So... why go to Africa?
The document A Call to Solidarity with Africa was developed by the Committee on International Policy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It was approved by the full body of U.S. Catholic bishops at its November 2001 General Meeting. Below are some excerpts from that document.
“The urgency of our attention to the Church and the peoples of Africa is prompted by two conflicting convictions: hope and concern... Our call to solidarity with the Church, nations, and peoples of Africa, particularly the nations of sub-Saharan Africa, recognizes and is based on the special responsibilities and opportunities that we have as Catholics and citizens of the United States. As Catholics, we embrace the universal character of our Christian identity, an identity that "transcends national boundaries and calls us to live in solidarity and justice with the peoples of the world." As Americans, we acknowledge the singular position enjoyed by the United States as one of the wealthiest nations on earth, but privilege cannot be divorced from responsibility.”
Our faith demands it: Jesus' message of salvation is universal.
Our sisters and brothers are asking for our help: As we witness intense suffering and hear cries for help, we recognize the bonds of a shared faith and a common humanity with the peoples of Africa, especially the poor.
Our world needs this effort: The immensity of poverty, violence, disease, and despair, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, threatens the stability and security of the international community.
The United States has special responsibilities: Our nation's history, its affluence, its economic and political power, and its leadership role in the world require us to accept an inescapable responsibility to help the peoples of Africa to live in peace and with dignity. with particular attention to sub-Saharan Africa. This is not just a policy option; it is a moral obligation.
We can make a difference: Today in Africa lives are being lost at an alarming rate. The continent faces serious challenges that oftentimes weaken the resolve of peoples committed to the pursuit of justice, peace, and integral development.
A Vision of Awareness and Service
The vision for this trip, building on the foundation set forth by the Catholic Bishops, is for students to become aware of dramatic issues affecting the lives of people in sub-Saharan Africa and to commit themselves to action.
“We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.” Mother Teresa
The students will see and experience poverty, hunger, and disease. The students must understand that they will not end poverty, they will not feed all the starving people, that they will not put an end to suffering. And yet, the students must understand that the end of poverty, hunger and disease begins with individual action, what Mother Theresa called the “small things with great love.” The problems are immense. Over 1 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty – less than $1 a day. Over 100 million children of primary school age do not attend school. Eight million people die every year due to the effects of poverty. And while we call on our government to assist in these problems, real lasting change only occurs through the efforts of ordinary people doing “small things with great love.”
But the service doesn’t end with a two-week trip. The trip is the beginning, and, it is hoped, that the service begins there and lasts a lifetime. Really, if the goal was simply to provide immediate help, we would be best off sending over $48,000 and stay home! However, if this is the beginning of a life-long commitment to help those around the world, then the immediate investment is just the beginning.
At the end of the two-week experience, if the students understand with their mind the complexity of global issues and understand with their heart the effects of these issues on ordinary people, and then make a pact with themselves to work to produce change, then the trip has met its objectives.