The office of the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa (JENA has been busy, and for good reason.

As JENA continues to challenge unjust policies and practices to promote social justice - advocacy has been at the center of this effort with emerging from both new and existing collaborations with various stakeholders within the Church and outside of it.

In the past months, JENA has engaged with various stakeholders in high level meetings and events locally and internationally adding a Catholic voice to areas around governance, development, global finance and among other prevailing social issues like debt and climate change.

The JENA Assembly

JENA held its fourth Annual Assembly from 2-6 October 2023 in Bujumbura, Burundi. The 5-day meeting brought together the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) social centres of the 6 provinces and 1 region advocating for the promotion of peace and justice as a concrete, radical but proportionate response to an unjustly suffering world.

Annual Assemblies are held by JENA to enhance networking, collaboration, and discernment in the social ministries of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), to come up with concrete suggestions for collaborative actions, connect with the Jesuit networks globally, enhance the voice of Africa on social justice and climate change concerns on the global stage, develop strategies to operationalise ideas, capitalise on experiences and spaces for interconnection, amplify the strength of networking and resource mobilisation, strengthen the voice of the afflicted our research and have conversation on how to engage the youth and other marginalised voices.

In Bujumbura, the delegates were joined by the new JCAM President, Fr. José Minaku, SJ, who during the meeting called on them to continue being missionaries and witnesses of hope.

The JCAM President, Fr. José Minaku, SJ

This call speaks to the commitment made by the Society of Jesus during the 32nd General Congregation (GC) in 1975 which through prayer and deliberation, in the words of the late Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus “slowly realised that the entire Society of Jesus in all its many works was being invited by the Spirit of God to set out on a new direction. The overriding purpose of the Society of Jesus, namely “the service of faith,” must also include “the promotion of justice.” This new direction was not confined to those already working with the poor and marginalised in what was called “the social apostolate.” Rather, this commitment was to be “a concern of our whole life and a dimension of all our apostolic endeavours.” So central to the mission of the entire Society was this union of faith and justice that it was to become the “integrating factor” of all the Society’s works, and in this light “great attention” was to be paid in evaluating every work, including educational institutions”.

World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings - Focus on Africa

Following the Assembly of Social Centres, Fr. Charles Chilufya, SJ, the JENA Director joined African entrepreneurs, and World leaders in Marrakech, Morocco, for a meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank from 9-13 October. A seating that hasn’t been held in the continent of Africa in half a century - the last having been held in 1973 in Nairobi, Kenya in the wake of the Yom Kippur War.

In his presentation, Fr. Chilufya highlighted that the world's focus on Africa is not just essential but timely, he said “As we unite to address the multifaceted challenges of our age, it's vital that Africa's voice is amplified, and its needs addressed holistically." He further said that “the criticisms of these institutions have not gone unheard. Many African officials argue that policies that deny economies access to credit and loans based on the prerequisite of balanced budgets, often corner governments into making untenable decisions. This includes introducing tax reforms or slashing crucial subsidies for essential commodities such as food and energy”.

The JENA Director, Fr. Charles Chilufya, SJ, in Marrakech, Morocco. IMF, World Bank meeting.

At the same time, the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the Catholic Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) issued a statement addressed to the world leaders attending the annual IMF, G20, and World Bank meetings urging them to promote urgent debt relief, aid, and lending policies to address the interlinked crises African countries face.

African Catholic Bishops.

“To successfully address debt crises, it is crucial to tackle the complexities arising from multiple creditors. This necessitates the coordination of efficient, prompt, and comprehensive policies that encompass both public and private creditors,” the Bishops said. The statement, “A Call to Leaders Actions for a True Jubilee of Hope in Africa,” follows on Pope Francis’ declaration of year 2025 as a Jubilee year, under the motto “Pilgrims of Hope”.

The faith leaders pointed out that in Africa nearly 600 million people live in poverty and near 280 million are hungry, calling to remove the obstacle of debt that prevents many countries from having the resources to invest in crisis response and protect their most vulnerable. They recalled that in 1999, then Holy Father St. John Paul II linked debt relief to the fight against poverty, stating that the message remains true today.

You can read the statement {Here}

Catholic Efforts for Education and Gender Parity in Africa

Earlier on in the month of September, JENA's Bakhita Partnership for Education (BPE) programme in partnership with Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and African Union International Centre for Girl and Women Education (AU-CIEFFA) hosted a compelling event on Gender Responsive and Transformative Education in New York, as part of 78th UN SDG Summit.

About two hundred globally acclaimed experts in education and various leaders of the Catholic religious sisters and the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network in Africa (JENA) and beyond attended the event both in person and online. The event was designed to highlight the substantial contribution of Catholic education in expediting the realisation of sustainable development goals in Africa, particularly SDG 4 (Quality Education) and SDG 5 (Gender Equality), while elevating the narratives, experiences, and insights of girls from underserved and marginalised communities in Africa.

Seated L-R are Sr. Jane Wakahiu, LSOSF, Ph.D., Hilton Foundation Associate Vice President and Head of Catholic Sisters (in white), Fr. Charles Chilufya S.J. - Chairman Bakhita Partnership for Education, Mrs. Simone Yankey – Ag Director AU International Centre for Girls and Women’s Education in Africa (AU CIEFFA), Ms. Victoria Abioseh Egbetayo, Global Partnership for Education, and Sr. Dr. Rosemary Nyirumbe, Ph.D., Director of St. Monica’s Girls’ Tailoring Center, Uganda.

The event also recognized the significant role the Catholic religious sisters have played in education in Africa, particularly in providing access to education for marginalized communities and promoting the empowerment of women.

Related Links:

African Catholic Bishops: Marrakesh Meetings Should Act on “True Jubilee of Hope in Africa”

IMF-W.B Annual Meetings: “No Systemic Debt Crisis in Low-Income Countries Yet” – IMF

IMF and World Bank focus on Africa at the Marrakech Meetings

A Look Back at the 2023 World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings in Marrakech

Elevating Human Dignity

Jesuits and nuns team up to bring education to vulnerable African girls

African Jesuits and Collaborators at Unga 78: Spotlight on Catholic Efforts for Education and Gender Parity in Africa

To read more news on the work of JENA, visit the Jesuits Africa media section {Here}.