Small Christian Communities and Development in Cameroon
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The aim of my study was to answer the research question and sub questions, in other words, to find out the relationship between Small Christian Communities ( SCCs) and development; their vision of development, as a mission of the church or a secular task? According to SCCs, the mission of the church is to impact faith, to evangelize the people, to proclaim the Word of God or to make Him known, to bring peace and salvation, to help the poor and to practice charity. Her most important mission is to dispense peace, love, unity and salvation. However, this does not exclude her from engaging in development work and practice. Cases abound where the Church is involved in developmental issues: poverty alleviation, health care services, education, and provision of clean portable water. Contrary to some assumptions, mindsets, practices and views, therefore, development is an essential aspect of the mission of the Church. This is rooted in the mission of Christ which was characterized by the concern he showed to those who were suffering. Consequently, as John Paul II has said, “ It is impossible to accept that in evangelization one could or should ignore the importance of the problems so much discussed today, concerning justice, liberation, development and peace in the world” (John Paul II, 1995, Ecclesia in Africa, paragraph 68). Because of human dignity, people should not live in sub-human social, economic, cultural and political conditions. In her evangelizing mission, therefore, the Church should defend human dignity; strive for justice and peace, for the promotion, liberation, and integral human development of all individual human beings (John Paul II, 1995, Ecclesia in Africa, paragraph 69). On the strength of this evidence, my conclusion is that the church has something to do with development: it is her mission to be involved in developmental issues. From the activities of SCCs and the answers to the interview questions, it is evident that there is a relationship between the perspective of SCCs and the secular perspective on development. It is a relationship of similarities and dissimilarities. On the one hand, since the SCCs recognize the importance of human dignity, respect for human rights, and the need for participation, their perspective on development is similar to the human development paradigm which includes the basic needs, capabilities and freedomcentered and enlarging people’s choices approaches. The basic needs approach sees development as a moral imperative aimed at satisfying the basic needs of human beings such as food, shelter, access to clean drinking water, health care, sanitation, education, and to participate in decision-making processes. The human development approach also envisages development as a process of expanding people’s capabilities and freedom. In this sense, the end of development is to give people the opportunities to reach their human potentials, that is, to be educated, to be healthy, to participate in the life of the community, to engage in relationships, to live in a peaceful environment, and to enjoy nature. Another commonality lies in the area of sustainable development (gender-centered and environmental approaches). SCCs are concerned with social justice in the form of poverty alleviation and gender equality and women empowerment as evident from the activities of the women’s affairs commission. They also affirm the importance of environmental sustainability. In this sense, SCCs bear some similarity with the conventional perspective on development. On the other hand, there are some fundamental differences from the point of view of the anthropological vision of a human being, and the aim of development.For the SCCs, the human being is a composite of body and soul, created to live in communion with other human beings and with God; he/she finds ultimate fulfillment in God. This conception of the human person introduces a more integral or holistic vision of human development, what is commonly referred to as integral human development. Since human development is integral and is open to the transcendental or spiritual aspect of life, the end of human progress is eternal life. Without this dimension, economic and material development is insufficient to bring about genuine development.