The social apostolate in the African Assistancy is undergoing re-development. In fact, after about fifty years of activities of some social centres of the Society of Jesus, we are today witnessing a re-orientation of the commitment – in practice, there is a change in perspective. When, in 1962, the French Jesuits founded the African Institute for Economic and Social Development (INADES) in Abidjan (Ivory Coast), its mission was to study and to teach the Church’s social doctrine and to train future leaders of Africa.For many years, it also offered courses on development and agriculture for the middle class. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Centre for Studies and Social Action (CEPAS) has published the magazine Congo-Afrique for over fifty years.
In the light of the fifty years of independence of many African countries, a number of Jesuit social centres are re-orientating themselves in order to adapt to the present situation and respond to current needs. We are witnessing changes in a number of the earlier centres: INADES has become CERAP (Centre for Research and Action for Peace). And the Centre for Studies and Training for Development (CEFOD), Chad, now focuses on the good management of oil resources, as CEPAS does on those of mining.
The Society’s most recent social centres, such as the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR), established in 1988, or Hakimani Centre founded in 2001, favour a different model of social centre. They are smaller and concern themselves with those new themes (peace, democracy, good governance, reconciliation, public debt, domestic economics, etc…) which are very important for the continent.
Since 2010, the African Assistancy has launches a “Network of Jesuit Social Centres in Africa” (JASCNETWORK) to face these new challenges, and to make its social ministries more obivous and effective. The Network includes the following seven centres:
- Arrupe Social Centre in Antananarivo, Madagascar
- Centre for Studies and Training for Development (CEFOD)in N’Djamena, Chad
- Centre for Studies and Social Action (CEPAS) in Gombe, Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo
- CERAP (Centre for Research and Action for Peace) in Abidjan, Ivory Coast
- Hakimani Centre in Nairobi, Kenya
- Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) in Lusaka, Zambia
- Silveira House in Harare, Zimbabwe
One of the purposes of this network is to promote the synergy of various centres. The Network aims to accompany the re-development and re-orientation of the social apostolate in the continent, and it proposes to be a force to mobilise and co-ordinate the various efforts in the revival of Africa.
Besides these formal social centres, Jesuits in all the Assistancy’s Provinces and Regions are also actively working with street-children, in prisons, or in centres that teach arts and crafts. The main purpose of these initiatives is one of solidarity with the under-privileged, and to express the preferential option for the poor.