That We All Might Have Life, in Abundance

Wednesday, June 12 2002

(CCCB – Calgary) — The Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is calling on the G-8 leaders to keep in mind the plight of the poorer nations, especially those in Africa, when the world leaders gather in Kananaskis, Alberta, June 26-27.

Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary (right) and Msgr. Peter Schonenbach, P.H., General Secretary of the CCCB

Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, in whose diocese Kananaskis is located, released a pastoral statement at a news conference on behalf of the CCCB Permanent Council entitled: That We All Might Have Life, in Abundance.

The statement by the 15-member Permanent Council notes the Kananaskis meeting is taking place at a time when increased concerns for global security could “drown out other stated items of the agenda, namely strengthening global economic growth and building a new partnership for Africa’s development.”

“If the governments of the richest countries spend more on their own increased security measures than on the development needs of the world’s poorest peoples, they will frustrate the aspirations of the poor majorities and avoid the major economic changes required of the North to meet the Millennium Development Goals,” the Permanent Council said in its statement.

Concerning the growing gap between rich and poor, the bishops state the current situation “demands fundamental changes to an economic system that maintains and furthers poverty.  We challenge the leaders of the G-8 to commit to such change and adopt wealth distribution as an important and crucial goal of global economic policy.”

The pastoral statement appreciated Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s leadership in pressing forward with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). “The need for action here is undeniable. Africa is the only continent where both poverty and the number of children out of school are on the rise. Life expectancy in Africa is the lowest in the world, and will continue to fall in some countries where HIV/AIDS incidence rates are over 25%, and the disease has become the leading cause of death. Over 40% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 659 million people live on less than US$1 a day, where the average income per capita is lower than in the late 1960s.”

With NEPAD in mind, the bishops raised a cautionary note that consultation with Africa’s citizenry on any plan is considered essential, for without this consultation there can be no real development.  The statement adds that “The G-8 could look to other measures suggested by Africans, from ending arms sales in areas of conflict, to controls over negative environmental and labour standards effects of resource extraction industries, for example, so that African development could be enhanced.

“We ask for a special solidarity with members of the churches and civil society of Africa, beginning with a new willingness to listen to their guidance for developing policies that will affect their own countries.”

Referring to the many voices who wish to make their views known as the G-8 leaders meet, including those with alternative views, the bishops called for a climate of peace from all parties, because “violence of any sort … cannot serve the cause of justice.”

In conclusion, the pastoral statement noted the challenges facing not only the G-8 leaders but all citizens:  “to discover new strategies to eradicate poverty, to create just economic relations, to defend the global environment and indeed to share the abundant life that God meant to be available to all.”