Vatican City, (VIS) - Made public today was the final document of the First Integrated Meeting on the Pastoral Care of the Road/Street for the Continent of Africa and Madagascar, organised by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples in collaboration with the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People of Tanzania. The event was attended by bishops, priests, religious and lay people from thirty-one African countries: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Congo R.D., Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The meeting - which was held in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, in September and had as its theme "Jesus came up and walked by their side" - examined all aspects of life of the road/street including: road security, voluntary and forced prostitution, trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation, street children, and human rights especially with respect to the human dignity of women, young girls and children.
Among the conclusions they reached, the participants recognised that Africa "is a continent where millions of people, either willingly or unwillingly, are daily on the move, thus transforming African roads and streets into privileged place of evangelisation and education". They also noted how "the road/street in Africa and Madagascar, which facilitates daily life, human and inter-cultural communications, also poses serious danger to life, facilitates the exploitation of human persons and contributes to the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS. These negative aspects often arise from irregular long hours of work, lack of rest, lack of spiritual guidance, corruption and organised criminality".
In order to combat such phenomena the document makes a number of recommendations including the creation of special offices in episcopal conferences and dioceses for education and formation programmes to promote awareness about street women/young girls and street children, long-distant truck drivers and road security, and about practices which undermine human dignity and endanger life. The document also suggests "the inculturation of the Gospel as a priority in all national and diocesan pastoral programmes in order to liberate women, young girls and children", and the lobbying of "African governments to exercise law and order to protect the dignity and life of innocent women/young girls and children at risk on the continent".
The participants also identify a number of general actions to be taken, including collaboration with episcopal conferences on other continents with a view to coordinating efforts to prevent trafficking in women/young girls/children for the purpose of sexual and labour exploitation; the development of networking in order to assist victims through ecclesial/interfaith collaboration at national, regional and continental level, and the formation of mobile chaplains and lay ministers with adequate preparation and the skills necessary to minister to people on the road".