Africa and Brazil: Huge Potential – Major Challenges

June 16, Nairobi – On day 5 of the PCO the formal listening process concluded, with a focus on both the vast continent of Africa and the enormous country of Brazil.

“Africa has more than 50 countries with many languages and cultures and therefore it encompasses many different realities,” said one of the presenters, Friar Alfigio Tunha, OFM, Custos of Zimbabwe. He said that two of the problems that the African Church experiences are that of syncretism and a faith that can often be lacking in depth. “People from all walks of life profess faith in God, but it is not displayed in everyday life,” he explained.

In addition, Alfigio spoke about other challenges such as the pandemic of HIV and AIDS which has led to many of the Churches becoming healthcare facilities. Political instability also breeds large scale migration which has resulted in many broken families.

As for Brazil, the vast region of Amazonia has become the setting for interprovincial cooperation and mission. The friars’ mission in the Amazon demonstrates their preferential option for the poor, through ministry with drug users, landless peasants, abandoned and indigenous people, among many others. The presenters from Brazil also addressed a broad range of issues including the role of lay friars in the Order and a rise in neo-clericalism, the friars’ attempts to remain close to the poor even when such a commitment is negatively labelled as socialist, the challenge posed by Pentecostalist movements, and the search for new ways of ministry in Brazil’s large cities.

This concludes the first phase of the Council; next week will see the friars engaged in a discernment process, the goal of which is to arrive at a shared sense of what the Spirit is saying to the friars today.