The EoC in the Cameroons: a full trip replete with new prospects

The delegation for the EoC concluded their trip in the Cameroons

120204-14_Cameroun04_ridEverything was born from a request to present the EoC at the newborn Catholic University of Buea (UIDB) by the Bishop Emmanuel Bushu, addressed to the President of the Focolare Movement, Maria Voce. In coming to know that the trip would be made by a delegation of the EoC, other persons asked to know the Economy of Communion, thus weaving an intense schedule of appointments in different cities of the Cameroons - some contemporaneously - that took place from 4 - 14 of February.

The delegation of the EoC was composed of: Leo Andringa from Holland, head of the delegation, Doctor in Macro-Economics and member of the Central Commission for the Economy of Communion; Geneviéve Sanze from Central Africa, professor of Ethics of Economics at the Catholic University of West Africa and of Economy at the Institute of Moral Science of West Africa, she too member of the Central Commission for the Economy of Communion; Maria Gabriella Balderelli from Italy, professor of Business Management at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Bologna, Rimini Branch, and at the Sophia University Institute.

The first presentation was on 4 February at the Catholic University of Douala whose President, Bishop Paul Nyaga, had really wanted an afternoon dedicated to the EoC at the university for all those interested. One hundred people took part, between students, professors and other interested parties. There was great attention in the hall during the talks by Leo Andringa and Maria Gabriella Baldarelli. These were followed by a long open question session. The message of the EoC was welcomed in-depth and as a possible response to Africa’s problems, given the chance it offers to correct the negative aspects of its current economic system. There was also a strong desire to deepen the different aspects inherent to the EoC businesses.

At the same time, at Yaoundè, a conference was held of the associations of Catholic business people in the Cameroons, “Patrons  120204_Camerun_ridet Dirigeants Chretiens” (PADIC), that had requested a presentation on the EoC: Geneviève Sanze, taking a long bus trip, thus went there. Thirty participants listened attentively and a dialogue followed: the entrepreneurs were very surprised to discover a reality that was totally new for them. The President, Jean Baptiste Homsi, stated that the EoC could be the way to reconcile professional life with Christian living, and asked to organize a meeting for the business people to go in-depth. He also said that the EoC can give can provide solutions to Africa’s problems, such as to corruption, by putting together the entrepreneurs from different movements (Saint Egidio Community, Charismatic Renewal, and others) in order to seek together the suitable path to pursue. The initiative was transmitted by the National Television Network of the Cameroons.

At Buea, on 5 February, the meeting took place requested by Bishop Emmanuel Bushu and the leadership of the University of the Diocese of  Buea (UIDB). The delegation members of the EoC were all present for it. Bishop Bushu dared to say that the University should totally be grounded on the EoC principles, with the goal of truly founding it on the Gospel, also in its economy. The road is long, but we need to begin undertake it. The collaborators of Bishop  Bushu had worked very hard in the last few months to study the existing publications and EoC website, in order to fully grasp its reality. “After the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate,” Leo Andringa told us, “I feel that the EoC no longer belongs only the Focolare Movement, but was officially made part of the Social Teaching of the Church. This experience proves it.”

On 6 February the EoC  Seminar began with about 70 participants: 1/3 students, 1/3 educators and administrators and 1/3 adherents of the Focolare Movement. Various talks were presented: The EoC and Reciprocity (Leo Andringa), Poverty (Geneviève Sanze), Management of the EdC Businesses (Maria Gabriella Baldarelli), and then small group dialogue on the problems within our current economies. 

120209_Cameroun_ridOn the third and last day of the seminar, the Sophia University Institute was presented: there was a real interest to know its programs of study and also the structure of it, especially how an agreement could be worked out between universities. The talk on the relationships lived between students and professors at Sophia struck a particular cord. At the end of the seminar, a commission was established for the EoC within the university, composed of members of the university, members of the EoC and of the Focolare Movement.

An assessment of the work done together with the leadership of the university confirmed a sincere interest to continue on the path taken with the EoC, involving also the whole university in this new culture. In particular, the vice-chancellor, Laetitia Ako Kima, who already read all the publications on the EoC that the Bishop gave her and is at the Catholic University of Nairobi, wishes to come back next July with a delegation of 10 people: professors and students, who would then be able to share with others the reality of the EoC. In addition, Professor Kima wishes to get to know Fontem, the first little town of the Focolare Movement in Africa, and the other realities of the EoC, and is already working on a strategic plan for her university. They are also planning an industrial park and are thinking of using the profits from the businesses to help develop the university and alleviate the incidence of poverty.

From 10 - 12 February, a pause in Fontem, the little town of the Focolare Movement. 120204-14_Cameroun12_rid

The trip was almost at its end but, before leaving for their respective homes, while still Douala on 13 February, there was the occasion to meet again with the participants of the meeting at the Catholic University on 4 February, who wished to go in-depth: 60 attended, among whom business people and various members of ecclesial communities and movements (Saint Egidio Community and the Charismatic Renewal): a great interest was shown and a strong desire to begin right away with a concrete project.

A final mention goes to the many opportunities in those days to meet in informal settings with small groups of people interested in the EoC project, encounters in which local cultural issues were discussed in order to seek possible solutions together. They were full days, rich with future prospects: in the Cameroons, a new road has opened up for the EoC and who knows where it will lead to!

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