Our full-time Pilgrim from Canada, Marcel Lefebvre, and our good friend of Switzerland, Mr. François de Siebenthal, consul general of the Philippines and an economist, went to Madagascar in May of this year, at the request of the Malagasy Bishops, in order to apply the Social Credit principles in that country. Here is a report of this interesting tour:
|François de Siebenthal|
We had offered Bishop Raymond, president of the Episcopal Commission on Justice and Peace for Madagascar, to go and meet him, to talk about the steps that should be taken to really put an end to poverty in Madagascar. Mr. De Siebenthal and I were received in a royal fashion. It is Bishop Raymond himself who came to the airport to greet us, even if it was late at night — 9:30 p.m. for me, and 4:20 a.m. for Mr. De Siebenthal — and even if Bishop Raymond lives about a hundred kilometres from the airport. So you can understand why we were deeply moved to see him present at the airport to welcome us.
Bishop Raymond then drove us directly to the Episcopal Conference center at Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, where we were accommodated for meals and night's lodgings. All the people in charge of the Church in Madagascar come and go to this place: Bishops, priests, religious, lay missionaries, etc. Very often, those in charge of the place introduced us to the newcomers so we could present to them our solution to the problem of poverty.
On one of the first days after our arrival, we met with Father Jaozandry Venance. He was surprised to see representatives from the `Michael' Journal in Madagascar, because he had been reading our journal at the Bishop's residence for a long time, with a great deal of interest, especially the articles on Social Credit. He was won over right away to the Social Credit proposals, and helped us a great deal in organizing conferences, and convincing other people about the importance of our Work.
Our first meeting took place with the members of the Episcopal Commission on Justice and Peace for Madagascar, in the presence of Bishop Raymond, its distinguished president. We met many people at the Bishops' center, where we stayed for the duration of our tour. This allowed us to talk with Bishops, priests, and lay missionaries who received our message with a lot of enthusiasm. They saw and understood the cause of poverty in the world.
Father Venance organized for us a beautiful meeting with those in charge of “Caritas” (“charity” in Latin) in each diocese of Madagascar, and this meeting was also presided over by Bishop Raymond. We received many invitations to go and bring our message into different dioceses, but because of our short stay in the country, we were unable to answer all of these requests.
Father Venance also organized for us a conference with economists and university professors working for the Church. They were overwhelmed.
After this meeting with the economists and professors, we held a conference at the Catholic University in front of 135 fourth-year economic students. The head of the university said that the classes were purposely postponed in the morning to allow the students to hear the two visitors from Canada and Switzerland. There was widespread enthusiasm among the young people; they had just discovered a light that changed their vision of economics, by discovering that their country did not lack natural resources and real wealth, but only money. The rector of the university was happy to see the enthusiasm of the students, thanked us for our visit, and encouraged us to keep up our good work.
On Saturday evening, we had a beautiful meeting with several priests and lay people of Bishop Raymond's diocese. The Vicar General and other people gave us their impressions: “Great, fantastic!” they said. They were all won over. One young lady, Dina, who had just received her diploma in economics, and who had been especially invited at that meeting by Bishop Raymond, declared that she had learned more in three hours that evening than in three years at the university. The next day, they celebrated the sixth anniversary of Bishop Raymond as the head of the diocese, with a solemn Mass that lasted 4 hours, with beautiful hymns. People actively take part in these celebrations, and they are not in a hurry to leave. The Vicar General introduced us with a lot of praises, which were repeated with even more intensity by Bishop Raymond. After the Mass, all the crowd — priests, religious, lay people — headed towards us to get leaflets. In the evening, back at the Bishops' center, a nun phoned to invite us to give our conference in front of the nuns of her community, the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis.
After the Mass, we were invited to take part in the banquet given in honor of Bishop Raymond. Mr. De Siebenthal and I were seating at each side of the Bishop. The Vicar General took my beret, put it on his head, introduced us to the people present in Malagasy, and then handed over the microphone to us. He translated what we said in Malagasy. I spoke for an hour and a half, and so did Mr. de Siebenthal. Many excellent comments followed our talk.
Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar
Then we went into the bush, driven by the secretary, in the pastor's “4 X 4” vehicle. We were invited by the Secretary General of the Justice and Peace Commission, Mr. Jean Marie, a father of 8 children, who is involved with church activities. He managed to gather all the people of the village to meet us.
We began with the recitation of the Rosary, and then gave a talk on the cause of their poverty, and the way out, by establishing a local money system, like in Switzerland and in Argentina, where they call it “social credits”. We told them about the possibility of creating their own figures (money) to develop their area, without waiting for the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and all the other money-lenders who exploit them. We founded together the first local Social Credit bank, just as the five islanders did in “The Money Myth Exploded”. They brought all their belongings to create a fund to start the new bank. It was really moving and impressive to see them bring all that they had. They are really good people. Bishop Raymond told us that within a year, there will be 500 small banks like this one in Madagascar.
So where we founded this first bank, we gave a Rosary to every family that enlisted, and made them promise to say the family Rosary every day for the success of this important undertaking. Before founding the bank, Mr. de Sienbenthal asked the priest who was accompanying us to confess the Faithful. There will be no interest charged in this bank; on the contrary, dividends will soon be given to every participant. They will develop their area in an impressive manner.
I don't think there is any other place in the world with a bank of which the participants pledge to say the family Rosary every day! This bank is thus very special, and because of the Rosary, I think it has the most solid foundations for the development of Madagascar.
We recommend to your good prayers Madagascar and its entire people, in order that they may receive even more the light of Social Credit, and that they may make it shine in their beautiful and large country, which will be transformed in a short time. With Heaven's help and the beautiful light of Social Credit, it would be the liberation of those people. And it is possible that the light will spread in other countries, because there will be delegates from Madagascar who will go to the big meeting on Justice and Peace in Africa, where every African country is represented. They will not stay alone. We consider it to be one of our priorities to free the African nations from the banking dictatorship. To this end, we ask you, dear readers of “Michael”, to say the Rosary for the success of this so important undertaking. In front of the sheer scale of the task, we feel powerless, but with the power of the Rosary of Our Lady recited by many, the victory is certain.
The two charity organizations, Caritas and Justice and Peace, were working until now in Madagascar separately, each group on its side. We told them they should not work divided. “To divide in order to rule” is the motto of the enemy. We met Bishop Raymond and Father Venance on that subject, and they agreed with us. Father Venance gathered economists to hear us, and said to us: “I am convinced that what you say is true.” As for Bishop Raymond, he was also convinced. From now on, both groups will work together to “put an end to the scandal of poverty.”
The good Father Venance said: “There will be a conference in July with all the African nations, and Madagascar was asked to send two representatives. If Bishop Raymond agrees to send one representative (on behalf of Justice and Peace), Caritas will also send one. This was agreed by all.
I asked Bishop Raymond if it was possible to print another document, issued by the Episcopal Commission on Justice and Peace, on social justice, as they did in 1997 on the debt problem. We could print it and include it in the container of leaflets that we plan to send to Madagascar, with thousands of copies of our two leaflets “The Money Myth Exploded” and “It is urgent to put an end to the scandal of poverty”. In Madagascar, the printing costs are very expensive, so they would not print many copies of their new document on social justice. Bishop Raymond accepted our offer. The message of the Justice and Peace Commission is respected by all sectors of society in Madagascar.
As for Miss Dina, the economist mentioned above, Bishop Raymond wants to send her to our headquarters in Rougemont, Canada, the “Louis Even Institute”, so she can get an advanced training course on Social Credit, and be able to teach it and implement it back in Madagascar. We also met a young English teacher at the university, who is very much interested in our Work, and Bishop Raymond will probably also send him to Canada for a training course with us. These people are real gems; we must pray for them so that they will persevere and free their homeland from the banking dictatorship.
Full stores, empty wallets, in Madagascar as well as in other countries
We never missed any opportunity to denounce the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and chartered banks. During our stay in Madagascar, we learnt that the Quebec “Caisses Populaires” (credit unions) were also present in Madagascar, under the name of mutual benefit societies, which lent money at 3% interest per month, which is a total of 36% interest per year. Shame on our Canadian Credit Unions — that come to Madagascar to exploit the poor!
The Madagascans said to me that they thought that they were privileged to pay 36% interest per year on a loan, because in other areas of Madagascar, they pay up to 1000% interest per year. No wonder Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world!
The cultivation of rice is widespread in Madagascar. But they need rice seed to produce more rice. When the countrymen don't have any rice seed, they must borrow it from big merchants: they borrow three bags of rice, and must bring back nine: this is 1200% interest! There is no way they can get out of poverty with such a system!
What surprised me in Madagascar was to see cultivated people who agree right away with our Social Credit solution. Many said to me: “Be sure that more will be done about Social Credit here after your departure.”
To help keep the flame alive in Madagascar, we must hasten to send them our leaflets. We will send them a big container filled with 700,000 leaflets in Malagasy. I found a good trucker to carry all these leaflets from the port to the Bishops' center in the capital, Antananarivo. There is no better place on the island as a center to diffuse our leaflets. I met a Brother who is in charge of errands in various parishes, even deep in the bush. When he sees a religious or priest with a jeep arriving at the Bishops' center, he fills the jeep with various products, and said that he will include our leaflets with these shipments. This way, our leaflets will be able to reach the most remote parts of the island.
Mr. de Siebenthal was fond of quoting the encyclical letter Vix Pervenit that denounces unjust contracts, that any interest on the loan of money is usury, and should be forbidden. After having read our material, people understood that charging interest on a loan of money is unjust.
On May 21, 2004, while we were still in Madagascar, a symposium organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace took place in Rome, about the social and economic development of Africa. Cardinal Agré of Ivory Coast, who was present at that symposium, said that the banking system is “an impassable barrier”, that prevents any development in Africa. The next morning, we showed that message to a Britanny-born priest, who said to us: “Send it to Father Vincent, who is the editor of the La Croix magazine. He must publish this text!”
Father Venance did not intervene in our talks with the people. He observed people, and when he saw that someone had not understood what we said, he went to see that person after, and said to him: “I gathered economists who listened to them, and they said that it makes sense.” You win over more people this way than by arguing and fighting, and thus have more chance to establish peace and justice.
Mr. de Siebenthal explained to the people that an interest loan for 50 years obliges us to pay the loan 117 times. Everybody was astounded to hear that. We also told them that Canada had a huge national debt, and that the U.S.A. had the biggest debt in the world. They were surprised to hear this, for they thought that America was rolling in money.
Social Credit is made up of three main proposals: 1. to issue money in accordance with existing production; 2. to finance new production with new credits; 3. a social dividend to each individual. These three principles can solve the problem of poverty in Madagascar and in every country.
May God bless Madagascar and the Malagasy people, whose qualities we highly appreciated.