Nigerian President Obasanjo to address conference on Africa at Notre Dame

by Michael O. Garvey

President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria will give the keynote address for a conference on “A Call to Solidarity with Africa” at 7:30 p.m. Sunday (September 21) in the Joyce Center South Arena at the University of Notre Dame.p. The conference, which is sponsored by Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life (ICL), will bring together some 70 church leaders, theologians, policymakers, social workers and business people to discuss the problems and promises of the countries of Africa. It is to be the first of two such discussions sponsored by Notre Dame, the second to be held in Nigeria in January.p. Both discussions will be based on a statement issued by the U.S. Catholic bishops last November which attempted to draw international attention to “the proliferation of armed conflicts, a deterioration of health care and education infrastructure and an increasing spread of disease and other threats to the lives of our African brothers and sisters. Our fear is that Africa’s hopes could be destroyed by indifference and inaction in Africa and around the world.”p. “The world has largely turned away from Africa,” said John Cavadini, director of ICL. “We are hoping to support the efforts of the American bishops and others to return attention there. As a Catholic university, Notre Dame cannot afford to turn away from the continent where Catholicism is growing fastest and the shape of Christianity in the next century is being determined.”p. Olusegun Obasanjo is familiar with the turmoil indicated in the bishops? statement, having been elected in 1999 to the presidency of an African nation whose 120 million people and more than 250 different ethnic groups have been devastated by decades of poverty and military rule.p. Other conference participants include Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, D.C.; Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Laurent Mosengwo-Pasinya of Kinsingani, the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria; Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, Uganda; Lamin Sanneh, professor of history at Yale; Andrew Natsios, administrator, US Agency for International Development ; Precious S. Omuku of Shell Petroleum Company in Nigeria; Ken Hackett, executive director of Catholic Relief Services; Dom Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., of St. Meinrad School of Theology; Sister Teresa Okure, professor of scripture at the Catholic Institute of West Africa; and Dr. Khama Rogo, World Bank lead health specialist for the Africa region.

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