"When we search for the solutions of Africa it should not be a band aid used to dress the surface of the wound which just keeps on festering." This was the challenge given by Nigerian Theologian Sister Teresa Okure at CAFOD's annual Pope Paul VI lecture, last Friday. "The theme of her lecture", -'Impoverished by wealth: Mama Africa and her experience of poverty', "is unarguably one of the great policy challenges of the twenty-first century," said BBC Broadcaster and chair of the event Edward Stourton. An invited audience of over 500 CAFOD supporters came to hear her speak. Sister Teresa drew on her daily life experiences from Port Harcourt in the heart of the oil fields of the Niger delta in Nigeria. She gave a compelling and thought provoking lecture which combined a rich array of African folklore and Christian social thinking She challenged those who are concerned about Africa and its development to first question and re-examine their notions and perceptions of Africa, removing the 'we and them' attitudes and instead to consider standing together to look at the reality of this vast and diverse continent voluminous in wealth yet blighted by poverty. "The problem of Africa is not a one sided problem, it is deep and complex. It is not a problem where one person can say that they have given the answer. The ultimate solution of Africa is for each of us to look deep into our hearts, minds and souls together." In her talk Sister Teresa said that it is only by working together for a common humanity that solutions to the reality of today's disparity between the oil generated wealth of her country and the grim legacy of environmental and social destitution, can be tackled. "Port Harcourt is the hub of the oil wealth of the nation. The companies have come in, nationals, multinationals and they have laid their pipes criss-crossing the land. The water is destroyed, the farms are destroyed, and the air is polluted." Quoting from the book of Proverbs, and the story of the Valiant Woman, Sister Teresa simply stated: "Give her a share in what her hands has produced". However she went on to remind the audience that poverty was not just about a lack of food or water, she said; "It is a question of not having a voice in what happens in the rest of the world. It is a question of not having opportunity. It is a question of not being given the technology." "Where do you see hope for Africa?" Was the final question from a member of the audience, and Sister Teresa answered; "Charity begins at home. I see myself as a hope for Africa, and the ultimate hope is from the one who says, 'take courage'." We hope to be publishing the full text of Sister Ukure's talk on ICN soon.
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