Thanks to the support of the Dennis Hurley Peace Institute I came to Cape Town for a three days' workshop organized by the Parliamentary Liaison Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (CPLO)
We are eight people from four countries (Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Swaziland): six lay people, one priest and... one bishop.
is the official vehicle for contact and dialogue between the Catholic Church in South Africa on the one hand, and the country’s Parliament and government on the other. It provides an avenue for the Church – as part of civil society – to contribute to debates on issues of public policy, to exert an influence for the common good in areas of political, economic and social concern, and to help shape legislative and policy developments.
Mike Pothier (research coordinator for the last 20 years) introduced us this morning to the origins and history of the CPLO in South Africa starting from much earlier than the last 20 years when the CPLO was born. We went through elements of the history of South Africa: the relationship between the Catholic Church and the South African government; the time of the "three dangers" (the spread and avance of communism in the continent, the "black danger" and ... the Roman danger because of the theology of the Catholic Church).
While during the '80s and '90s the active presence of the Christian churches in the fight against apartheid was acknowledged and appreciated, with the coming of democracy in 1994 the voice of the Christian churches started to be missed. That is how the project of a liaison office was born in 1996 and started functioning the following year.
Located in Cape Town, the seat of Parliament (and just across the road!):
and during these days we will briefly introduced to their work:
Their service has not been limited to South Africa. Like it is happening these days, the CPLO regularly offers training to delegates from other countries of Africa some of which have been able to set up their own Parliamentary office. The map above shows all the places where people have been trained.
We are grateful to those who made this training possible and... we look forward to the next two days.