Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 31, 2002
Radicals learn to act justly, walk humbly with God
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"We help people move . . . to doing critical reflection, using the Scriptures as a guide,"
- Sr. Bernadette Eyewan Okure
DELES role is to train community and Church leaders to think before they act. "We help people move from jumping to hasty conclusions to doing critical reflection, using the Scriptures as a guide," she said. The group, said the sister, is committed to integral human development and so its training sessions look at everything from personal growth to community building to politics. Trainees also analyze how situations impact on people as well as questions on land ownership, Church leadership and the role of laity.
"The idea is to mobilize them, to encourage them, to empower them," Okure said. "This way we are helping people to become radical, being willing to suffer and commit themselves to an action and struggle for it. That's our approach."
About 30 DELES staff and 20 volunteers conduct the training, which takes place across Nigeria. "Our outreach is the whole country," Okura said. "Wherever there is a project to help the poor or to help women gain independence, we are there." LEDES also works in seminaries, schools, in parishes. "So we kind of enter the fabric of the society."
The motto of the organization is found in Micah and is a call from Yahweh to his people, "To act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God."
In an interview, the nun spoke of both the material and the "brain" impoverishment of Nigeria's 120 million people. The country is the world's sixth largest producer of oil, but about 70 per cent of the population is unemployed. That's because drilling companies take the bulk of the oil revenues out of the country, leaving hunger and misery behind.
Schools are dilapidated. University professors go for months without getting paid and some have to hold two or three jobs on the side to make ends meet.
What keeps the country going are the small entrepreneurs who trade in the streets and the Nigerians' will to live, Okure said.
"There is also poverty of the brain (in Nigeria)," according to the sister. "The brain is meant to think and to be creative," but people have been conditioned not to think by military dictators who have ruled Nigeria for 30 out of 42 years of its independent life.
Over the years, LEDES has helped change this culture by providing leadership training based on critical analysis, love and respect for people and a commitment to non-violence, Okure noted.
Some politicians who have received training by LEDES now can't conceive politics without consultation. Priests who have being trained by LEDES are the most open, their parishes true examples of collaboration and participation, Okure said. All the seminarians and priests who receive leadership training end up using their homilies to challenge their congregations to get involved in social change.
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