Ferdinand Muhigirwa, a Jesuit working for Social Change
Jesuit priest Ferdinand Muhigirwa from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), engaged in the social sector, was the director of the Centre of Studies for Social Action (CEPAS) from 2005 until 2012. Although his country is bursting with natural resources, their exploitation does not benefit most of the population. This is why this Congolese Jesuit, since 2008, has worked for a change in the management of these resources that would benefit all Congolese citizens. In recognition of his work, Mr Sylvain Ntumba, director general of African Institute for Economic and Social Development (INADES) in the DRC defined the career path of Ferdinand Muhigirwa as a sign of “commitment to social change”.
Many Congolese NGOs currently monitor the exploitation of natural resources for economic reasons. In fact, the exploitation of resources, of which the DRC is abundantly endowed, is one of the issues that most interests public opinion and attracts Western donors. Father Ferdinand Muhigirwa began working in this area for another reason: “he became dedicated to the issue of natural resources to incorporate the desires and worries of the resident population into the management of natural resources”, explained Christian Mavinga, manager of the Sector for Development Support in CEPAS.
Patrick Mavinga has witnessed first-hand the commitment of Father Muhigirwa to the issue of natural resources. “He has dedicated body and soul to make CEPAS a centre of reference in this area”, Mavinga said. Having obtained a doctorate in philosophy, Father Muhigirwa set out to become an expert in natural resources and “thanks to his efforts, our centre leads the thematic working group of civil society on natural resources”.
Social justice in terms of the exploitation of natural resources is not the only struggle taken on by the Congolese Jesuit, who is also involved in the promotion of the status of women. The composition of the CEPAS team is the proof. “When he was nominated director, there were only two women here. Today, there are three”, explained Arlette Masudi, Director of Human Resources in CEPAS since 2009. This young woman is grateful to her former director for giving her the opportunity to strengthen her leadership skills.
The type of change advocated by Fr Muhigirwa does not only apply to the natural resource sector, but also to the management of organisations and institutions. The Jesuit, specialised in the philosophy of Lonergan, is convinced that social change based on justice cannot come about unless the capacities of development actors are strengthened. It is for this reason that “the Father established the Sector for Development Support”, explained Christian Mavinga. Thanks to this sector, CEPAS not only offers NGOs and state institutions the possibility of participating in capacity building training, but also to engage in coaching.
The concept of providing coaching is in line with the mission and vision of CEPAS – a Jesuit institution which “with its analysis, research and consequential action is committed to the promotion of justice and comprehensive human development in the DRC”. The Jesuits dream of making CEPAS, established in 1961, a “centre of reference in research and action for the promotion of a type of leadership and
culture of economic, social and political management that generates wealth and well-being for all Congolese citizens”.
Father Ferdinand Muhigirwa leaves CEPAS for a new centre in Lubumbashi, in the mining province of Katanga, but without abandoning his passion for the transparent management of natural resources.
Gustave Lobunda SJ
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