Pope Francis heads to Africa contrary to the expectation of many for revival, this time his visit is bordered on economy and survival of the continent. In his three-nation trip, climate change, poverty and corruption are top on the agenda.
Pope Francis, is expected to meet Mozambican leaders on Thursday to discuss issues of peace.
Through a video message ahead of the seven-day trip, the Pope will also visit Madagascar and Mauritius.
“I think he is going to give a forceful message to the country’s leaders about their responsibility to bring peace and reconciliation. But also about addressing the root causes of the conflict,” said Erica Dahl-Bredine, Mozambique country representative for Catholic Relief Services on Reuters.
There is little evidence that his visit will elicit a change of attitude among the country's leadership. This is with hope that there will be a new policy initiated to tackle issues addressed by the Pontiff.
Corruption is expected to be a topic in Mozambique and Madagascar. Deforestation, along with soil erosion, made Mozambique more vulnerable when two cyclones hit the country earlier this year.
The Catholic Church has lost significant number of members on the continent to Evangelicals. Despite focusing on the revival of its dwindling members, the church seems to be more focused on policy initiatives that can propel the economic development and prosperity of Africans.
Similarly, late Pope John Paul made several visit to the continent at the height of military dictatorship, calling for justice in the face of human rights violation.
Making his second trip to sub-Saharan Africa, Francis will not be able to visit the city of Beira because of the devastation.
According to the World Bank, Mozambique has lost 8 million hectares of forest, about the size of Portugal.
Aides say the trip is a key opportunity for the Pope to renew appeals enshrined in his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si” on environmental protection.
Francis challenged governments on Sunday to take “drastic measures” to combat global warming and reduce the use of fossil fuels, saying the world was experiencing a climate emergency.
According to the French Agricultural Research Center CIRAD in Madagascar, about 44% of forests have disappeared over the past 60 years due to climate change. This has aggravated because 80% of its plant and animal species and have completely disappeared. Poverty and corruption is also loom large. The WFP says more than 90% of Madagascar’s population of 26 million live on less than $2 a day and that chronic child malnutrition is widespread.
Relatively, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), indicate that 80% of Mozambique’s population of about 30 million cannot afford the minimum costs for an adequate diet.
Francis has called for a fairer distribution of wealth between prosperous and developing countries, and defended the right of countries to control their mineral resources. He has branded corruption “one of the most decimating plagues” in society.
Meanwhile, Mozambique and Madagascar are ranked in the lowest quarter of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
“Corruption is huge. Many Mozambicans have lost faith completely in their political leaders,” said Dahl-Bredine.
Francis makes an eight-hour stop in Mauritius, a small island in the Indian Ocean that is relatively rich compared Madagascar and Mozambique.
Header Image Credit: americamagazine.org