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Angolan bishops call for schools, drinking water in villages

Catholic World News - November 11, 2010

The bishops of a nation infamous for its government corruption have called upon civil authorities to work to provide drinking water, schools, electricity, and modern communication systems in villages.

“Of these 35 years, 27 have been spent in a climate of war and eight in a climate of peace,” the bishops of Angola noted in their independence day message. “In time of war, many wounds have been opened in the heart of the Angolans, which, fortunately, are healing. We pray to the Lord that this healing is complete, without the risk of any repercussions.”

“We welcome the progress made in these eight years of peace: the lines of communication, in themselves vital to progress, have improved, giving credit to the government and easing the lives of citizens,” they continued. “With no less joy, we welcome the schools established in the municipal and local centers of the country, as well as health facilities.”

“However, we recognize that further progress is needed,” they added. “Not only schools, but also the basic health services, should be established in our villages so that every patient, pregnant women included, can receive due attention … Helping the Church rebuild its schools and its health infrastructure is not an extra; it is a way of cooperating in the country's development.”

Angola is led by President José Eduardo dos Santos, an erstwhile Marxist who has ruled the former Portuguese colony since 1979. According to a 2008 Freedom House report, “corruption and patronage are endemic in the government,” “the educational system barely functions,” and “journalists are often subject to intimidation, dismissal, detention, and legal sanction by authorities.” The 27-year civil war that ended in 2002 left one million dead. Today, the average life expectancy is 38.

In an atmosphere of religious freedom, 56% of the nation’s 15.5 million people are Catholic, according to Vatican statistics, with the majority of non-Catholics retaining indigenous beliefs.

Denouncing “inhuman and destructive ideologies, which, under the false appearance of dreams and illusions, caused the yoke of oppression to weigh down upon the people,” Pope Benedict during his March 2009 apostolic journey to the nation urged Angolans to forgive one another, to “recognize your neighbor as a brother or sister, born with the same fundamental human rights,” and to remember “the multitude of Angolans who live below the threshold of absolute poverty.” Later, when the Pontiff met with government leaders, President dos Santos heard the Pope say:

Friends, armed with integrity, magnanimity and compassion, you can transform this continent, freeing your people from the scourges of greed, violence and unrest and leading them along the path marked with the principles indispensable to every modern civic democracy: respect and promotion of human rights, transparent governance, an independent judiciary, a free press, a civil service of integrity, a properly functioning network of schools and hospitals, and-- most pressing-- a determination born from the conversion of hearts to excise corruption once and for all.

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