Zambian Jesuit to be SCIAF Director
The Scottish charity is to have an African representative on it’s board for the first time
By Amanda Connelly
Scottish aid charity SCIAF has introduced a Zambian priest as one of their new directors.
Jesuit priest Fr Leonard Chiti (right), director of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) in Lusaka, will join the board of the charity this year and said he would bring the voice of ‘ordinary people’ in Africa to Scotland.
As part of the JCTR, Fr Chiti and his colleagues describe their mission as bringing together ‘the teaching of the Christian Faith, the Gospels, and action,’ and to ‘put into practice that Gospel teaching of love of God and love of neighbour in practical terms.’
As such they work in partnership with the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) to help families overcome the socio-economic and climate change challenges that they are facing, in order to use sustainable organic farming and organic soil to make better yields, develop a sustainable future, and move away from chemical fertilisers that are bad for the environment and cause difficulty for future food growth.
“It’s a great development in this respect,” Fr Chiti said about his new role at SCIAF during an interview with the SCO. “In the past you had this donor-recipient relationship, where faith-based groups in the north like SCIAF would hand out money to southern-based faith groups to let them do what they felt needed to be done.
“So the relationship, as I say, was donor-recipient, and it was skewed in favour of ‘we give you money, and in some respects we tell you what to do with that money.’ But I think now what has happened with this opportunity that I’ve been handed, is that I can input in the way SCIAF plans its work. I can sit at the same table with the administration in SCIAF, and we can have a discussion as equals and as partners.”
He said that ‘we are moving in the direction where we are true partners and it’s not just the flow of money from the one point to the other, but there’s a reciprocity that is taking place in terms of ideas, in terms of helping SCIAF plan
better and come up with very good strategic objectives, and to be able to help southern partners in a better way than in the past by getting some ideas and perspectives from the south.
“We feel that helps our contribution to the work of SCIAF, and that we are in one sense truly leading a partnership of equals and of sharing of ideas.”
Fr Chiti’s new role within SCIAF is something he also believes can offer a platform for the views and need of everyday Zambians to be heard.
“I believe it’s bringing the voice of those ordinary people in Zambia to a place like Glasgow,” he said. “Obviously you want people to speak for themselves; you want them to articulate their situation, their needs, their aspirations, but obviously they can’t do that. They have a representative, if you will, in me: a person who’s in regular contact with ordinary people.
“That’s the beauty about the work that we do; we are like a bridge that brings ordinary people and policy makers to a negotiating table, if you will. I’m extending that opportunity and facility for that ordinary person to come and speak to people.”
This year’s SCIAF Wee Box campaign is focused on helping poor farmers in Zambia and Fr Chiti said people donating to it would ‘help put food on the table for that poor person in a part of the world they’ve never heard of through that pound or whatever they drop into the Wee Box.’
—This story ran in full in the March 10 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.