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Report of Card. Polycarp PENGO, President of the "Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar" (S.E.C.A.M.), for Africa


I am speaking here in the name of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) of which I am the current president.
The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar has an intrinsic link with the Church in the Middle East specifically through the Church in Egypt which is part of both Africa and the Middle East.
Egypt, not withstanding the cultural and linguistic differences with sub-Saharan Africa is by geographical necessity part of the Church in Africa (SECAM) as much as it is part of the Church in the Middle East through linguistic and cultural factors. The two component factors of the belongingness of the Church in Egypt are certainly not incompatible. On the contrary they can be positively exploited for the good of the Church both in Africa and in the Middle East.
On the one hand, Christians are migrating from the Middle East due to what may be considered oppressive conditions against the Christian Faith in some of the Middle East countries. On the other hand, many young African Christians are flocking every year from sub Saharan Africa to Northern Africa (including Egypt) for studies, employment or on transit to Europe and the Middle East. Many of those young people leave their countries as fervent Christian practitioners. When they come to Northern Africa, they find themselves in an atmosphere of Islamic predominance allowing for very limited freedom of practicing their Christian Faith.
This reminds me of the situation obtaining in Eastern Africa not so many years ago. Until some fifty years ago, Islam was so predominant on the East African coast of the Indian Ocean that it threatened the faith of the Christian youth coming from the interior areas of the continent in search of jobs in the sisal estates and government offices in the coastal areas.
What saved the situation in Eastern Africa was the close co-operation between the Christian missionaries in the interior and those on the coast. The young people going to the Coast took introductory letters from the missionaries at home to the missionaries on the coast who received these youths in established Christian settlements. There they could continue to practice their faith freely.
Today, no Christian on the coasts of Eastern Africa feels obliged to hide his Christian identity despite the fact that Islam continues to be the religion of the majority. Separate Christian settlements are no longer needed also.
With regard to the above described situation in Northern Africa and the Middle East, methods of action may need to be very different. Yet, closer co-operation between the sub-Saharan Church and the Church in North Africa and the Middle East remains and will always remain of paramount importance for the survival of Christianity on both sides. SECAM is an excellent tool for such co-operation.

[00018-02.02] [RC001] [Original text: English]



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