1412 Now is The Time


Munachi Ezeogu is a wonderful African preacher. He uses a lot of stories and images to make his point more vivid and compelling. In his homily of November 2, he used the story of the Native American tribes on his website to illustrate imperfections in human life and the consequent need for continual growth in every human being. The Native American tribes are well known for their elaborate and colourful quilts. In fact, they are believed to be among the best quilt makers in the world. However, what many people do not know is that they have an unwritten law governing the art of quilting: every quilt must have some flaw. Even when they could easily produce the most perfect quilt, they go out of their way to introduce a flaw into it as a representation of human life and the human condition that there is always room for growth.


Growth is often a painful and frightening experience because it invites us to stretch out, to let go of the past and embrace the present moment, allow our perspectives to be enriched by the experiences of others, be able to hold the tension of plurality and differences of opinion, remove our sandals to walk in unfamiliar territories sometimes filled with thorns and scorpions, take breath-taking risks and decisions, make leaps into the dark but with great trust in God. Growth is about necessary changes which occur in our lives. Psychologists call such changes transitions but the name does not really matter; these are labels on human experience. What is important is that we honour those experiences and give them space to occur because the universe has brought about them in her sacred dance to enhance our growth and maturity. It has been said that the only permanent thing is change itself.


This is true not only for human beings, but also other animals and plants of the ecosystem, organizations and government institutions. Incidentally plants and other animals know about this necessary change very well and listen to the divine music. They know when it is time to let go of what the universe asks of them and they do so without complaining. For example plants know the active and patient waiting of winter, the fruitfulness of summer, the surrender of autumn and the birthing of spring. Other animals, too, know how to dance to the rhythm of the music of the universe. They know when it is time to hibernate or migrate. It is interesting to know that in the Tsunami disaster and other such natural disasters, the only animals that were affected were human beings and domestic animals that have their movements limited. Obviously, it is only the human species and her institutions that resist the divine invitation to change and growth.


Institutions come into existence to serve human needs and their growth is shown in their capacity to continually serve the ever growing human needs. The bad news is that sometimes the precious life-affirming purpose of the organization or institution is relegated to the background and sustaining the structures occupies the centre table. When this happens the organization or institution inadvertently becomes an instrument of oppression. This seems to be the present situation of the EU institutions. Pope Francis observes this sad situation and has called on the European Council and Parliament to bring about changes in her institutions to serve human needs instead of the economic interest of the trans-national co-operations. The Pope’s call practically is an urgent call for justice in the distribution of goods and services of the earth without which there would be no peace. Will they hear the call? Time will tell.


The EU institutions are not alone in this boat. The experience of moving from Africa to Europe to work at this time too brought me face-to-face with the imperatives of such change and growth. With the initial orientation of Begoña in June, and Gino and Jose Luis (secretariat staff) practically leading me by the hand through the data base of the network to get me into the flow of events at the secretariat, the exigencies of growth and change both for me and AEFJN became more obvious. Accepting a hand of fellowship from "this African" with warmth, love and respect is an indication of the tremendous internal change and growth. But more importantly, this could be a pointer to a new face of AEFJN and the growth edge that the AEFJN requires at this time, a growth from being aEurope based organization helping Africa out of the purgatory of poverty to Africa and Europe working together to serve the needs of each other in justice and in truth. What Africa needs from Europe is a relationship of mutual respect for our collective humanity, empathy, and restorative justice, not help. In my opinion, this basic attitudinal and practical change is critical for the vitality and continued effective service of the NETWORK. 


The AEFJN is in tune with core African issues in relation to Europe namely: Trade, Land-grabbing, Mineral extraction, Health and Arms. However, it needs stronger collaboration with Africa to make greater impact. For example, any Land Moratorium action will not be effective without active involvement of Africa. It is therefore very important for AEFJN to establish itself in Africa, reach out more to Africa's indigenous Religious Congregations, NGOs, Episcopal conferences and other Christian groups who share her vision and values. The thought of this strategy has been within the NETWORK. It is contained in the current plan of action and forms the core of the President's presentation to the just concluded AGM. The AGM as well recognized this need but could now be the kairos moment to respond to this voice with a more discerning heart? The words of Pope Francis to Christians in Turkey recently may be very helpful to us in our reflection. He reminds Christians of the power of the Holy Spirit and the temptation to resist him because the Holy Spirit takes us off our comfort zone and unsettles us. Pope Francis underlines that now is the time to throw off our defensiveness and not remain entrenched within our own ideas and unchanging ways.


Chika Onyejiuwa


Go back