Philippe Cardinal Ouédraogo, SECAM President
“Give them something to eat yourselves” (Mk. 6:37)
Fifty days have passed since we celebrated Easter Sunday and we are now being renewed by the gifts of Pentecost. The promise that Jesus made to the Apostles at the Last Supper that He would send them the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 15:26), was fulfilled at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples gathered in the Upper Room. That outpouring, which roused total inner transformation in the first disciples and equipped them to become witnesses of Jesus, did not remain unique and limited to the moment, but an event that was and, is still renewed.
This year‘s Pentecost is celebrated amidst many challenges. The year 2022 is marked by unprecedented scale of hunger across the world, due to the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, climate change, prolonged wars and in particular the war in Ukraine. According to the conclusions of the Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) 2022, in 2021 some 193 million people were severely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance in 53 countries/territories and the outlook for global acute food insecurity in 2022 is projected to deteriorate further compared to 2021. And most of these famine stricken countries are in Africa. In fact, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), levels of extreme food insecurity in Africa “almost quadrupled between 2019 and 2022,” with more than 281 million people exposed to hunger in 2021.
Therefore, as we celebrate Pentecost, the feast of ecclesial renewal and re commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ, let us remember that he himself had pity on the people and fed them (Mk 6:34–44); laid down his life for his sheep (Jn 10) and nourishes us with the Holy Eucharist daily. Following in his footsteps, the first Christians shared their goods amongst themselves to the extent that no one was in need any longer (Acts 2:42–47).
Pentecost identifies us with Jesus, the Way, “opening us to his mystery of salvation so that we may be his children and brothers and sisters to one another;” it identifies us with Jesus, the Truth, “teaching us to renounce our lies and personal ambitions;” and it identifies us with Jesus, the Life, “enabling us to embrace his plan of love and give ourselves so that others may ‘have life in him” (Documento da Aparecida, 137).
Therefore, we, the disciples of Jesus today, are invited to break the logic of the selfish hoarding of goods and learn to share with others. Indeed, goods are a gift from God for all people and they belong to everyone. The Second Vatican Council has clearly noted that “God has destined the earth and all that it contains for the use of all men and peoples, so that created goods should come equally into the hands of all, according to justice, backed by charity.” (GS 69). This calls for respect for social justice and the practice of solidarity, which prevents the monopolization of financial means by the richest, and promotes the inclusion of every man and woman in the society, as well as their fundamental dignity.
By sharing our bread with those who are hungry, we witness to God‘s will to satisfy the “hunger” of the world and we allow God to meet the needy through our gestures of sharing and generosity. Generosity, sharing and solidarity do not impoverish, but are generators of life, and life in abundance. It is therefore our mission as disciples of Jesus today to fight against human hunger and to do everything in our power to give back life and hope to all those who live in misery, suffering, and despair.
We appeal to the Governments and Humanitarian Organizations to do everything possible to ensure that no one dies from lack of basic food. We also encourage the development of effective policies and programs that value local food production and combat food waste3; protect agricultural land and ensure its access to the peasant population. Because the solution to hunger will not be achieved through food aid only. Food aid should be seen as a temporary solution and with the purpose of allowing a given population to survive in a crisis situation.
Pentecost is also the feast of peace. It was along with the breath of the Holy Spirit that Jesus said: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20, 21). So we pray for peace in the world and especially on our continent. May the Spirit of Pentecost make us all understand (governors, governed and the perpetrators of war) that “the construction of social peace in a country is never finished, but is a task that does not provide a truce and requires the commitment of all“.4 May we all be instruments of peace and work for peace!
Renewed by the Spirit of Jesus on this Pentecost, let us go on mission, continuing God‘s project realized in Jesus: the project of liberation, which eliminates oppression and establishes a world of free men and women, saved from selfishness and capable of loving and sharing.
May Our Lady, Queen of Africa, intercede for us and may the Lord grant us days of plenty and peace.
Accra, June 5, 2022