Remembering the first president of AEFJN,

P. Wim van Frankenhuijsen (SMA)


On the 2nd January 2014 Fr. Wim van Frankenhuijsen SMA, the first president of AEFJN died in Cadier en Keer (Netherlands). The AEFJN Secretariat was present at his funeral as a token of gratitude for his commitment to greater justice in relations between Africa and Europe. 


Fr. Wim and AEFJN


Father Wim van Frankenhuijsen was a key person in the foundation of of AEFJN. After having worked for 25 years in Ghana he was named at Rome. In 1986, the then General Superior of the Society of African Missions (SMA) asked Fr. Wim, a member of the SMA General Council and executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the USG[1]/UISG[2] to explore the feasibility of setting up an Africa Faith and Justice Network in Europe, similar to the American one.


It seemed an impossible mission,  yet Wim was driven by an immense love for the peoples of Africa and he was convinced of the adverse impact of economic injustices on the lives of African People.  Wim believed that the impossible would be possible with the commitment of other missionaries. Wim accepted the challenge and invited a few people to form an ad hoc commission. Among the members were Maryknoll Sister Helene O'Sullivan, Associate Director of SEDOS, and some members of the USG/UISG JP Commission including Fr. Herman Wijtten, the then JPIC coordinator at the SVD and a true companion in the promotion of and the fight for Justice and Peace.


Wim van Frankenhuijsen travelled to Brussels and Strasbourg to meet people and organizations with a view to choosing the most convenient site for the secretariat of the network. He decided to target firstly the European Commission in Brussels and secondly the European Parliament. Starting a new lobby/advocacy office from nothing was going to be challenging so, it was decided to operate as the Africa desk of the European Ecumenical Organization for Development (EECOD). 


Finally on June 13, 1988, after a process of more than two years, representatives of 13 congregations /institutes finally founded formally the Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN). Nine people were chosen from among the members to form the executive committee and Fr. Wim was elected as its president. It was decided that the Executive Secretary would become the tenth member of this committee. The proposals of the ad hoc committee were presented and approved.  AEFJN was founded! On January 1, 1989, the first executive secretary, Fr. Frans Thoolen SMA, began his work at the Africa Desk of EECOD in Brussels.


Cooperation with EECOD was not always easy and Fr. Wim van Frankenhuijsen, as President of the Executive Committee, often went to Brussels to help and to lend Fr. Frans a hand in laying the foundations of an effective office. The challenges were many: how to be in contact with the membership in Europe as well as in Africa, how to choose priority issues, how to design actions programs, etc. In 1992 Frans Thoolen published the first position paper with the title "Western Development Models and Small Farmers in Africa".


In 1995 Fr. Wim founded the Dutch AEFJN Antenna and it was its first chairman.


Wim you left us a tremendous Legacy  and a challenge for the future.  Thank for what you did for AEFJN and look upon us from heaven.


Herman Wijtten, SVD  


[1] USG, Union of Major men Religious Superiors

[2] UISG Union International of Women Religious Institutes. 


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