SMA Justice Office, Wilton

WORKING FOR JUSTICE

The new SMA Justice and Peace Office was officially opened and blessed by Fr. Fachtna O’Driscoll, Provincial Leader at African Missions, Wilton on Thursday 28th of October.  Commenting on the occasion Fr O’Driscoll said that:  “this new resource is a mark of the Society of African Missions commitment to promoting the Gospel-based response elaborated in Catholic Social Teaching and which has a direct bearing on what mission means in the complex and interdependent world we live in today.  This office will serve as a resource for members of the SMA, schools, parishes, faith and justice programmes. It will research issues affecting not only Africa but also concerns emerging in a multicultural society here in Ireland.”

The Justice Office will coordinate the advocacy efforts of the SMA on behalf of the peoples of Africa in their struggle for a more just society and world.  Its mission will be to foster a culture of peace through justice and to address emerging social issues affecting Africans here in Ireland and those in their homelands.  In particular the Office is concerned with highlighting the often unjust impact that the developed world has on Africa through the policies and actions of Multinational Corporations and international institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. To combat these negative effects the Justice Office will cooperate with other agencies promoting and campaigning for Justice and Peace. 

In a presentation of the work of the Office Fr Angelo Lafferty and Mr Gerry Forde outlined the practical work being done to support this aim through research, education, awareness raising, advocacy and pastoral support for African immigrants.

Particular focus was paid to the efforts being made to raise awareness of issues affecting millions Africans through the publication of its Justice Briefings.

The information they contain will, through the membership of Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network – see AEFJN website – be included in similar publications in many languages across Europe and also be distributed through the SMA Generalate in Rome to Justice and Peace Directors in all the SMA Provinces around the world.  In addition the Justice Office is also involved in Advocacy, Campaigning, Training delivery and in promoting Christian Muslim Dialogue. 

On a local level the Justice Office, through its Cois Tine project, provides practical pastoral support to African immigrants.  This takes form of training, counselling, and organisational support, the provision of premises, spiritual direction and social activities. Cois Tine has in the course of its work come into contact with the issues of trafficking, witchcraft HIV/Aids. At present is engaged in researching these issues with a view to publishing information on our website and also in preparation for training courses that will be delivered in 2011.  

Cois Tine has been instrumental in the development of the new Cork Integration Forum, recently launched by the Minister for Integration Mary White TD.  This is an umbrella group that at present represents twenty five immigrant, NGO and statutory groups.  Ten of these groups are African.  Cois Tine has also been closely involved in the planning development and implementation of the Cork City Integration Strategy.  This took the very practical approach of identifying forty two actions aimed at making it easier for immigrants to be included in the life of the City and which specified a lead agency responsible for implementing the action.  Almost all have completed and now Cois Tine is involved in planning the next phase of the strategy. At present Cois Tine is also running a comprehensive course on practical counselling skills relevant to a multicultural Ireland.  All of these activities aim to provide practical pastoral support to African immigrants and to facilitate their integration into our community.