Every work or undertaking needs preparation; the more significant the task scale, the more required preparation. Our work is called risk management and reduction to build resilient communities together in Africa. Fortunately, we live in a time characterized by significant scientific advances and a high level of technological development that allow us to predict what will happen or bring a natural disaster closer, which can help to define the type of preparation to face such a risk and, if possible, prevent it. It is known that prevention is worth more than cure.
The Church is God’s family, and the one in Africa was formally defined in the Special Assembly of the Synod for Africa in 1994 as ‘Family Church’ 1994, as in n. Sixty-three of Ecclesia in Africa John Paul II states the following: «The Synod did not limit itself to speaking about inculturation, but also applied it concretely, assuming as a key idea for the evangelization of Africa, the notion of the Church as the Family of God. In it, the Synod Fathers recognized an expression of the nature of the Church, particularly appropriate for Africa. In effect, the image emphasizes attention to others, solidarity, warm relationships of welcome, dialogue and mutual trust». Certainly, the formalization was encouraged by the winds of the Second Vatican Council, which stated, in Lumen Gentium, that «Thus the whole Church appears as «a people united by the unity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit», an expression inspired by St. Cyprian in his work De oratione dominica.
It is the crucial concept in the Kampala Document. For this important document of the Church in Africa, «The Church-Family of God, formed by all Peoples of diverse cultural origins, through the acceptance of the Word preached by the Apostles, is nothing other than the properly Apostolic Church».
It is typical of an excellent family to prepare to face problems and experience happy moments together. Hence, the a need to prepare and work together to manage and reduce risks. I want to congratulate the organizers of this training event on the happy theme.
Is there any theological basis for this? That is the purpose of this short reflection.
- Do the Holy Scriptures say anything about this?: The Holy Bible is the foundation of the lives of those who believe in Christ, who died and rose again for the good of humanity, commonly called Christians. It is this sacred book on which Christian doctrine is based, on which our faith is nourished. It is urgent to seek guidance from it regarding the need to prepare and work together. Regarding the need to prepare and be prepared, the Holy Scripture does have something to say because in it, Jesus says to be ready (Luke 12:40). For any undertaking, he needs to prepare like someone who, to build a tower, needs to sit down and calculate whether it can conclude (Luke 14:28). Jesus himself, to begin his public life, spent 40 days and 40 nights in preparation in the desert (Lc 3,23) and to choose his disciples and form them into an Apostolic College, he spent the night praying (Lc 6,12-16), it’s a lot of preparation. About the need to work together, creation is the joint work of the Trinity, as we find, in the act of creating man or human being, the verb in the plural verb ‘let us do’. With the choice of the 12, Jesus clearly indicates that he did not want to work alone. The sending of the 72 disciples two by two (Lc 10,1-9) reveals that Jesus does not wish his collaborators and continuers of his mission to work in isolation, in an individualistic spirit, but together supporting each other. The apostles were prepared and sent out together. Reinforcing what we are supporting, we find this statement by Joseph Ratzinger (2000), later Pope Benedict XVI, in his work entitled Il Cammino Pasquale that «in the history of the vocation of St. Peter, in Luke 5:10, we read that James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were Simon’s koinonia, that is, partners, or companions in fishing. In other words, the three form a ‘cooperative’; they own a small company, of which Simão was the boss». The solution to the controversy over whether or not circumcision was mandatory for those who embraced the faith was a joint effort known as the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15).
- Teaching-Magisterium: In Laudato Sí, we find these moving words from Pope Francis: “As the bishops of South Africa said, ‘the talents and involvement of everyone are needed to repair the damage caused by humans to God’s creation’. We can all collaborate, as instruments of God, in the care of creation, each one based on their culture, experience, initiatives and abilities». The defence of joining forces, in these words, is more than clear. The third and final part of the Kampala document, Convert and Work for the Transformation of the World (Cf. Mc 1,15), is an invitation to conversion and transformation of the world. To this end, it proposes and promotes pastoral care aimed at the Conversion and Transformation of the World: “The desired new Africa is one where the baptized, aware of their identity and vocation, are intimately linked to the Person of Jesus Christ; they become a leaven of the Kingdom that the Church receives and hides in the mass of African society (cf. Mt 13:33). Renewed by the Holy Spirit in the love of the Father, they will be for Africa “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (cf. Mt 5, 13,14)” (DK 133). In these words, the need to prepare and work for the future of Africa is intertwined.
- Theological foundation: The Holy Trinity is the source and reference of our existence. We come from the Trinity, and we walk towards it. We have no other basis for our Christian life than the Holy Trinity. Jesus, in his prayer, asked ‘that they may be one as we are one’ (John 17:21) so that the world may believe, a desire that, in the Church, had as a galvanizing factor the Second Vatican Council and the Code of Canonical Law of 1983 that encourage the union of efforts in spreading the Good News and fighting against the evil one. Along the same path, Pope Francis convened the Synod on Synodality with the theme For a synodal Church: Communion, Participation and mission and invited everyone to embark on this journey and participate in the process of preparing the Synod on Synodality. The ‘being one’ in the Trinity is not only in being but also in operating. The Immanent Trinity is involved in the act of creation, and the Economic Trinity is equally engaged in the work of redemption. Hence, the need for us creatures elevated to the category of children of God to also be ‘one’ in being and operating, working together regarding the Holy Trinity where there is no confusion or overlapping of roles, as the three divine persons interpenetrate each other in a harmonious relationship. It is typical of a good family that all members are involved in events that concern the family, each member according to her place in the family.
- Socio-cultural Substrate: There is a famous slogan that says ‘unity is strength’. Society is also establishing union bodies, abolishing entry visas, even minting regional currencies and so on, not to mention the remarkable phenomenon of globalization that is turning the world into a village supported by great inventions within the scope of communication that they remove physical barriers and establish connections, without forgetting the challenge they pose to interpersonal communication, which is irreplaceable. African wisdom teaches that the herd’s unity forces the lion to sleep hungry. The lion is always a concern and threat to other animals. The lion for our society is the various challenges and problems that threaten life. Just as the herd’s unity forces the lion to sleep hungry, our preparation and work together can face multiple challenges. A problem facing just one person, even if it is small, becomes very heavy, but a problem, even if it is big, faced by many, becomes light. The union of ants, even tiny ones, kills an elephant. Working in synergy, we can overcome Africa’s problems and, why not, society’s general issues.
The COVID-19 experience
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the need to be prepared and prepare human and material resources, as many nations were caught on the wrong footing and many lives that could have been saved were lost. During the COVID-19 pandemic, humanity lived with great intensity the experience of working in synergy, adopting the same measures to mitigate the spread of the deadly virus. He shared the familiar feeling of anxiety about contracting the virus, the awareness of fragility, and experiencing the challenge of distance and isolation against the social nature of man. On the other hand, he shared the feeling of the need to protect himself by protecting others. Anyone who did not cooperate would significantly threaten the human family.
I conclude with the words of Jesus, who encourages us to keep our backs girded and our lamps lit because then we will never be caught unprepared. In this stance, we must be united, avoiding all temptation to individualism and selfishness, as African wisdom teaches: «If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together». I don’t think there are those among us who don’t want to go far.
From an ecclesiastical perspective, working together is what is called synodality, which in the vision of Pope Francis, expressed in his Speech at the Commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops on October 17, 2015, «The path of synodality is precisely the path that God expects the Church of the third millennium”, which needs deep preparation, hence the reason for the long synodal process for the Synod on Synodality.
- II VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium.
- Speech by the Holy Father FRANCIS, Paul VI Class, Saturday, October 17, 2015.
- FRANCIS (2015), Encyclical Letter Laudato Si.
- JOHN PAUL II (1995), Exhort. Post-synodal apost Ecclesia in Africa.
- RATINGER J. (2000), II cammino pasquale, Ancora, Milano.
- SECAM (2019), ‘That They May Know Christ That They May Have Life Abundance’ (John 17:3; 10:10), Kampala Document, SCEAM Secretariat, Accra.