Pope: ‘Fihavanana’, sharing for integral human development

Speaking during the meeting with Madagascar authorities, the diplomatic corps, religious leaders, and representatives of civil society, Pope Francis said that the country should not reduce development "to economic growth alone". Corruption and speculation increase social inequality. The fight against deforestation must also provide assistance to people so that they can "emerge from poverty". He cited the example of the Blessed Victoire Rasoamanarivo.

Antananarivo (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis expressed hope and offered his prayers for the people of Madagascar, whose “spirit of sharing, mutual help and solidarity”, of “fihavanana”, is enshrined in the Preamble of the country’s constitution as a fundamental value of Madagascan culture. The goal must be to promote “integral human development [. . .], so that no one will be excluded.”

On an island “rich in plant and animal biodiversity”, the pontiff encouraged its people “to fight with strength and determination against all endemic forms of corruption and speculation that increase social disparity.” With this in mind, the Pope offered the services of the Catholic Church to the “ongoing dialogue with Christians of other confessions, the followers of the various religions and all the elements of civil society”.

The Holy Father, who arrived in Madagascar yesterday after his visit to Mozambique, met the country's president, Andry Rajoelina, other Malagasy authorities, the diplomatic corps, as well as representatives of various religious confessions and civil society at the Ceremony Building this morning.

After a speech full of enthusiasm by the young, 45-year-old president, who is in his second term, the pontiff highlighted the “soul” of the Malagasy people, centred on the world “fihavanana”, which “has enabled it to face with courage and self-sacrifice the various problems and hardships it faces daily.”

Francis added that politicians should be seen as “serving and protecting their fellow citizens”. In his view, a nation’s development “cannot be restricted to economic growth”, but should instead point towards full human development, i.e. “the development of each person and of the whole person”.

“In this regard, I would encourage you to fight with strength and determination against all endemic forms of corruption and speculation that increase social disparity, and to confront the situations of great instability and exclusion that always create conditions of inhumane poverty.”

About 70 per cent of the 25 million Malagasy suffer from poverty, even though the country has oil and tourism. For the Pope, it is important “to establish the various structural mediations that can assure a better division of income and an integral development of all, particularly those most poor. That development cannot be limited to organized structures of social assistance, but also demands the recognition of subjects of law called to share fully in building their future”.

Integral solutions are also necessary to respect the environment. “Your lovely island of Madagascar is rich in plant and animal biodiversity, yet this treasure is especially threatened by excessive deforestation, from which some profit. The deterioration of that biodiversity compromises the future of the country and of the earth, our common home. As you know, the last forests are menaced by forest fires, poaching, the unrestricted cutting down of valuable woodlands. Plant and animal biodiversity are endangered by contraband and illegal exportation.

“It is also true, however, that, for the peoples concerned, a number of activities harmful to the environment at present ensure their survival. So, it is important to create jobs and activities that generate income, while protecting the environment and helping people to emerge from poverty.

“In a word, there can be no true ecological approach or effective efforts to safeguard the environment without the attainment of a social justice capable of respecting the right to the common destination of earth’s goods, not only of present generations, but also of those yet to come.”

The pontiff also called to task the international community which, while offering aid to the country, risks passing on “a presumptive ‘universal culture’ that scorns, submerges and suppresses the cultural patrimony of individual peoples. An economic globalisation, whose limitations are increasingly evident, should not lead to cultural uniformity.”

For this reason, “we should show particular attention and respect for local civil society. In supporting its initiatives and its actions, the voice of those who have no voice will come to be heard, together with the diverse and even dissonant harmonies of the national community in its efforts to achieve unity. I invite you to imagine this path, on which no one is swept aside, or left alone or becomes lost.”

And as an example to follow, Francis cited the Blessed Victoire Rasoamanarivo, who was beatified by John Paul II during his visit to Madagascar 30 years ago. “Her witness of love for this land and its traditions,” he said, “her service to the poor as a sign of her faith in Jesus Christ, show us the path that we too are called to pursue.”

After the exchange of gifts and the signing on the Book of Honour of the Presidency of the Republic of Madagascar, the pontiff went to the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites in Antananarivo for the recitation of the Little Hours. Her he met about a hundred cloistered nuns from various monasteries and about 70 novices.