Luanda (Agenzia Fides) - "Having come to the end of our meeting, we would like to address this message of hope and solidarity concerning the future of our families and communities, to the Church-Family of God in Africa and Madagascar as well as to all men and women of good will ”. These are the opening words of the Message launched by the participants at the end of 17th Plenary Assembly of SECAM/SCEAM, the Symposium of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (see Fides 20 and 23/7/2016). At the close of the meeting which reflected on the theme “The Family in Africa, yesterday, today and tomorrow, in the light of the Gospel ”, the final Message sent to Fides, reaffirms “the importance of the family which constitutes the domestic Church and the foundations upon which every society is built ”.
It highlights the main pastoral challenges facing the family in Africa, a theme discussed by the participants, included: precarious living conditions and poverty, social exclusion, impact of the new Information and communication technologies on family life, gender ideology, monoparental family, divorce-remarried couples, contraception, sterilization, abortion, polygamy, dowry, widowhood rites, migration consequences of war and conflict situations, internal family crises, belief in witchcraft and absence, at times of one of the couples due to studies and work.
“These different challenges destabilize the life of couples and families, especially when there is no strong pastoral strategy in place. As pastors, we cannot but be committed to renewal of and to reinvigoration of our pastoral approaches for the families. We are convinced and believe that the Family cannot be subdued by the crises and situations that confront it. Therefore, in the proclamation of the Gospel of Family, we are to be the witnesses of hope”.
The participants underline “the beauty of marriage”, which “ is not a burden, but a community of love, joy and enhancement of couples and the family:” and while congratulating all those who are faithful to their marriage, they “share the pains of those who live in difficult situations and those who are profoundly wounded in love. We pray and encourage them not to be discouraged nor despondent.”
At the paragraph titled “The Family, “sanctuary of life””, the Message urges all African families “to be a place of deeper human and spiritual development so as to become communities of life, prayer, love as well as agents of transformation for our societies.” It encourages all the Christian associations and pastoral organizations for the family to “engage themselves more in accompanying couples before, during and after the celebration of the marriage”.
“In the same vein – the Message continues - we urge all the member States of the African Union to resist all pressures from governments and organizations who want to impose anti-family policies on Africa. We are grateful to governments who, in the name of moral values and our culture have dared to oppose such policies. .. We appeal to our governments to promote policies that respect African cultural values, justice, fundamental rights of persons and families, including good management of the common good and to improve the life conditions of our people, especially the less favourable.”.
The Message, signed by the President of SECAM, Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi of Lubango, concludes reaffirming that “The Future of the Family is at the heart of our Mission…The family is a gift of the merciful love of God. It guarantees the future of our societies. We are to protect and defend it against all that could destroy its integrity” and the final call “African Christian families do not be afraid of making Christ the centre of your lives…Long live the family!” (SL) (Agenzia Fides 26/07/2016)