Article by Marc Aupiais
Concerning words from the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference:
"National Religious Leaders Forum (NRLF).
On January 5th 2011, a meeting of NRLF, National Interfaith Leaders Council (NILC) and the Commission for religion and traditional affairs of the African National Congress was held in order to discuss Unity amongst the two Interfaith organizations. The consensus reached was that instead of forming a third umbrella body, as was suggested by Luthuli House, both NILC and NRLF should amalgamate. Each organization will appoint 7 members to constitute a working group. This body who will prepare a concept paper and recommend procedures for the formation of a single National Interfaith organization or forum.
The Challenge of follow-up.
The challenge that continues to confront the conference is to develop a mechanism that will ensure that the results of the various ground-breaking conferences and documents are systematically discussed and implemented. Here we refer to Ecclesia in Afrika, the African Synod on Justice and Reconciliation, the IMBISA triennial Conferences (self-reliance, good governance, good work ethics) and the economic justice pastoral document. Unless we have a way of monitoring implementation, we run the risk of reinventing the same ideas every few years.
By lay formation I understand the empowering of lay people to participate fully and meaningfully in the life of the church and society by virtue of their baptism. Lay formation has not yet been given content at Conference Level. It is also not clear how this dove-tails with the evangelization and catechesis. Lay formation is a broad term that refers to information dissemination, the imparting of specific knowledge and training. But there is a debilitating vagueness about this term. LUMKO has been suggested as a possible institution to put together a laity formation programme. To date, no plans have been forthcoming.
It is equally important not to lose sight of the need for a laity structure, a platform, a forum where lay people can make their voices heard. If the Conference does not help to facilitate such a forum or structure, other structures will emerge to occupy the empty space. There are many lay organizations in the church. It is imperative that there should be a possibility of networking for the benefit of the church. The Conference needs to dialogue with representatives of the lay faithful.
It is sixteen years since the last Joint Witness Conference. In our view, meetings at metropolitan level are good and desirable. But this can in no way substitute for a national, regional encounter between Bishops and Leaders of the Consecrated Life. A formal structure would facilitate such a dialogue.
The religious are partners in the work of evangelization and should from time to time be consulted on important issues our times. Otherwise, it appears that the work they do is hardly given any recognition. Again, such as in the case of the laity, if no forum is given at conference level, some will always create their own plat form to express their concerns and unhappiness with the Church. We appeal to the Bishops to consider Joint Witness III in the interest of collaboration, openness and dialogue.