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ROME, OCT. 20, 2009 ( Participants in the Synod for Africa were able to witness how the Focolare Movement and the Sant'Egidio Community have helped reduce corruption and AIDS on that continent.

The two organizations invited participants of the Second Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops to a meeting Sunday, where Africans gave testimonies on the reconciliation and development effected by the Church groups.

The testimonies began with Mary Ategwa, a Bangwa woman from Fontem, a remote region of the Cameroon forest, where the Focolare Movement has been working to promote evangelization and reconciliation.

She told the synod fathers: "Prefects and magistrates confirm a diminution in court prosecutions, a decrease of divorces, more dialogue in families.

"Women who sell in the market refuse to cheat their clients. Many feel driven to take the first step towards reconciliation and fraternal love."

Ategwa affirmed that these are the "fruits of the new evangelization in which, in fact, the protagonists are the kings, called 'fon,' and village chieftains."

"It is a wave of new life," she added, "that stems from a solemn pact of mutual love, made by Chiara Lubich [founder of the Focolare Movement] with two tribal chieftains in 2000 in Fontem; a pact to which the thousands of people present in the great esplanade of the royal palace adhered."

Over the past nine years, this evangelical commitment has also spread to other tribes in the country.

Love and unity

Maria Voce, Focolare president, stated that on a recent trip she made to Africa, Luke Njifua, the fon of Fontem, publicly expressed his people's gratitude "not only for the hospital, schools and many works carried out by the movement, but especially for the current of love and unity that is changing our people."

Maria Magnolfi, a professor of sacred Scripture, spoke to the synod participants about the work of a center, started in Nairobi in 1992, that focuses on inculturation of the Gospel.

This project has helped us, she said, to have "new eyes of love with which we can approach the different African cultures, a new awareness of their roots, greater effect in the proclamation of the Gospel."

Magnolfi added that this also leads to an "inter-inculturation between the African cultures themselves, rich in ethnic diversities."

No more bribes

Patience Molle Lobe, who currently serves at the Ministry of Public Works, spoke about the fight against corruption, which affects many African countries.

She stated, "The companies that were convinced that they had to bribe someone in order to carry their activities forward, now know that in a part of Cameroon people work without corruption."

Lobe affirmed that "together with the other friends who share this spirituality and work in public administration," there is mutual encouragement in this task.

She continued: "We are convinced that our country will only be able to go forward with a change of mentality. What stops us is a fear of losing our jobs, having nothing to eat tomorrow.

"However, the experiences that God has allowed us to live through convince us that he guides history and that his word has an extraordinary power in the environment in which we find ourselves."

Another testimony focused on a petition from the bishops of Kenya, to help with priestly formation. In response, Focolare created a center of spirituality in Nairobi, open to priests and seminarians from the whole of Africa.

Mario Giro also gave an address in which he spoke about the mediation of the Sant'Egidio Community in putting an end to the civil war in Mozambique.

Kpakile Felemou of Guinea spoke about the effects of the same community in fighting AIDS through the DREAM program, which he heads in his country.

The meeting ended with a Mass celebrated in Santa Maria in Trastevere "for peace and justice in Africa." It was presided over by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, former president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and concelebrated by some 70 bishops and 70 priests, almost all Africans.