2, June 2016
Irish singer Sinead O’Connor has been found after being missing for more than a day, say police near Chicago. Wilmette Police told the BBC she More
2, June 2016
Irish singer Sinead O’Connor has been found after being missing for more than a day, say police near Chicago. Wilmette Police told the BBC she More
2, June 2016
By Boh Herbert
You would be forgiven for understanding the Guardian Post editorial, under the penmanship of Ngah Chris, as an enthusiastic endorsement of Hon. Ayah as the next SCNC Chairman. Yet, the title (“How Justice Ayah Paul was Catapulted to the SCNC Chairmanship”) suggests that the election is a done deal. Welcome to making of an SCNC leader!
Upon further scrutiny, it seems a leader is yet to be elected or “selected” – the exact word used by the Guardian Post. The paper says “a reinvigorated and united SCNC executive is about to be elected”. It will be, we are told, at an upcoming “Elective General Assembly” where Hon. Ayah “will be selected [nice choice of verb] to replace the deceased Chief Ayamba”. The sales pitch for Hon. Ayah describes him as having an “unblemished profile and record… the right candidate” for the “uphill task” of “enormous complexities” at time of “sweeping allegations” of the Biya regime buying leaders over.
The editorial is partly aimed at discrediting everyone else who might threaten Hon. Ayah’s rise to the helm of the SCNC. Without verification, the paper accusations that Nfor Ngala Nfor has tried to “usurp leadership” whereas, as it claims, he is a “government agent”. The other potential troublemaker is Ambassador Fossung, who lives in exile in the USA. He is dismissively portrayed as claiming to be the “legitimate leader” but reduced to providing lame leadership via sharing tracts and videos online.
To its credit, the Guardian Post acknowledges that Hon. Ayah cannot seek to become president of “La Republique” while also fighting to restore the independence of Southern Cameroons. The paper does not go further to add that Hon. Ayah cannot fight a regime on whose Supreme Court bench he plans to take oath to defend. Reportedly “on good authority”, the paper announces Hon. Ayah’s upcoming resignation from PAP (the political party he founded) to satisfy “hawks within the SCNC” (also known as secessionists) who asked for and obtained no less of Prince Ndoki Mukete before that. Stepping down, says the Guardian Post will make Hon. Ayah “an unquestionable candidate for leadership” of the SCNC.
Democracy and Meritocracy Managed by Dictators
Even as they have clamored louder for democracy and meritocracy, Cameroonians – sadly of all political stripes – have grown increasingly complacent, comfortable – even resigned – to dictatorship dressed in this kind of rave review of politicians, steeped in intellectual dishonesty and the manipulation inherent in the spiritual vote cast by the Guardian Post in this editorial. Endorsing Hon. Ayah would make sense for a newspaper like this if at least two candidates were running for the position and the paper would endorse one, providing reasons to readers (also voters) why the paper has done so.
There are no known rival candidates in this case. In fact, we do not even know if Hon. Ayah is even running or is being manipulated into running. This is the old-time, one-party “Ahidjo versus Ahidjo” ballot! We get no explanation why Hon. Ayah may be better suited for attending to the Augean task of unifying fractious factions; of infusing new blood; of building a movement more capable to standing up to the expected attacks from the Biya regime.
We, as a people, will not get competent, qualified leaders of integrity until we set rigorous selection criteria and abide by them in electing – not selecting – our leaders. The process needs to become more transparent, inclusive, competitive and democratic. The health of our democracy is dependent on that. So far, though, from grassroots movements to the Top Job in the land, dictatorship is our DNA. Far too many dictators are in training at the helm of political parties and other grassroots movements like the SCNC for Cameroon to hope to enthrone democracy without a genuine reawakening.
Everyone mentioned for a position in Cameroon is almost always invariably praised as qualified for it. Yet, anyone old enough to breastfeed knows what qualifications would make a good SCNC leader, for example. The movement has a clearly defined goal. It suffers currently from a number of setbacks, not the least of which is lack of seriousness, professionalism and unity of purpose at the helm. These are problems that democracy and meritocracy can fix. However, our movements dodge democracy; shun meritocracy; continue to wallow in some Ahidjo-invented concept known as “regionalism”. Steadfast leaders will not emerge if past betrayals and the likelihood of recurrence are overlooked and if lack of support a movement and a people still qualifies the holder of the curriculum vitae to lead it.
Unlike Rome, not all roads lead to the achievement of the goals set for itself by the SCNC. As shaky leadership to, during and immediately after the Foumban Conference proved, it is easy for the regime in Yaounde and their French masters to take Anglophone leaders for a ride. Southern Cameroonians cannot afford such a misstep in the aftermath of the landmark Banjul Ruling and on the eve of the sun setting on President Biya’s current seven-year term. It may matter more now and in the near future who leads the SCNC than it has ever mattered at any time in our history. And, on that count, it is my opinion that Hon. Ayah is woefully unqualified to lead the SCNC.
Excuses, World Without End…
Apologists for Hon. Ayah, like the Guardian Post, have been scrambling to find excuses for his past and even future shortcomings, in the hope of remodeling him away from his CPDM past (and future?). They have tried to find the right words to shoehorn him into the position of SCNC Chair. Good luck with that!
The Guardian Post says of him that he was “a lone voice in the wilderness” during his two terms as Member of Parliament in Cameroon’s National Assembly. Not true! The SDF spoke louder, but never – even once – benefited from the support of his voice or vote.
The one time Hon. Ayah is credited with voting against the CPDM was when he was not there and never voted. Hon. Ayah was “no show” when parliament voted to give President Biya constitutional authority to lift presidential term limits and, not only to forgive all crimes committed by any president while in office but also to grant them immunity from prosecution once out of office. Hon. Ayah, quite honestly, cannot take credit for what he neither did nor for a vote he never cast. Significantly, he did not find it important enough to be in parliament to express his opposition at a time when hundreds of Cameroonians were being killed by security forces stamping out street protests against what MPs were approving.
Unlike Hon, Ayah, the SDF parliamentary group can take credit for walking out of parliament in protest. The five members of parliament who stayed through the deliberations and then voted against the amendment can take credit for what they did. But, Hon. Ayah…. Please!!! Hon. Ayah knows that by his absence he provided proxy to the CPDM to cast his vote alongside other dictatorship likeminded MPs of the party in power. That vote was in April 2008. Not once since then and in January 2011 when he resigned from the CPDM did he caucus with the SDF or vote along with them. Even as he complaint of “fearing for his life and of family safety” in early 2011, Hon. Ayah was acting emboldened – not frightened – going on to put up one of the most disgraceful showings on a presidential ballot ever!
A Lone Political Wolf
Remarkably, he continued to be Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly – not ever once stepping so much as out of line with the ruling CPDM. Tied to the hip with the CPDM, it is not forlorn to imagine that Hon. Ayah has never been his own man. It is CPDM appointments and decrees of its Leader-President Biya that made him magistrate plenipotentiary. For all the legal heavyweight paint him to be – and he may well be – his legal prowess did not associate with other legal luminaries like Prof. Carlson Anyangwe in defending the Southern Cameroons cause before a national court (such as Bamenda or Buea) or an international tribunal (such as Banjul). As the patient legal dog, Hon. Ayah ultimately got fed one of the fattest Supreme Court bones. We are told he could use that position to advance Southern Cameroons, but for that to be aligned with his past performance how about they allowed us to read just one landmark ruling he handed down as a magistrate of the bench. Just one!
The SCNC needs a leader who connects well with the grassroots. One forumist, Bens Awaah, offered advice where the Guardian Post editorial failed. “When the Southern Zone militants assemble to elect the next SCNC Chairman”, Ben Awaah wrote, “they should elect a young, energetic and visionary man or woman, whose sole interest is to take us to independence. He/she must be a people person, able to build bridges and to bring more people from the region to the cause. Northern Zone people and Mola Njoh Litumbe have always been there, working and waiting”.
Forget many aspects of those basic qualifications! Hon. Ayah’s past suggests that he is neither the leader the SCNC deserves nor the one it has been waiting for. His role as CPDM-appointed, regime-obedient Supreme Court Justice denies him the potential to grow into that role. He is seen as a “lone political wolf”; not without some justification. For example, he announced his bid for the presidency via email and followed it up with phone conversations to media editors, even as most aspirants spoke to monstrous crowds. A Cameroonian blogger once pondered thus about him: “maybe he needs to connect more with the grassroots. The same people who are the silent majority, invisible yet always present”.
While some of the wordings used by the blogger to describe Hon. Ayah cross sacred family lines, they are worth being shared three years after they were first posted. “What is most lacking for the Hon. Ayah Paul,” the blogger wrote “is traction. He says just the right things, has the right ideas, is married to a Francophone from Douala (no fear of secession), and has the academic and professional credentials relevant for the presidency of Cameroon”. The blogpost remains unchallenged to this date by Hon. Ayah.
The Market in Illusions
There is no shame in Cameroon these days of selling illusions to the highest bidder. The Guardian Post has one on sale. It argues that the tough issues opposing “La Republique” to Southern Cameroons can be thrashed out amicably “through internal dialogue without resort to international arbitration, the consequences of which is (sic) difficult to predict for now”. The Guardian Post is also an oracle teller, predicting – we have to presume – less consequences if internal dialogue was adopted! The last time we tried that via street protests in February 2008, a few hundred civilians were shot dead and thousands more, including the now late Lapiro de Mbanga, were thrown in jail. By comparison, the proceedings before the Court in Banjul had a casualty figure of exactly “zero mort”! So, too, did Bakassi!
The Guardian Post informs us that the Biya regime spent taxpayers’ money to sponsor “some blacklegs within the movement to The Gambia and Senegal to pose as leaders” during the Banjul Hearing. If that is true, could the Biya regime be up to the same bunch of tricks with Hon. Ayah?
Admitting – without confessing to the sheer violence that the regime visits on dissident movements – the Guardian Post offers the following advice: allow SCNC members to “hold their assembly without interruption by security forces so that in the end, Yaounde will be able to know who to dialogue with for the interest of ‘national unity and integrity'” Holy smoke! If dialogue is for the interest of “national unity and integrity”, how can that dialogue be at the service of the SCNC and its followers?
2, June 2016
The tragedy that has befallen the African continent for centuries directs attention to the asymmetry evident in Africa’s paradox of plenty – a continent abundant in valuable natural resources but lacking the wherewithal to turn these resources into wealth for the people. Virtually all the resources for the world’s technological development abound on the African continent. Africa harbors 42% of the world’s bauxite, 38% of the world’s uranium, 42% of its gold, 73% of its platinum, 88% of its diamond and 10% of its oil. If Africa is this resource rich, why is it so backward and economically poor?
As one of the privileged Africans who have had the benefit of education and close and sustained interaction with Europe and America, I lay the main blame on my own African people. First, the blame on my African ancestors who, for a little inducement of gunpowder, money, and materials, sold our young and vibrant Africans into slavery and colonialism, and now, for money, wealth, and power, continue to sell the conscience of the continent to the ideas, philosophies, and inducements of the West—to the extent that the whole of the African continent today owes the West and its finance capitalists. It has accumulated debts that are almost thrice the gross domestic wealth of the continent. Africa has reached the present lackluster morass because its leaders have always been blind followers of the West, which is why I have called Africa the “continent of followers.”
At the height of the international slave trade, African leaders readily embraced slavery as a vehicle to wealth and power. When colonialism replaced slavery, African leaders readily pawned their kingdoms, dukedoms, and empires to the colonizing powers. When colonialism became discredited and communism, socialism and capitalism became the dominant competing ideologies in the West, African leaders readily embraced one variant or the other of communism, socialism, or capitalism. Now that communism and socialism have been virtually exterminated by the West, especially by the U.S.A., and have been replaced by free trade, liberalization, deregulation, privatization, globalization, and other capitalist shibboleths, African leaders and governments have followed these as the main path to economic development, political resorgimento, and resurgence.When the West extended the carrot of loan capital to the African leaders and governments, they followed readily, and ended up in the web of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the Paris Club, and the London Club of Creditors who now virtually run the African governments, with ready acquiescence by the African leaders. All these movements have left Africa poor and underdeveloped, with a culture of hopelessness, criminality and lack of any meaningful economic vision for the future. What has God to do with all this? A lot, and with good reason.
To begin with, the continent of Africa is notoriously religious. It is difficult or near impossible to find a self-declared atheist in Africa! There is no need to prove the existence of God to an African. The various African cultures are so loaded with religious imagery and language that faith in God is connatural with life. Furthermore, Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular, have experienced exponential growth in the African continent. At the start of the 20th century, the number of Catholics in Africa numbered slightly over a million people. As the number of regular churchgoers drops in Europe and the United States, the number of faithful in Africa has risen dramatically, greater here thananywhere else in 50 years. In Africa, between 1978 and 2007, the number of Catholics grew from 55 million to 146 million, according to the Vatican. A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows the continent’s Catholic population at more than 175 million.It is projected that by 2030, there will be over 230 million Catholics in Africa, that is, over 21% of the global Catholic population.
If demography is destiny, then Catholicism stands a great chance to turn the economic tide for Africa, given its ubiquitous influence. A strong reason for Catholicism’s popularity has been its explicit support for the poor. The Catholic Church has tens of thousands of schoolsthat provideeducation and religious instruction. In several African nations, half of the population is Catholic and the church is perhaps the biggest non-government aid agency. Continent-wide, the church runs 55,000 schools and over 40 universities that provide degrees for hundreds of thousands of Africans who would have little chance at an education otherwise. With such an active presence in the public domain, can Catholicism translate charity into a political and economic advocacy for systemic change? Based on this conviction, the Joy of the Gospel of Pope Francis offers new hopes that Africa could not only escape this malaise of economic exclusion and isolation, but also transform itself into a continent of active market partners.
For a religious experience that began as a minority movement in a religiously complex Roman empire, singling out Christianity’s unique approach to the social question is no mean task. To think of the fact that Christians have always had this mind-set of resident aliens, being here and not here at the same time, further compounds the possible responses one might get. A Christian who is not otherworldly might be a contradiction in terms, since Jesus famously said that his kingdom was not of this world (Jn. 18:36). Down the ages, Christians have made heroic sacrifices influenced by this conception of the transitory nature of the Christian vocation, such as the embrace of religious martyrdom. After all, “we have no lasting city in this life, but we look for the one that is eternal” (Hb. 13:14).
Be that as it may, Christians do not live in a separate planet of their own. They share in the social and economic questions of the world in which they find themselves. The Christian involvement in the social question could be encapsulated in one text of Scripture: “For God so loved the world, that He sent his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him, might not perish, but might have everlasting life,” (Jn. 3:16). The Christian is involved in this world, not with a slavish attitude to the world, not by living a life that worships the worldly systems that could easily become totalitarian, as we have seen in Nazism, Communism, unbridled Capitalism, Apartheid, et cetera. The Christian is bothered by the social question because the Christian loves this world and knows that this world is so precious to God to have necessitated God sending God’s only Son to save the world from the path of self-destruction, at the root of which is human greed and the idolatry of the human ego. To love God as Christians is to love the world that God loves, and to share in God’s ongoing salvific work in the world.
In other words, the theological basis for Catholic Social Teaching is God’s revelation in Christ Jesus. The early Christians captured this all-encompassing experience with the brief faith profession, Jesus is Lord – Dominus Iesus, (2 Cor. 4:5). Catholic social teaching is therefore Christological and Ecclesiological: it is Christological because it is based on the conviction that God has offered a new pattern for right living, right social relationships in Jesus of Nazareth, who is Lord. It is Ecclesiological because it is convinced that to say Jesus is Lord is to say it with the community that says it, the Church. I cannot say Jesus is Lordin a kind of spiritual nirvana. It is always with the faith of others, past and present, a being with every tongue that confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). The Second Vatican Council, when talking about the Church’s relationship to the world, remarks that the Church is called to be a leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society in its renewal by Christ (Gaudium et Spes, 40).
This often demands an ambivalent attitude on the part of the Church, in the sense that social action is understood not just in the context of this-worldly amelioration, but in the context of salvation, of directing men and women to their ultimate end, in Christ and Our God. Paradoxically, the Christian lives out this commitment to social action with the ultimate certitude of being a resident alien, as described in the great 2nd Century Letter to Diognetus. Christian social action is therefore inherently paradoxical. The inability to recognize this paradoxical element of Christian involvement has often led to charges of politicization being levied against the Church, by either the so-called political left or right, especially in the Western world. How did Catholicism construct a social doctrine on these Christological, Ecclesiological and Eschatological foundation, recently enriched by the Joy of the Gospel of Pope Francis?
To be Continued
2, June 2016
The Laquintinie Hospital incident has not only shocked the entire nation, it has indeed thrown up many questions about healthcare in a country where elections focus more on individuals rather than on issues and policies that can enable the country address those issues that have blighted the people’s lives. The pictures of a woman slaughtering her own sister within a certified medical facility just to save her sister’s twins is an indication that the country’s healthcare system is suffering from serious issues. This is a job that was supposed to have been done by health officials of that medical facility, but since money has replaced humanity in our own country, lots of people, including medical doctors, have simply walked away from the theory of being there for their fellow citizens for a philosophy wherein money is the be-all-and-end-all of life. There is nothing else that can really beat this gross display of inhumanity by Laquintinie hospital officials. And this case is simply the tip of the iceberg.
Many Cameroonians have lost their lives just because of inhumanity and carelessness in our hospitals. When you visit some of our hospitals, you end up shedding tears when you see how fellow citizens are treated. Not only are these hospitals not equipped, they have, at best, been reduced to consultation clinics and, at worst, funeral homes. Our hospitals are now places where people pay their transport fare to spend their last days. The type of things that happen in Cameroon’s hospitals could kill a patient even before they get to meet the medical doctors who themselves have become businesspeople. Nowhere else in the world, except in Cameroon, is someone charged for being on the premises of a medical facility. In most hospitals around the country, access– not to the medical officials – is paid. Laquintinie is very much notorious for that. This underscores the point that even emergencies are not considered as emergencies, if the patient or their loved ones accompanying them do not have money to pay for access. This even gets worse if you have to meet with the medical doctors themselves. If you do not have money to deposit, then yours is the kingdom of pain and death. Nobody will attend to you and many hardworking, but unfortunate Cameroonians, have lost their lives just because of this type of mentality that is very much countenanced by a government that is more elitist than populist.
Of course, the Laquintinie incident seems to be a wake-up call. Even members of the ruling party are calling for disciplinary measures against officials of the hospital. But it is not the hospital that is the problem. Laquintinie is just a symptom of a disease that has affected the entire nation. Moral decadence and inhumanity have become the cancers of our country. This is a country where crooks are hailed as strong men, thieves are revered and con-men have become models to our children. Punishing Laquintinie hospital officials will be a welcome measure, but such a measure will not address the issues facing the entire nation. You do not eradicate a disease by striking at the branches instead of the roots. Cameroon is gone down the drain. Morals have disappeared from the country. The community spirit and strong sense of citizenship that characterized the country in the 70s, 80s and, maybe, the 90s have simply migrated to other parts of the world. Go to most schools in the country, and you will be shocked beyond expression at the attitude of the teachers. If levels of healthcare and education have taken a nosedive in Cameroon, it is surely not in error or by accident. It is the way the government has run the system.
The notion of Garbage in, Garbage out (GIGO) also applies to human systems and not only to the computer. Take a look at the way teachers are recruited and you understand why standards of education have suffered over the last two decades. Most Cameroonian teachers are simply a bunch of people who are fleeing unemployment. They are not driven by the passion we saw in our teachers in the 60s and 70s. Teachers were the makers of men and they exuded knowledge wherever they were. Compare them to what we have today, and your mind will bleed for a country that is already on life support. For the medical field, the story is grimmer. Many of our medical doctors have simply transformed the Oath of Hippocrates into an Oath of Hypocrisy. For sure, these doctors were pushed into our faculties of medicine by some invisible hand and even when they cannot perform properly in school, they cannot be dismissed. That should explain why we have lots of butchers in our hospitals wielding long, sharp knives. They are always prepared to operate or to exaggerate the extent of the patient’s illness just to make a quick buck. Cameroon needs a new vision, a vision that will place the citizens of that country at the heart of every action.
One would think that after the colourful celebrations of the International Women’s Day in Cameroon, Cameroonian women will be treated like queens every day. But the nasty and unpardonable incident that took place at the Laquintinie Hospital in Douala underscores that the nation and its leaders are simply paying lip-service to the whole notion of women and their rights. Worse of all, is the public’s indifference; indifference that has pushed me into questioning the whole notion of a collective conscience in our country. While the hospital officials have gone mute since the incident took place, government officials, for their part, have been struggling to provide explanations, some of which have been at best annoying. How could a country endowed with some of the finest human resources on the continent be going through this for so many decades. Why should we be losing our women at a time when technology has simplified delivery across the world? And where is our collective conscience. Our silence in the face of this disaster is tantamount to acquiescence. While we may have been reduced to sorry spectators of events in our country, let’s not forget that our silence is being considered as approval of what is happening to some of us. If this can happen to Mr. A, then it will one day happen to Mr. B. This has nothing to do with tribe or region. Our leaders should be held accountable and this is one moment that can enable our leaders understand that we cannot always be taken for a ride. Silence cannot always be golden, not when human life is involved.
2, June 2016
There are an estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, according to Vatican figures. More than 40% of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America – but Africa has seen the biggest growth in Catholic congregations in recent years. At the start of the 20th century, Africa had about 3 million Catholics. Today, a decade and a half into the 21st century, Africa counts 185 million Catholics. By 2025, Africa will account for over 23% of the World’s Catholics. If, as the saying goes, numbers are destiny, then it is surely the case that Catholicism is experiencing an “African moment” today.
In a recent interview with ZENIT, Archbishop Charles Palmer Buckle of Accra, Ghana, argued that the proper hermeneutic of approaching Africa’s presence at the 2015 Synod on the Family is to pay attention to the landmark historical developments that have shaped the Church in Africa in the latter part of the 20th century and early 21st century. In this light, Archbishop Buckle highlighted the 1994 Synod for Africa that had as theme, “Church as Family,” and the 2009 Synod for Africa, that focused on Justice, Peace and Reconciliation. Based on these two Synods, the Church in Africa came to Synod 2015 with a somewhat critical discerning heart and mind. In the words of the Ghanaian Archbishop: “So for us, coming to participate in the synod for the family, is like bringing coal to new castle. We are here to share. We have been here sharing from our own experience, from our own cultural perspectives, but we are open and here to listen to what the family means to Europeans, Asians, Latin Americans, to people from North America. We are listening very attentively because we would like to avoid the pitfalls that families in these co-called advanced countries have fallen into. We would like also to help them look at families from its beautiful, original perspective. So we believe we are being enriched and we are enriching also, all the other participants.” From these words of Archbishop Buckle, the perspective of the African Church to the 2015 Synod is therefore twofold, to be enriched by the global Church, and likewise to enrich the global Church. The Church in Africa no longer sees herself as an infant, whose only legitimate role is to listen to the local churches of the Western world. The Church in Africa has clearly come of age.
This journey to maturity has had some significant providential moments, in addition to the two synods of 1994 and 2009, respectively convened by St. John Paul the Great, and Benedict XVI, the shy, gentle, saintly, scholarly Bavarian, a man clearly already in the ranks of Augustine, Aquinas, Jerome, Gregory and Newman, a Doctor of the Church while still living within the pilgrim sinful Church! Let us return to the historical hand marks that formed the African Church for Synod 2015, hoping to find in them a hermeneutical key to the issues that marked this Synod.
Without any pretense to biblical competence – since my world is restricted to explaining the Catechism of the Catholic Church, one can readily think of the encounter between the Queen from Ethiopia and Solomon (1 Kgs. 10; Mt. 12:42), to constitute a significant moment in the unfolding of salvation history for the Church that is in Africa. This meeting should constitute a part of the African ecclesial experience, granted that the history of the Church did not begin with Jesus Christ. In fact, to the repeated question whether Jesus founded the Church or not, the only legitimate response will be that such a question is a false question, for Jesus did not need to “found” a Church, since the Church, the called community of YHWH, was already in existence, from the call of Abraham. The Fathers would even talk about the Church from Abel the Just! What Jesus of Nazareth did was basically two things: he universalized and radicalized the community of Israel, by breaking the geographical boundaries around the chosen people to include everyone, and by stretching the prescriptions of the Torah from the letter and spirit to his own person. He became the new Torah, in his own flesh. Without this process of universalization and radicalization, the Christian Church is the same as Judaism! This is highly significant, especially when one begins to hear of calls to particularize or regionalize Christian teaching, in the name of pastoral exigencies. A Christian faith that is regionalized strikes at the very root of the coming into being, of the “new Israel,” in that geographic and political definitions become the determinants of the faith. In a few words, that is why the meeting between Solomon and the Queen of Ethiopia should have such ecclesial significance.
Briefly, other significant historical moments could be the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt; the presence of Simon of Cyrene at the scene of the Crucifixion and the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8). The outstanding contributions to the universal Church made by Augustine of Hippo, Cyprian of Carthage, Tertullian, amongst others – the North African Fathers of the Church, cannot be overemphasized. The demise of Catholicism in North Africa remains a pain whose consequences are still with us today. That this collapse of the Christian faith in a once-flourishing part of Africa, owed in large part to a weakened Christianity thorn apart by internal controversies over doctrine before the onslaught of Islam, should constitute a warning sign against the repeat of such today. A Christianity that uses up its energies in internal debates is one heading for a weakened position against external threats to the faith. North Africa is a standing example.
The Church in Africa cannot forget the August 1969 historic visit of Blessed Paul VI to Kampala, Uganda, in which the Great Pope of Evangelii Nuntiandi, Popolurum Progresso, and Humanae Vitae, declared Africa as Christ’s new homeland, and called on the African Church to be missionaries to themselves. To show that a Church has taken roots, we can see indigenous vocations to the priesthood, religious life and the sacrament of marriage. To show that a Church has matured, we can see indigenous bishops. Paul VI saw both in Africa when he launched the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM). The beatification of the Martyrs of Uganda showed the global Church that Africa was already bearing heroic testimony to the name of Jesus.
The most proximate preparation of the Church in Africa toward synod 2015 was certainly the Consultative Meeting of SECAM on the Family held at Accra, Ghana, June 8th to 11th, 2015: The theme of this Consultative Meeting: “The Family in Africa: What Experiences and What Contributions to the XIV Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops?” In response to this question, the African Church decided to base its contributions to Synod 2015 on this platform: God, by forming the first man and woman and commanding them to be fruitful and to multiply (Gen. 1:28) definitively established marriage to be a permanent union between one man and one woman. Consequently, the family becomes the sanctuary where life is born, nurtured and welcomed as a gift of God. Three things stand out from this decision by the African Church: Firstly, the family is a gift from God. It is not a human invention based on passing whims and caprices. Secondly, this creation of God cannot become obsolete at any point in history. God’s plan for the family, the union between one man and one woman is in need of no aggiornamento. Finally, it is within this gift of family, founded on the complimentary union of man and woman, that another most precious gift, the gift of life, is welcomed and nourished.
To non-African Catholics, it is helpful to note that the Church in Africa is a Church that has matured through much suffering. It is a Church that has been persecuted, with Catholics schools seized by post-colonial governments; church property confiscated; bishops, priests and religious imprisoned or killed, et cetera. Cardinal Robert Sarah’s book, God or Nothing bears eloquent testimony to this fact. The period of independence and the political upheavals that followed many African nations placed the Church often in very challenging situations, especially as missionaries were expelled overnight by new dictators that led many African nations in the post-colonial period. Catholicism in Africa has never been a “State Religion,” favored by any parliament or government. Catholicism in Africa tends to be on the side of the opposition. Its hope lies in Catholics themselves. Opinion pools have never been a priority to theAfrican Church.Cardinal Dolan of New York recently made a very telling distinction between the Suffering Church and the Comfortable Church. It is obvious that a Church that has grown from harsh conditions develops an internal stamina of resistance that is capable of going against the grain.
When the African Church confronted the global Church at Synod 2015, she was conscious that many sectors of the Old Church are facing a crisis of faith in which God has become the Great Absent One; a crisis of pastoral practice; a crisis of education, in which many Catholic colleges have rejected the moral teachings of the Church; a crisis of anthropology and sociology, in which, at a time when there is much talk about conservation and preservation of the natural environment, the human environment is being subjected to all kinds of gender theory and scientific manipulation; the crisis of pastoral practice that is retarded by a culture which Ratzinger once described as an ecclesiastical occupational therapy, in which bureaucracies are set up that become self-serving, with little or no evangelical value; the challenge of the media and language, especially when the great expectation remains: when will Catholicism give in to the editorials of certain sectors of the Western media? These challenges are not unknown to the African Church. She too is conscious of her own challenges: of polygamy, and of divorce, caused by infertility, adultery, domestic violence, in-laws, poverty, HIV-AIDS and religious differences. But she is courageous enough to stand for God’s plan for marriage as recorded in Scripture. She is growing as a Church because she is open to the gift of children. She is courageous about the future of the African Church because she is open to God, and does not presume that the historical-critical method is the normative norm in understanding Scripture. She brings to the global Church the beauty of marriage as between two families, transcending the sense of individualism and particularism that could exclude the valuable support that comes from other family members, especially during moments of crises.
Much has already been written about the Final Report of Synod 2015, which has been handed over to Pope Francis for an eventual post-synodal exhortation. From close observation, it is a far richer document than the InstrumentumLaboris, which was heavily criticized by the Synod Fathers. Regarding the two most-talked about issues by the Western media, that is, the Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried and the Church’s position on gay unions, even critics of the Church have accepted that there was no change in Church doctrine. Vincent of Lerins famously articulated the formula for the interpretation of doctrine: that which has always been believed everywhere, always, and by all. Certainly, the paragraph dealing with the internal forum and conscience for the cases of the civilly divorced, though clear, is insufficient. Cardinal George Pell of Australia has said as much. More precision could have been helpful.
However, it is important to recall that the talk about Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried gives a magical understanding of Communion. Paul of Tarsus is very clear about the examination of conscience before the reception. No one has a “right” to the Eucharist, and receiving Communion in a state of mortal sin does no good to the soul. Paul even told the Corinthians that many of them were sick because of unworthy reception of the Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:30). The habit, rampant in many Western churches, in which everyone goes to the Eucharist, as a “right” is certainly questionable. If in Germany, for example, sixty-five percent of Catholics do not believe in the Resurrection of Jesus as an objective fact, what is the point of the Eucharist without faith in the Resurrection, granted the intrinsic link between the Resurrected Lord and the Eucharist? If the Eucharist is the grain of wheat that falls to the grown and dies, and by dying bears fruit, (Jn. 12:24), what is the point of a Eucharistic reception that does not call recipients to the embrace of the letting go of the self in the embrace of the gift of children, since children are seen as a burden that must be rejected at all cost?
These questions, and more, are needed to appreciate the fact that Eucharist alone will not solve any problem. It was from the first Eucharistic table that Judas Iscariot left to go for the monies of the religious hierarchy to betray Jesus. The Gospel of the family has been a liberating experience for the Church in Africa. Perhaps as Africa did in the past by saving the Holy Family from the onslaught of Herod, Africa is once again called to saved the contemporary family from contemporary attempts that are so well organized and aimed at destroying the family as God created. This is the challenge for the African Church, for, in the final analysis, only what is true is ultimately pastoral. Only what is true is ultimately merciful.