By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) has called for prayers for the continental symposium ahead of the annual celebration of SECAM Day, scheduled for 29 July and 2 August.
“SECAM Day is an important event for the Church-Family of God in Africa and Madagascar. We earnestly urge you to pray for SECAM on Wednesday 29th July and 2nd August 2020,” said SECAM president, Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo in a goodwill message issued on Monday.
“The day is set aside for all members of the Church-Family of God in Africa and the surrounding islands to thank God for the gift of mother Africa, for the gift of one another and for the gift of the Christian Faith,” Cardinal Ouédraogo added.
Normally, the annual celebration is held on 29 July. However, “SECAM Day is shifted to the following Sunday when 29 July falls on a weekday,” explained the Cardinal. “Therefore, SECAM Day this year is to be celebrated on 2nd August 2020.”
Founded on 29 July 1969, SECAM marks its fifty-first anniversary this year. It was formally launched by Pope Saint Paul VI on 31 July 1969 in Kampala, Uganda.
SECAM is a common forum for Bishops in Africa and Madagascar to voice their respective opinions on matters concerning the Church on the African continent.
Challenges to SECAM’s mission
Cardinal Ouédraogo recalled that SECAM made several resolutions at its plenary sessions during last year’s Golden Jubilee celebrations held in Kampala, Uganda – the place where SECAM was founded.
Some of the resolutions include making the Jubilee a springboard for a more profound evangelization on the Continent and its islands; intensifying the commitment to promoting organic pastoral solidarity among SECAM members; and being more proactive in the prophetic mission.
Unfortunately, the Cardinal noted, “one year after the Golden Jubilee, the situation in Africa and the surrounding islands has remained the same, within and outside the Church.”
Further compounding the situation is “the coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc everywhere. Covid-19 has so far killed millions around the world including Africans. It has affected the clergy, religious and lay faithful alike,” Cardinal Ouédraogo said.
Covid-19 in Africa
Faced with the ongoing health crisis, Cardinal Ouédraogo pointed out that Africa is particularly hard-hit. “Thousands have lost jobs, small businesses [have been] destroyed. The diversity of pre-existing disasters such as floods, drought, locust invasion, poor harvest, are real and constitute serious challenges,” he said.
The SECAM president further noted that “not even the deadly Covid-19 has deterred violence and terrorism in some countries in Africa.” Joining his voice with that of Pope Francis, he called on world leaders to put “an immediate end to violence everywhere in Africa and elsewhere in the world.”
“Covid-19 has exposed how vulnerable we are, irrespective of color or status,” he said. “This is the time for all African peoples to reactivate the value of solidarity that has shaped our worldview and traditional society.”
Annual collection deferred
Among the activities on the annual SECAM day is a special collection to support the work of the continental symposium. However, due to the ongoing challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the SECAM leadership announced that it would defer the collection this year.
But, the SECAM president noted, “if any person or group of people are moved by the Holy Spirit to support SECAM financially or materially, you are welcome to do so.”
Cardinal Ouédraogo concluded his message with a note of gratitude.
“We have had our moments of sorrow but there were also joyful moments in the last one year,” the Cardinal said, then goes further to express gratitude to Bishops, clergy and the lay faithful across the continent.