VATICAN CONFERENCE ON IMPACT INVESTING, JULY 2018

Third CRS – Vatican Conference on Impact Investing: Scaling Investment in Service of Integral Development, from 8th to 11th July 2018 drew many speakers from Church and sector leadership, successful social enterprises, family foundations, and bi-lateral donor agencies who  offered a rich perspective on how private capital can be used to lift people around the world out of poverty.

Reflection during the Opening Mass for the Third  CRS-Vatican Conference on Impact Investing, 9th July, 2018, by Most Rev.Ignatius A. Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria

JESUS AND THE POOR
Jesus went around doing good (cf. Acts 10:38) in line with his priestly, prophetic and kingly ministry, thus providing us a perfect model for holistic pastoral  ministry.

On the spiritual level, Jesus prayed often by finding time even in the midst of crowded programmes to commune with his heavenly Father in solitary moments on the mountain or by the seaside; he taught his followers to pray in a simple way and not in a flamboyant or ostentatious manner (cf. Mt. 6: 5-18).  He  forgave sins. To  the paralytic in Mt. 9:2 Jesus said,  “go your sins are forgiven you” and to the woman accused of adultery he said, “go and sin no more” (cf. Jn 8:11). He  gave a new insight that God could be addressed in the most familiar term, Abba, Father.

In the exercise of Jesus’ priestly ministry he preached at various times  about purity, truth, humility, mercy, peace, forgiveness, fulfilling the civic obligations of paying taxes, etc and he called  his disciples to unity and  love, a love that can lead one to lay down his or her  life for another (cf. the example of the ex navy diver who gave his life in an attempt to save the teenage football team and their coach trapped in a Thailand cave). Jesus gave his followers gifts that have become  pillars of our faith: the  Eucharist, the priesthood and  His Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary. The gift of the Holy Spirit crowned all. He taught us how individual Christians are to be  a gift to each other  in a self giving way, beyond the barrier of nation, race, ethnicity or  social status. “Love one another as I have loved you”, Jesus commanded.

The tender loving care of Jesus and his unconditional and non judge-mental love for the poor and marginalized was revolutionary, considering the rigid culture of the Scribes  and Pharisees of his time. To their dismay and chagrin  Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners (cf. Mt. 9:9-13) and mingled with lepers and outcasts.

Jesus also responded to the practical needs of people.  To the hungry he said, “Give them something to eat”. Those desiring healing were healed without strings attached; those looking for a roadmap  for the transformation of their lives and even those who came to him out of mere curiosity were all assisted to see the light.

In today’s Gospel the healing of the woman afflicted  for 12 years with a gynecological sickness and  the raising of the dead young man is a demonstration  of the physical, material or social concern of Jesus towards those in need, just as his multiplying bread for the large flock that followed him is a call and reminder that we today have an obligation to feed  the world’s hungry. We can, if we want to. The poor don’t only need our bread but  also our presence or concrete solidarity actions as it was in the  early Christian community where members  sold some property for the common good, lived simply, prayed and shared not only meals but their life together.

In our contemporary world, hungry, sick, unemployed and poor people are either ignored, exploited or handed help  that means very little to them. Some politicians or leaders in developing countries hand weapons to young people instead of means of livelihood. At the international level I understand that huge grants from governments and big organizations are given as aid to some nations of the third world but on condition that they must accept the reproductive policies geared towards controlling population. With  the abundance of the world’s resources it would have been better to work towards improving the conditions of life of everyone that lives on this planet rather than offering token help and pressurizing nations  into accepting practices that are antithetical to their cultural and religious convictions.

Imagine what difference it could make if most poor countries are assisted to embark on mechanized or modernized agriculture, animal husbandry and helped to provide better infrastructural facilities for their people. This will certainly minimize unnecessary conflicts, violence and migration. The tension between herdsmen and farmers, leading to multiple deaths as it happened in Plateau State, Nigeria recently,  is simply due to failure to improve the methods of agricultural production and animal rearing and the near absence of necessary infrastructure, even though political, religious and ethnic motives cannot be ruled out. Instead of offering help to provide holistic education or to encourage modern ways of food or animal production, weapons are  sold to nations or groups, thus accelerating and aggravating conflicts. It is no news that the best brains in poor countries are drained and don’t return home to serve their people; the precious resources of oil, minerals, agricultural produce of struggling nations are, with the collaboration of corrupt local officials, bought off by richer nations at unfair prices. No wonder,  many youths in the face of incessant conflicts,  ethnic cleansing, religious persecution, hunger and poverty even  at great risks to their lives are ready to migrate or be trafficked from poorer countries in search of greener pastures and yet the world wonders why.

The Holy Father, Pope Francis,  continues his call with a sense of urgency for  maximum attention to the needs of the poor as evidenced during the Year of Mercy or in his encyclical (Laudato Si) and recently, his declaring the World Day of the Poor, to direct the world’s attention to celebrate and empower the poor. Blessed Pope Paul VI similarly in  Populorum Progressio urged that the gap between the poor and the rich nations should be narrowed. This can be possible only if we passionately develop a self-giving love, the type Prophet Hosea in the first reading (Hos. 2) refers to the genuine/passionate  love shown by God even when the Israelites  were  rebellious, rejected and betrayed his love many times. 

The salvation of souls is essentially the core of pastoral ministry. I however see that gradually my ministry as a priest is assuming a more social dimension.  On a typical day in my office or in my visit to rural dwellers their major concerns are not necessarily the priestly blessing but how to be helped to cope with difficult life situations. Most of those I meet are people who are hungry, people who need  money to go to hospital, youths seeking employment, community leaders appealing for schools or clinics or culverts. We get involved in the issues of unpaid salaries, pension for retired people, Justice for prisoners. There is a lot of deprivation due to poor governance and corruption to the extent that many people turn to the Church for help

InvestIng to help the poor should therefore be an imperative in the social ministry of the Church. After all Jesus’  parables about the man who planted a vineyard (cf. Lk 20), the servants who invested the loan and made more money, show that he was investment friendly.

Some big investors and companies especially in Africa need to encourage investing for social impact and like Zaccheus they should be honest enough to admit to having wounded and deprived the poor. Business should be fair and have a humanitartian face. It cannot be only about profit and more profits without improving the lives of the poor. A minority cannot continue to live in an incredibly luxurious life style while others languish in abject poverty and misery. We need to remind Government leaders again that theirs is a God-given responsibility to provide for the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged of society.

We thank the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (IHD) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) together with other sponsors of this conference which will no doubt stress  that capital should be put to use to help the most poor and vulnerable among us and in  many forgotten parts of the world. This  is the secret to global happiness, progress, harmony and peace.

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