Every week, it seems, brings another atrocity story out of Africa. For people outside Africa, it’s a news item, but for those in Africa, it’s a daily occurrence. Rather than sit around and say how terrible it is before going on to the next horror the news media delight in bringing to us, it may be time to do something about it.
Of course, it’s always time to do something about injustice, especially when that injustice takes the form of poverty, racism, war, and a host of other evils. The problem is whether there is a plan and access to the means to implement the plan and carry it through to fruition. We think that in this instance — and in many others — there is a plan, and there is a proven way to implement it and make it work.
It's called the Just Third Way of Economic Personalism, and it’s based on natural law — assuming you understand natural law (the general code of human behavior) as discernible by human reason, that is, and you operate within an Aristotelian framework, such as that of Aquinas, Maimonides, and Ibn Khaldûn. That is, we understand reality from the study of reality; we don’t try to force reality to fit some idealized vision of it that exists only in our own minds.
For Aristotle, ideas have no existence apart from the human minds that create them, and reality must be discerned by reason, that is, the human intellect applied to empirical evidence with logical consistency. For Plato, ideas have independent existence, and reality must be discerned by faith, regardless of the evidence or whether it is logically consistent (which is not what Plato was saying, but it’s what a lot of people think he was saying, and what a lot of people do).
That philosophical discussion, however, was just for orientation purposes. The real object of this posting is to see if something positive and meaningful can be done to resolve the situation in Africa, particularly Nigeria, and to use the model to resolve similar problems in other parts of the world, whether Asia, Ukraine, Ireland, or St. Louis, Missouri.
An interfaith conference on the issue that focuses on actual solutions that can be implemented instead of ineffectual handwringing or blame-casting might get the ball rolling. Simply because the Just Third Way of Economic Personalism is based on “Catholic” social teaching (which is based on natural law and so is universally applicable) in addition to the economic justice principles of Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler, a Catholic diocese should consider sponsoring or hosting such an event; that of Arlington, Virginia might be optimal, as many figures prominent in the Catholic media circles reside there and it’s close (as in next door to) a world center of power, Washington, DC, so Senators and Representatives could easily attend.
Naturally such a conference would be “catholic-with-a-small-c” and demonstrate the universality of the principles underlying Catholic social teaching, which is only “Catholic” because the Catholic Church has done the most work in presenting them to the world. There are some “Black parishes” in the Arlington Diocese, and also a significant number of clergy from Nigeria. Northern Virginia also has several Black Protestant churches that are integral parts of their communities, as well as mosques, synagogues, and temples of other faiths.
All of these have a vested interest in developing a realistic and financially feasible program for ending poverty, racism, and war. This is especially so for Muslims, who are daily embarrassed by the excesses of Islamic radicals who seem intent on forcibly converting or exterminating everyone who doesn’t agree with them, and quite a few who do, but not in the “right” way.
CESJ recently gave a similar conference in Bridgeport, Connecticut, which was very successful within the given constraints. A federal Senator was prevented from showing up due to illness, but several state representatives from Connecticut and Missouri were present, as well as the major of Bridgeport and quite a few candidates for the mayoralty — who, remarkably for politicians, didn’t engage in any politicking, but were clearly there to learn. Local media figures were there, including Wayne Winston, who has a popular radio show and who is influential in local politics. “Joe and Joe” of the Catholic podcast “The Front Line” from Veritas Communications could not make it, but are planning a special broadcast on the conference, as scheduling permits.
The idea is to present a program that could make resolving the conflict in Nigeria a model for the rest of the world. The main conference would be in-person, but it should also be live-streamed, both to expand the potential audience from the Arlington Diocese to the entire world and, by charging a moderate pay-per-view fee, generate enough revenue to cover the costs of the conference. By recording the conference, it could be immediately rebroadcast — again pay-per-view — allowing global coverage.
For example, an eight-hour conference could be rebroadcast immediately twice in succession, thereby covering every time zone in the world. If enough revenue is generated, it could be used to finance other conferences, e.g., a follow-up in Washington, DC focusing on Ukraine, and one in St. Louis, Missouri to show how the Just Third Way can be applied anywhere . . . such as Puerto Rico, which is perfectly positioned to become a global trading hub, with proximity to North and South America, the Far East through the Panama Canal, and Europe and Africa via the Atlantic trade routes.
CESJ could provide speakers to explain fundamental Just Third Way principles and their conformity to the natural law “written in the hearts of all human beings.” Other speakers could present how Africa, particularly Nigeria, would benefit and demonstrate the feasibility to the world. Some speakers could give video presentations instead of attending in person. His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah, for instance, has expressed grave concern over the African situation, and might want to contribute a short video as an introduction. (That’s just a thought, we have no connection to His Eminence and certainly cannot presume to speak for him!)
While we personally don’t have either the financial resources or logistical support to sponsor such a conference, the Diocese of Arlington, or a consortium of religious organizations might want to do so. It’s better than doing nothing and might even get the ball rolling. It’s something to consider.