The International JENA Conference of the Universal Apostolic Preferences was held in Johannesburg South Africa from 6th-9th August 2019 as a platform the Jesuit Network in Africa to respond effectively to the Superior General’s announcement of the four Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) which will steer Jesuit efforts over the next 10 years. Delegates comprised representatives from Jesuit Social centers, Social Apostolate Coordinators, consultants and experts in various areas of the African Development who came together for useful debate and analysis of the UAPs in order to enhance proper implementation.
The minds of participants were collectively concentrated on crafting ways to use in monitoring the discharge of UAPs at all levels, creating awareness on challenges that face us all. They discussed new knowledge creation necessary to actualize the UAPs, required collaboration and self-transformation of the actors across board.
Of critical importance to AJAN’s director in attendance was the vulnerable and the youth of Africa. specifically, the PLWHIV and those affected by HIV are AJAN’s concern besides keeping the youth empowered, healthy and free from the virus.
As Fr. Elphege Quenum SJ. put it “Acknowledging that our spirituality, our relationship with God grounds our actions, as we are called to be contemplative in action, the conference stressed the necessity to journey with the excludes and worthless such as the migrants, victims of war and human trafficking, the refuges, the stateless, the women and the orphan and vulnerable children, the PLWHIV and AIDS in a mission of reconciliation and justice. These are the people who are psychologically and sexually abused, persons whom the society considers outcasts, people who are stigmatized and neglected. They are the ones who have no access to basic needs including access to better nutrition and medication to manage HIV and AIDS”.
In regards to the youth, the director had this to say; “As the future generation, the youth carry forward the vision of a society. Young people under the age of 30 constitute 70% of the African population. The African youth are an incredible resource for Africa’s development, yet they face high rates of unemployment and under-employment, good educational deficit and health challenges. HIV/AIDS is still a major cause of death among them. A healthy future generation means that we reduce HIV infection among the youth radically if not eliminate it through prevention and proper medication. It means that we are able to demonstrate love, acceptance and are able to create hope in this young generation. We have to use an approach that puts young people in the center and incorporates their own view. They need to be empowered to live a long healthy life.. We have to make sure they get appropriate education that liberates their creativity and makes them agent of transformation”.
Undoubtedly, the participation of AJAN in the JENA meeting highlighted its role in the implementation of the UAPs and indicated the various connections with the other sectoral Jesuit missions.
Fr. Elphege Quenum makes a presentation at the conference.