Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ
“Where on earth is Burkina Faso?” I confronted
the question from my friends in India when I
told them that I am going to Burkina Faso
to participate in the
World Congress of the
International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP).
Two years back UCIP World Assembly at Ro
me (9 to 13 December 2008) announced the
holding World Congress at Ouagadougou, the capital
city of Burkina Faso, a country in North-
West Africa. As an active part
icipant in the Assembly I favour
ed Burkina Faso an African
country and I reported the news in South Asia
n Religious News (SAR News) and many Church
newspapers in South Asia
and beyond carried the news.
Burkina Faso is a small landlocked country su
rrounded by Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benim
in South and Niger in the East and Mali in th
e West. Someone during th
e conference raised a
question: What is Burkina Faso and rightly answered himself that Burkina Faso is her people.
Truly the strength and wealth of
the country are the people.
I experienced them as a hospitable and loving peopl
e. As soon as I set my food on the land I felt
the warmth of friendship and the care of the pe
ople for their visitors. When I climped down the
ladder from the plane the President of L’Uni
on Catholique Africaine de la Presse (UCAP-
Burkina Faso) and of UCAP Africa, Mr. Alex
andre Le Grand Rouamba was there with open
arms to welcome me with a warm embrace and
drive me to VIP launch. Alexandre and other
Burkina Faso friends proved unaustentiously
what we say in India “Atithi Devo Bhavah”
meaning “guests are treated as gods”.
Of course, I knew Alexandre as a friend for ma
ny years through our meetings and other UCIP
events in Africa, Europe and Canada. But I
was happy to know all delegates to the World
Congress were similarly welcomed and warmly tr
eated by our hosts in Bu
rkina Faso during the
A total of 455 participants from 48 countries repr
esenting all 5 continents
attended the Congress.
Many speakers chosen from around the world presen
ted interesting papers. As expected most
speakers were from Burkina Faso and other countr
ies of Africa. There were
lively discussions in
the Congress on various papers pr
esented around the theme “Media
at the Service of Justice,
Peace and Good Governance in a Worl
d of Inequalities and Poverty”.
The local organizers of the Congress headed by
Rouamba Alexandre Le Grand, President of the
National Committee of the Organi
zation left no stone unturned
to make the World Congress a
great success. Declaring the Congr
ess open the President of Burkina Faso, Mr. Blaise Compaore
expressed his happiness that it
is an honour for the pe
ople of Burkina Faso to welcome the
journalists of the 23rd World Congress of UCIP
. The UCIP Congress has come first time to
Africa in its 82-year
old history, he said.
Expressing his delight that Burkina Faso is
the first African country to host the UCIP
International Meeting, the President of Nationa
l Organizing Committee,
Rouamba Alexandre Le
Grand welcomed the Congress participants. He
paid homage to the pioneers of the UCAP
Burkina & of Africa, who paved way for Burkina Fa
so to be the first African country to host the
UCIP World Congress.
The delight of the Burkina people in hosting th
e World Congress has sh
own through the large
presence of both civil and ecclesiastical leaders
and dignitaries as well as
journalists from the
local media. The Holy Father Pope Benedict
XVI was represented
by Bishop Claudio Maria
Celli. There were at least 9 bishops and Archbi
shops of Burkina Faso in the opening ceremony
of the Congress on September 14th and many of th
em also attended the
closing function of the
Congress on the 18th evening.
The local newspapers and other media gave wide
coverage to the Congres
s. The daily “Le Pays”
in its front page story describe
d the UCIP Congress at Burkina Fa
so as “Justice done for Africa”.
Another daily “L’Observateur Paalga” describe
d the 23rd UCIP Congress as “first time in
Africa” in its 82 years history.
Most participants expressed their happiness and sa
tisfaction describing the historical event as “a
great Congress at Burkina Faso” and “a unique
international meeting”. The 23rd UCIP World
Congress was great and unique in many respects.
Usually the Congress gets large number of
participants from the c
ontinent where it is held. The Congress
at Burkina Faso saw vast majority
of the participants from different countries of Africa.
The Burkina Faso Congress was unique that th
e Government and civic authorities fully
collaborated with the local
Catholic organizers not onl
y making available Ouaga 2000
Conference Hall and vehicles for the transportati
on of Congress participan
ts but also actively
participating in the World Congress.
The interest of the whole Africa
in the Congress was also seen
that the former President of
Ghana, Mr. Jerry John Rawlings participated in
the Congress presenting a very interesting and
thought-provoking paper on “How to
Work out for the Setting up of Good Governance in our
From India I was invited to present a paper
on the topic “Inter-Religious Conflicts and
Challenges for Peace”. My paper with 72 slides
in power-point presentation was well received
and much appreciated. The Moderator of the Sessi
on Bishop Benjamin N’Diaye of Senegal later
told me that he wanted to stop
me when the assigned time was getti
ng over but he did not do it as
he found my conference very inte
resting. Some people appreciated my talk because my language
was simple. Some others told me they could fo
llow me well because they could read the whole
text in the power-
point presentation.
A highlight of the Congress was the UCIP Award
functions cum dinner held in SIAO Hotel on
Sept. 16. L’Observateur Paalga (The New Obse
rver) of Ouagadougou got UCIP Gold Medal for
championing press freedom and being the voice of
people in the best
way possible. Titus
Brandsama Award was bestowed on a Venezuel
an journalist and Professor, Mr. Andres
Canizalez. Most UCIP Awards were bestowed
on young journalists for their outstanding