The RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY’S News-crew decided to be publishing the lectures from the RECOWA-CERAO session at the Ouagadougou Caritas/JDPC gathering like minutes of a meeting because we feel that our bishops and priests who may not have access to the lectures may follow from a distance. We have critically considered the advocacy tools studied in this formation session very necessary in our prophetic roles as priests and bishops. One of the major means of advocacy is letter writing. Communication is a very important tool in advocacy. Various radios, televisions and journals can be used in the dissemination of information and in certain cases we may use advertisements. We see this move mostly during electioneering campaigns. People can carry placards in support of a particular candidate of their choice, giving reasons why every citizen must vote for a particular candidate. There are uses of panel discussions, press briefings, face to face meetings etc. These are some of the advocacy tools one can use in different cases.

There is also that need to use terms that are simple and understandable to the common man in the street while advocating. That is a way of demystifying a given situation or a given issue. 

The question which starred at all the participants has been to establish the practical methods and means already used in their various countries as tools of advocacy. Members from the French-speaking countries came up with a declaration after the Holy Eucharist. This group also espoused demonstration which is simple and benign aimed mainly at passing a message. The goal is not to enter into opposition with the ruling party but to sensitize the populace on impending danger in the land. Mr. Virtus, a guest lecturer from Ghana explained the use of the internet to raise money for those in need. This implies that in the area of communication, the internet plays a major role and we may use it to change certain ugly situations. A representative from Ivory Coast gave a practical example with a group in Abidjan called Saint Egidio who organize a march every first day of January for peace in the land.

The English-speaking group established a one-to-one approach. Instead of criticizing the authority, we can meet them one on one. Another suggestion in this angle is press briefing by the bishops and the pastoral letters which they issue occasionally. Let us not forget the use of the pulpits and media outreach is imbedded in this regard. A practical example was what the bishops did in Nigeria some years back to stop incessant killings in the land. The bishops came all out dressed in black for a rosary procession and that gave a powerful message to the world as a whole. In the East one fiery Archbishop from Owerri once called out all his priests and nuns and they all stormed the house of parliament in their state in protest of an abortion bill ready to be passed. Their demonstration gave a death blow to this bill.

The English-speaking group added the march the Christians in Gambia once organized to the stadium to protest the evils in the land and the message went far and wide and the impact was great. The lecturer opened the eyes of the priests to the great forum they have to educate and sensitize the world. The pulpit therefore is a great advocacy tool which we often overlook. While on the pulpit, people will hardly respond or attack any priest. Generally speaking, the priest at the pulpit seems to carry a huge immunity, although there are some pocket extreme cases where few priests have been attacked. The priests are therefore advised to package their messages very well to avoid attacking or insulting anyone but stating facts which calibrate with the evils facing the masses.

Thematic means of advocacy is another important tool which we see in delicate cases. A typical example is the gender issue like female mutilation can be approached thematically and the resultant effect will be enormous. The representative from Guinea Bissau who is a woman herself, came up and enlightened us on the efforts they are making in their country on the legal rights of women. In addition to female genital mutilation, she added the glaring case of early and forced marriage of under aged girls to very old men. Today they have put in place a project that makes it a law that every young girl should go to school and acquire that minimum education.

 All the same, there is need for certain self-examinations as one carries out any brand of advocacy. There is that urgent need to be sure that the advocacy is bearing adequate fruits. It is important to note that often the outcome of a given advocacy may not be automatic but follows a gradual process. There is an urgent need for patience and perseverance as we embark on any form of advocacy.