Fr. John OYEGOKE, an Oblate from the Province of Cameroon working in the Mission in Nigeria, recently attended a workshop by VIVAT International of which the Oblates are members. He tells of his experience there.

It was a dream long anticipated by all Oblate participants. As months went into weeks and weeks become days, the final day was at the door step. It was a time to wake from our dreams and concretize our strong aspiration for advocacy as we were finally called to dine at the table of Justice and Peace.

The aforementioned introductory paragraph best describes the spirit of the Oblate participants at the  VIVAT International Workshop held in Lagos, Nigeria, on the theme:  Working for Justice, Promoting Peace, Preserving Lives. It ran from the 1st to the 5th of May 2017 and left a strong print in the memory of the Oblate participants. In total, 9 Oblates were in attendance of which 5 priests and 4 Lay Associates. VIVAT International, of which the Oblates are a member Congregation, is a non-governmental organization (NGO) with special consultative status with the United Nations for the cause of Social Justice and Peace.

Like in the days of the Tower of Babel, all through the VIVAT International Workshop, only one language was spoken and understood by all: the language of Justice and Peace. All concepts and presentations developed during the Workshop were expressed in that language. Among the concepts that emerged were: food sovereignty, social insecurity, violence against women, ecological degradation and climatic change.

Furthermore, it was generally affirmed at the workshop that though humanity is hungry, the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and the proliferation of genetically modified (GM) seeds and foods are not a response to hunger in Africa and in Nigeria particularly. It was also made clear that religious Congregations have been making efforts to resolve the above crises. However, more resolved strategies and team work between Religious Congregations and social advocacy groups need to be initiated so as to best tackle the underlined problem.

In conclusion, standing on the firm conviction that VIVAT International constitutes an effective tool for advocacy, a strong “vuvuzela” call was echoed to all Major Superiors to support the formation of a National VIVAT branch in Nigeria.