A youth voice from Africa at EoF: Our hearts are burning!

A youth voice from Africa at EoF: Our hearts are burning!

Photo from Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa (JENA)

Mwansa Chalo

Ecojesuit shares this story of a youth participant from the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa (JENA) to the 2022 Economy of Francesco Global Event in Assisi, Italy.

My name is Mwansa Chalo, a young African economist and entrepreneur participating in the Economy of Francesco 2022 event in Assisi, Italy. Looking back to this morning’s encounter with Pope Francis, I am hearing the words of the disappointed disciples who met the risen Lord reverberate in me: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

We arrived in Assisi some three days ago disappointed with and angry at the brokenness of our world – the poverty, the inequality, exclusion, the wars, the hunger, disease, etc. But when Pope Francis spoke to us I felt a new energy within me to go out be part of the world to repair the world’s economy and our common home as the Lord instructed Saint Francis at Saint Damian Church in Assisi.

As a young economist, I had always been frustrated with the economic models that we were taught and are still taught in universities. I thought they lacked the practical imperatives required to create a fairer and more just world especially for us in Africa or the global South in general. It is this dispiritedness that led me in search for alternatives, and better answers. And so I set out to establish businesses that give life and soul to the economy!

As a young entrepreneur and changemaker, the Economy of Francesco has been a beacon light on how we can rethink the models of economic development. It outlines frameworks we can use to interrogate the current models and offers solutions of how we can build a better future!

This has been a consistent message of Pope Francis from as far back as before and when he published his first encyclical Laudato Si’ and when he reached out to young people asking them to launch the Economy of Francesco. Both of these efforts speak to those beliefs he had been communicating since he became Pope – of how the world’s economic models of development are failing to meet the needs of the majority of the poor people and to take care of the environment.

There is, indeed, no better place to gather to re-energize ourselves in the movement for a better society, than in Assisi, Italy. Over the past three days, we have been reflecting on the wonderful selfless life of Saint Francis of Assisi and how he was tasked to go and “repair the church.” These words uttered by God to Saint Francis are the Pope’s instructions to us – young economists and entrepreneurs – to go and “repair the economy.”

This has all been building up to the ecstatic meeting with Pope Francis this morning. Over 1,000 young people have gathered in Assisi, and having been energized by Pope Francis’ powerful and inspiring words this morning, we are all geared to build better and fairer societies; societies that are sustainable and regenerative.

This is the discussion we had with the Holy Father. We showed him this morning what we have done so far, and what we are aiming to do further. I believe he will be proud of all the work that young people are doing – following his prescriptions as he guided in both the Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti.

To borrow the words of Saint Ignatius, “we are ready to set the world on fire!”


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