Bissau (Fides Service) -“Childhood on our Path of Conversion”, is the title of a Message for Lent issued by the Catholic Bishops of Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Cape Verde and Mauritania. The Bishops trace the profile of the situation of children in their countries starting with African tradition which sees a child “as a gift from God, hoped for, wanted and loved from the moment of conception”. However the Bishops do not idealise tradition because it also includes “forms of mutilation and abuse of children (forced marriages) which persist under the cloak of tradition”.
“Faced with the challenges of modernity” the Bishops say “African societies cannot avoid the earthquake which shakes the traditional basis of education and even attitudes to human persons and human life. Growing urbanisation, working women, precarious economic situations make large families a problem. The Church has never said it is in favour either of large families or one child families. It promotes responsible parenthood and condemns practices which fail to respect human life and human dignity”.
The Bishops recall situations which cause suffering to children “attacks on family harmony: alcoholism, divorce, separation, polygamy, unemployment, rural migration, emigration”. The Bishops speak of many “situations created by adults which endanger the life and future of children”: war (“children massacred or mutilated; children made to fight and kill and exposed to danger”); abandoned children (“on the streets of our cities, forced to beg for food, exposed to the mortal threat of drugs ”); paedophilia; forced labour; AIDS pandemic.
In view of this situation the Bishops urge Catholics during Lent this year to “tell your children that there are others who suffer and educate them to show solidarity with concrete actions. We suggest special collections in school to care for children who are sick, to cloth children who are poor, to feed children who are hungry, to provide education for those who have none ”.(L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 1/3/2004, righe 33 parole 387 )