Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Part IV of Bishop Hubbard's African Diary

The final installment of Bishop Hubbard's African diary is available here. This is excerpt:
When we hear about Africa on the evening news, often it is about ethnic, tribal or religious rivalries which have resulted in terrible massacres. One can easily wonder why it is taking the people of the African continent so long to resolve their problems and to create a safe and secure civil society.

However, we should recall our own U.S. history: Our nation was born of a bloody revolutionary war. While our founders had remarkable foresight in conceiving the great democracy our nation has become, it took a long time for some significant issues to be resolved: the rights of Native Americans, who ultimately became the victims of imperialism and broken treaties; the methodology by which our people would be represented, trying to balance the needs and concerns of large and small states; and, of course, slavery.

The latter contentious issue would polarize our nation for its first 80 years, erupting in the Civil War of the 1860s, which killed more than 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers.

Further, it would be another century before African-Americans gained their full civil rights. And the vestiges of racism still remain: for example, Bishop Ricard, our delegation leader, mentioned that recently in a letter to the editor in his local Florida paper, the author described the Civil War as “the Northern aggression.”

Women in the United States only received the right to vote less than a century ago. How representatives are chosen continues in contemporary debates about the fairness of the Electoral College for the selection of the president or the gerrymandering that takes place in determining districts at the federal and state level.

Even how ballots are cast and counted remains an issue, as the presidential election in 2000 and the new technological system for voting, which will be available at the polls for New Yorkers this November, remind us.

If we are tempted to be critical of African nations for not having resolved their basic social and political problems, we must put into perspective that most African nations have only had their independence for 60 years or less. Hence, their struggles are not all that dissimilar to what we have experienced throughout our history.

This entire trip reinforced for me the tremendous blessings we have in our country, especially security, due process, an institutionalized democracy, and a social safety net — blessings we take for granted, but for which we should be most grateful.