridic framework which takes into account the interests of our countries and their populations.
            We ask Church institutions which are active in these societies to press for allowing populations to enjoy the management of their natural resources. For her part, the Church will seek to establish a desk in various countries of the continent to monitor the management of natural resources.

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Proposition 30: Land and water
            Since large stretches of fertile land and water resources are unscrupulously exploited by foreign and local investors in many African countries, causing the displacement and dispossession of poor persons and their communities, who are often powerless to oppose this “assault,” this Synod urgently calls upon all governments to ensure that its citizens are protected from the unjust alienation of their land and access to water, which are essential goods of the human person. The Synod Fathers urge that:
- the Church in Africa seek information and learn about land and water issues in local churches in order to educate the People of God and enable them to challenge unjust decisions in these matters;
- all negotiations on land deals be conducted in full transparency and with the participation of the local communities who may be affected;
- land alienation deals should not be contracted out nor signed without the free, prior and informed consent of the local communities concerned, nor should people forfeit their land without proper compensation;
- agricultural workers be guaranteed a fair wage in light of the fact that investments promote the creation of employment;
- promote the professional formation of youth in farming and the raising of animals as a way to stem the uncontrolled flight from the village to the cities;
- the models of agricultural production respect the environment and not contribute to climate change, soil depletion and the exhaustion of drinkable water reserves;
- food production for export not endanger food security and sovereignty the needs of future generations;
- traditional land rights be respected and recognized by the law; and
- water not be exploited as a private economic commodity without due attention to people’s interests.

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Proposition 31: Globalization and international aid
            The Church in Africa should be aware of the ambiguity of globalization and its consequences. She must be ready to respond to the challenges that globalization entails and confront them responsibly. The best globalization must be a globalization of solidarity.
This globalization sometimes takes the form of international aid from international agencies. Unfortunately, such aid does not always reach the people for whom it is intended and, at times, it comes with conditions which do not reflect the needs of the people.
            The Synod Fathers call upon African governments and intermediate agencies to a more responsible and transparent management of this international solidarity for the sake of the common good. The Synod Fathers insist that these values should be appreciated and that the local Churches be recognized as partners in development.

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Proposition 32: Respect for ethnic diversity

Proposition 33: Inculturation

Proposition 34: Evangelization

Proposition 35: Small Christian Communities

Proposition 36: Challenges posed by the new religious movements

Proposition 37: The laity

Proposition 38: The family

Proposition 39: Priests

Proposition 40: Seminarians

Proposition 41: Permanent deacons

Proposition 42: Consecrated life

Proposition 43: Catechesis

Proposition 44: Catechists

Proposition 45: Eucharistic source of communion and reconciliation

Proposition 46: The Power of the Word of God

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Proposition 47: Women in Africa
            The Synod Fathers condemn all acts of violence against women, e.g. the battering of wives, the disinheritance of daughters, the oppression of widows in the name of tradition, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, trafficking in women and several other abuses such as sex slavery and sex tourism. All other inhumane and unjust acts against women are equally condemned. The Synod Fathers propose:
- the integral human formation of girls and women (intellectual, professional, moral, spiritual, theological, etc.);
- the creation of “shelters” for abused girls and women to find refuge and receive counseling;
- the close collaboration among episcopal conferences to stop the trafficking of women;
- the greater integration of women into Church structures and decision-making processes;
- the setting up of commissions on the Diocesan and national levels to address women’s issues, to help them better carry out their mission in the Church and society; and
- the setting up of a study commission on women in the Church within the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Proposition 48: Youth

Proposition 49: Children

Proposition 50: Person with disabilities

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Proposition 51: HIV/AIDS
            The Synod offers encouragement to all Church institutions and movements who work in the field of health and especially of AIDS and asks international agencies to acknowledge them and support them in respecting their specificity. The Church urgently recommends that current research into treatments be expanded so as to eradicate this severe affliction.
            Moreover, this Synod proposes:
- the avoidance of whatever helps the spread of the disease, such as poverty, the breakdown of family life, marital unfaithfulness, promiscuity and a life-style which is devoid of human values and Gospel virtues.
- a pastoral care which offers those living with HIV and AIDS access to medication, food, counseling for a change in behavior and a life without stigma;
- a pastoral care which offers orphaned children, widows and widowers a genuine hope of a life without stigma and discrimination;
- a pastoral support which helps couples living with an affected spouse to inform and form their consciences, so that they might choose what is right, with full responsibility for the greater good of each other, their union and their family; and
- that SECAM develop an HIV and AIDS pastoral manual for all those involved in the Church’s AIDS ministry (priests, religious, doctors, nurses, counselors, catechists, teachers) applying the Church’s moral and social doctrine in the different situations, where the People of God in Africa are facing the various challenges of the pandemic.

Proposition 52: Malaria
Proposition 53: Drugs and alcohol

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Proposition 54: Concern for prisoners
            The Church-Family of God in Africa takes up her prophetic mission to those affected by crime and their need for reconciliation, justice and peace. However, she also denounces all instances of miscarriage of justice and mistreatment of prisoners. Therefore, we recommend that:
- governments and stakeholders initiate penal reforms, improve the prevention of crime, and apply international minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners, including a more humane treatment in terms of food, accommodations, clothing and healthcare, recognizing the rights of prisoners and granting them decent conditions of detention;
- laws be judiciously applied and human rights be greatly respected;
- prison pastoral care be organized and supported under the Commission of Justice and Peace, with a desk at the regional, national, diocesan and parish levels, in which Small Christian Communities take part;
- a holistic approach be adopted in the pastoral care of prisoners by properly trained personnel who work as a team;
- pastoral care workers in prisons commit themselves to study and practice restorative justice as a means and process of fostering reconciliation, justice and peace, and the reintegration of offenders, victims and ex-offenders into communities; and
- “rehabilitation centers” be established to help prisoners’ re-enter society.

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Proposition 55: Abolition of the death penalty

Proposition 56: Media

Proposition 57: Mary, Our Lady of Africa

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