Priest challenges African government on arms budgets

 African governments have been challenged to scale down their huge weapons budgets in order to spend more the social needs of their people. The national budgetary allocations for some African governments are much higher than those of education, health and food production, according to Tanzanian Catholic Jesuit priest, Fr Shirima Val. He was speaking in Nairobi, Kenya on 7 July during the launch of the book: Making Choices for Peace, published by Kenyan priest, Fr Elias Omondi Opongo SJ. He added: "by allocating more money for weapons, some of our African governments are pushing us to making choices for war instead for peace." Fr Val, currently the provincial superior for Jesuits in the Eastern African Region added that he felt the Church on the continent should intensify her commitment to working for peace-building. "We are not at zero point when it comes to church's contribution in peace-building on the African continent, but we must feel obliged to intensify our commitments," he said. In the book, Fr Opongo observes that church agencies have for a long time been the providers of life-sustaining aid to people in conflict situations that even governments prefer to avoid. This unique access to people in conflict enables them to do something governments and other NGOs do not have a mandate for: to conduct field diplomacy and begin to sow peace in small communities, he writes.

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