On the occasion of the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York, the Bishops of Africa and Madagascar made an appeal to political leaders and international organizations to end the promotion of a civilization of death in the continent. “The agents of the civilization of death are using ambivalent language, seducing decision-makers and entire populations, in order to make them partners in the pursuit of their ideological objectives… They take advantage of poverty, weakness and ignorance in order to subject peoples and governments to their blackmail.” Among these objectives is the implementation of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” programmes, which are imposed as a condition for development assistance.
One of Aid to the Church in Need’s project partners in Benin, Father François Tiando, faces this monumental challenge in his work as he is responsible for family pastoral care in the Natitingou diocese. Another problem that he encounters in his pastoral work with families is that “some people are not quite open to modernity or Christianity. The major challenge is still polygamy… It is difficult for the young to understand the importance and benefits of monogamy.” This is worsened by the pressure of international organisations to implement a “reproductive health” agenda amongst Benin’s population, a phenomenon that is also present in other African countries. According to Father Tiando, the devastating consequences of this agenda are more and more visible. “Many Christian couples are aware that this hurts the family, especially the women.”
Father Tiando stressed out that the Church needs to face this challenge. The purposes of the organisations which promote this agenda are quite clear, as the slogan of the so-called “Amour et Vie” (Love and Life) youth centres for reproductive health shows: “Learn to live your sentimental life without risks.” They offer a confidential service, which in practice means that teenagers and young people can receive advice on reproductive health without parental consent. “Parents are disarmed… there is a serious crisis of values in Africa.”
Christine du Coudray, head of the Africa department at Aid to the Church in Need International, agrees: “Africa is a target of the NGOs’ agenda because the majority of the population is young.” One of the first steps to counteract this threat coming from abroad, according to Ms du Coudray, is to stop using the United Nations’ vocabulary on this matter which is “purposely unclear and a new invention. Instead, we should use the Church’s long-standing vocabulary of love and family, whose words are full of meaning.”
Father Tiando remains confident in the Church’s ability to face this threat – and the diocese of Natitingou’s triennial family action programme, supported by ACN, is part of its response. The programme’s final objective is the “evangelisation of families by the families” – in line with the diocese’s motto, a solidary and missionary family. Once the families who attend the formation discover the true value of the Christian family, they pass it on not only to their children but to other families. Father Tiando is convinced that not only evil, but also good can be contagious. “The other families can see that Christian values truly lived in the family are good for the family and society as a whole.”
From these past years’ experience, Father Tiando reports how many men’s vision of their wife and women in general changes after taking part in the formation. In the African tradition, the man is the head of the family, whereas in the Catholic family man and woman stand together thanks to dialogue and prayer. “I am impressed by the testimonies of those who are taking part in this formation. They learn and live that prayer sustains the couple and the family.” The fact that other couples give their testimony at the formation also helps the participants to realise that they are not isolated in their problems. “These families build up a net of friendship though the diocese: a friendship around common values.” Thus the family action programme’s ultimate goal is that these families would then evangelise other families, as part of the diocesan project of “a family that is solidary and missionary.”
Christine du Coudray is quite positive about this kind of family programmes supported by Aid to the Church in Need in Africa. “We don’t see these programmes in European countries, where they are also necessary. These family programmes, which are carried out in Africa, also give fruits in our countries in mysterious ways.” For instance, the 2013 World Congress of Families organized in Paris followed the example of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the African Family Life Federation AFLF (FédérationAfricained’ActionFamiliale FAAF). The AFLF mission is to provide its members – who represent 28 associations from 22 African countries – with the competences for their educational work with youth and married couples, to promote family values and responsible paternity/maternity according to God’s design. Ms du Coudray points out that, when it comes to Christian family values, “something good is coming from Africa.”
This mission of the African people towards humanity today was also stressed by the Bishops of Africa and Madagascar, in their common declaration issued last June: “As Pope Benedict XVI solemnly declared, ‘Today Africa is the spiritual lung of humanity’.” The bishops denounce that the billions of dollars allotted to promote the “reproductive health agenda” in the African continent have a clear objective, “the efficient control of demographic growth in Africa, according to the Western ‘model’, which has become a zero growth model in Europe today.” They consider this Western policy in Africa to be “a terrifying resurgence of a colonialist spirit under the guise of the appealing names of liberty, equality, rights, autonomy, democratization and development… It can no longer be denied that under the euphemism of ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’, such programs are plainly imposed as a condition for development assistance.”
This concern of the African Catholic bishops is shared by members of other religious faiths present in the continent. African cultures have traditionally celebrated “the beauty and sacredness of life and the family.” The Bishops of Africa and Madagascar exhort all Africans to resist the political and economic pressures of the transnational “reproductive rights” lobby, and categorically say ‘no’ to this planned destruction of marriage and the family. In words of Pope Francis, we should be “on guard against colonization by new ideologies. There are forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family… [So] in our families we need to be very wise, very shrewd, very strong, in order to say ‘no’ to all attempts at an ideological colonization of our families.”
In 2014 Aid to the Church in Need supported 108 family projects in Africa with more than 1,065,000 EUR and for 2015 so far it has supported 93 projects with just over 780.000 EUR.
 These “love and life“ centres are supported by PSI, which defines itself as a ‘global health organization dedicated to improving the health of people in the developing world by focusing on serious challenges like a lack of family planning, HIV and AIDS, barriers to maternal health, and the greatest threats to children under five, including malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition.’ Its revenue in 2013 was approx. $600 million. Source: http://www.psi.org/about/at-a-glance/