2012-05-14 Vatican Radio
May sees the start, in Rome, of a three-day international conference dedicated to Africa, its current contexts, its expectations and its potential.
The Conference is organised – and hosted – by the Pontifical Urbaniana University in collaboration with other Vatican Institutions.
The Urbaniana itself, is an academic institution belonging to the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples which provides for research and teaching within the framework of the Holy See’s educational system regulated by the Congregation for Catholic Education.
The conference is entitled “Listening to Africa: its contexts, its expectations, its potential”.
Amongst the many guest speakers is Cardinal Fernando Filoni Prefect if the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and Grand Chancellor of the Urbaniana University. Other Vatican officials scheduled to intervene include Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, Cardinal José Saraviva Martins, Monsignor Savio Hon Tai Fai, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Monsignor Barthelemy Adoukonou and many others, as well as University Professors from Nigeria, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Algeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Zimbabwe…
Nigerian diocesan priest, professor in philosophy and vice-rector of the Urbaniana University Godfrey Igwebuke Onah gave a talk entitled “The African today and his/her duty for the future”.
And speaking to Linda Bordoni for the conference opened, he explained that the reason the University decided to organise this event is because the University is a missionary University by definition, at the service of the Universal Church in her evangelising mission in the world. And, he said, in order to bring the good news, the Church always wants to know who the people to whom she’s bringing the good news.
That’s why the formation of future missionaries always includes some knowledge of the various cultures in which the gospel is preached. And Africa, prof Onah explains, constitutes one of the important blocks of this university.
The Urbaniana looks to various parts of the world, and “given also the freshness of the recently concluned Synod of Bishops for Africa and the publication of the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, the University thought it wise, important and relevant to listen to echoes coming from Africa, to Africans themselves telling their own story about their own journey, their journey into the future and their consciuoness of their past and present especially in the light of the Gospel”.
And speaking of the Post Synodal Exhortation “Africae Munus”, Prof. Onah says it provides much inspiration for philosophical reflection. And “with all its encouragement and its hope and belief of the strengths of Africa it is an invitation to serious philiosophical reflections.
Speaking of his own reflection on the responsiblity of the African for the present and for his future, Professor Onah quotes Pope Paul VI who said Africans have to be missionaries unto themselves. That image, he says, must be extended in that “Africans have to be the movers, the protagonists, with the help of God ,of what becomes of their continent and their people”.
“It doesn’t make sense to constantly wait for other people to solve problems that there are in africa, he says, no matter what we think about the responsibility of others in the problems that we have. And in all this: there is not better ally than the gospel itself”.
“The message of hope and love brought by Christ is the key to the transformation that Africa needs…”
Porf. Ohan is adamant that “Africa with all its wealth of culture and persons has to intensify its effort to allow the Gosepel to transform it…”
And to the question “what does Europe have to learn from Africa?” Prof Onah says the question is more not whether Europe is prepared to learn from Africa, but is it prepared to listen?
“Is E really looking towards Africa for anything apart from its mineral resources? What does Europe really think of the human and cultural values of Africa? How do Europeans see the presence of Africans in Europe? As human resources that will enrich and revitalise a decadent culture, or only as illegal immigrants that are an extra burdon on the economy?”
“it’s not about what Africa can teach others, he says, but about what Africa can be for itself. Because it is only in the measure in which Africa can really help itself that others can then decide, or try to learn from Africa. There is no point wasting one’s effort in teaching others, if in the first place one is not convinced of whom one is.”
And Prof. Onah says Africans have the responsibility now to help other Africans to know themselves better.
Whether they really know who they are is a difficult question to answer, but he says, formation and education can be of help exposing one to the whole truth.
And Prof. Ohan explains that “part of the problem of contemporary culture is that of thinking that truth is not knowable, therefore truth is what you accept, or make it to be. But in the light of the Gospel of Christ, and the constant testimony of the Catholic Church, we believe that even though the human being is not capable of knowing the whole truth immediately, he is capable of knowing the whole truth or the absolute truth which is God himself, with time and with the collaboration of other human beings”. This he says is part of our responsibilty.
Professor Godfrey Onah, Vice-Rector of the Pontifical Urbaniana University and all the University staff invite eveyone to come and listen in at the conference: it is free and everybody is welcome. For more details and information www.urbaniana.edu
listen to the interview…