JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog. Our weekly newsletter was designed to provide us with an opportunity to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with some of the projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.
This week: Benin
The family in Africa – In every corner of the continent
By ACN International
In 12 short years, the African Family Life Federation (AFLF), which was founded on the initiative of Blessed John Paul II, has helped over 1 million people to better understand and live the teaching of the Church on marriage and the family. ACN has supported the AFLF, right from the beginning. We spoke to Christine du Coudray, who heads our Africa section and has also been involved since AFLF was founded.
Why does ACN support this Association?
It is vitally important for the Church and for the people. During the plenary session of the first Africa Synod in 1994 the Holy Father warned of the dangers that were emerging from international meetings and from such ideologies as feminism and gender theories, which were threatening to destroy the natural family consisting of father, mother and children. They were prophetic words. As a consequence a number of smaller associations for the defence of life and the family were able to join together and – together with the John Paul II Institute for the Family in Cotonou, Benin – establish the first such association for French-speaking Africa. They had no funding; only ACN stood by them. For years the federation has fought a David and Goliath battle against the anti-family, anti-life and pro-abortion policies of the UN and other massive international organizations.
Has David grown since then?
Yes. Thanks to the support of our benefactors, the federation is now present in 22 countries of French-speaking and English-speaking Africa, and embraces a total of 34 organizations. In the last year alone 141 diocesan and expert groups have trained tens of thousands of (mainly young) couples in family values and also instructed an additional 21,000 married couples in natural family planning. But these are only figures. The real success lies in the fact that, thanks to the federation, millions of people have come to discover and live the happiness that resides in a respectful attitude to life and sexuality. Above all – and despite the massive pressures from a throwaway consumer society that despises human values – tens of thousands of young couples have learned that fidelity and mutual respect and true love can be lived and truly bring happiness. This is also true for young people generally – and it is the best protection against AIDS.
Who is supporting the AFLF?
So far, only ACN. In the years since its foundation we have contributed $6.9 million for a vast number of different projects. But given the number of people helped, that works out at less than $7 to make someone happy and live and love in a manner pleasing to God. We are very much hoping that other organizations will soon get involved. For there is an immense need for teaching materials, pamphlets, handbooks, short films – and also for the teams of experts who have to travel. The demand is immense, the growth of the federation has been remarkable, and the Church in Africa is faithful, but poor.
How do you see the future?
I am pinning great faith in the Synod for the Family, in autumn 2014 in Rome. It will put a strong emphasis on John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. This should give a boost to the federation. The current president of the Africa-wide Bishops’ Symposium (SECAM) Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi, from Angola and the president of the pontifical council Cor Unum, Cardinal Robert Sarah both see the Family Life Federation as pivotal for the future of Africa. For thanks to its trans-diocesan infrastructure, it can convey such human virtues as solidarity, fidelity, respect and fraternal charity to every corner of the continent. It is a lynch pin of love. And I am of course hoping that our benefactors will continue to be as generous as before, so that this work of love can still thrive and flourish. •