Thursday, August 22, 2019

I am An Africa only If...


Many will tell you that definition is everything, but the question is, to what question or thought? Often we get mixed up, in certain moments of our discussions when we find that what we are talking about, we even have not defined it to the audience, but we jumped on the bandwagon because it was fun then to do so, but to what destination not sure, what intention and why in the first place get involved into something you are not sure of on how it will end.
The big million dollar question we would like to embrace in this discussion is all about who is an African? Many will say many things of who an African is and who is not. Even will enter into controversies to try to define an African in their terms of what they have read, seen on the documentary, or hearsay, or simply seen someone black and the conclusion and temptation that follows is s/he is an African.
Let’s get back to the speech made by Thabo Mbeki the former president of South Africa entitled: "I am An African" in 2017. It's a speech that stretches far back into African history. Today, amidst lived challenges of racism, tribalism, tribalism which has come to gain another name of exaggerated ethnicity, sexism, patriarchy, and political prostitution, we need to get back to who we are. This is what Mbeki would call a “rebirth”.
I am an African because my heart beats with Africa’s. What does this all mean? A heart is the center of all, emotions, sentiments, feelings, and belonging. The heart in this context becomes the body software app where the CPU of a being is found. Once that system fails, then we are talking of many other things far from life but death. Being an African is all about the inner person of who one is. Some don't count the color of skin but the love Africans, the help Africans, contribute towards developing Africa and are married to Africans. Can we call them Africans? That is sentimental and emotional gratification, if there are wars, disease breakouts, difficulties beyond their control can they remain in Africa? That is where the difference is.
 
Getting married to an African doesn't make you an African either, you have just come to accept to get married to another culture and tradition, and two cultures marry each other and co-exist. You will remain white and the other will remain black. The challenge comes when an African wants to change his or her color to become like the one who has married her. That is what we call manipulation of the mind, what we have come to know in many names as whitewashing the mind of the other.
I am an African because my mind is engaged by Africa. Most Africans have this temptation of disengaging themselves so fast amidst the economic, political and societal challenges, they look for short cuts and forget to enter into the heart of the challenge. If we engage ourselves in that which is eating us, we can’t give up, we can’t forget where we are coming from, we need to hold on to the nob of that challenge. This can be better said than done. There are issues which inform us that we are not so much engaged in Africa: wars, rebellions, terrorism, and exploitation of natural resources, emigration, corruption, killings, modern slavery and so forth.
 
These are issues Africans have to get engaged in to find an African solution, with the help of the international bodies we can't be isolated in our very selves. In the process of doing so, we never lose the identity of who we are. We discuss, deliberate, reach a consensus that with a full engagement on Africa not on some western defined solutions tailored for Africa. An African is one who knows where his shoe presses hard, not what shoe he needs to buy, that is the difference that is the leitmotif of an African engagement.
I am African because my heart is at home in Africa. As the saying goes "feeling at home or being at home"…one has to have a sense of belonging that is where you come from, you can't run away from your shadow, it will always accompany you wherever you go. Some think and pray, the day I will leave Africa I will not come back. That kind of prayer is backward and archaic. You can't get into a home you are not born in and claim the right of staying there as if you are the owner.
 
However much you change your accent, you will always remain an African, however much you change your color, and you still will have some mark on you to prove that you are an African. The interesting with this kind of drama is that you can't change your DNA, blood group, the intermarriage, and mixture of the water and blood will always produce an African gene in it. So why bother to change what you can't change, you have to just accept the difference and live and learn. This is what we call having a soul at home in Africa.
Today we find ourselves in situations not ours in the making but created by others with the help of our brothers and sisters, a situation where our cheeks are flowing with tears. He who forgets where he comes from, becomes a slave of the world and his circumstances, like a prodigal son, if we don't get back to our senses, value of elders and respect of culture, sense of prayer we shall always be turned around and around and what a dizziness we shall find ourselves in. We need to recreate an African dance, songs, poems, plays, languages, traditions hence becoming synchronized heart and soul.
Looking at African clouds, they look grey, full of fumes, burnings, and dusty not because there is an activity of farming, or clearing the land for agriculture. No!!! the clouds are so because there is someone exploiting the natural resources, there is a war going on in one part of the continent, there is someone literally burning the natural forests because the big companies want to invest in big firms, or there is a Chinese firm constructing a road and once they discover minerals the soil is exported abroad for study.
 
African is simply on the receiving end, even those who say that the African continent is poor, they very well know why they say so, to disengage us from Africa. They will do all sorts of things to make Africans look richer than themselves but their target is far from that. Why do they not dress in their ties when they come to Africa? Have you ever asked yourself that question may be thought to think about it? This robbing can't be done without Africans themselves.
 
Africans have learned the art of corruption and swindling money got from these natural resources to be kept in western banks what we call shore banks like Switzerland, the Panama papers, Africans who stink rich due to robbery and gaining from corruption. The riches which are in Congo its only God who knows, even the Russians have a private army to protect their interests in Congo. Who can talk against that, you will be silenced forever, or they will buy you to keep quiet…we have many who have been bought and now they are dying of constipation and cancers in Europe, sons, and daughters of Africa who sold their motherland to robbers.
Most African families are running out of Africa to Europe and many are sinking to death in millions in the deep seas, coming closer to those who were exported to the Caribbean’s and Brazil as slaves, tortured to the last bit of the soul, the consequences can be seen and witnessed today in these places, where anything black is a reminder of their savagery and a deep wound in their soul. They can’t run away from such evil, it’s tainted into their mind and generation to come.
Africa has turned out to be market research for china, her sons have been so corrupt such that they sign contracts with Chinese without knowing the Chinese language. The Kung-Fu style of trickery that can't be reached instead of uplifting Africa, her sons and daughters have auctioned Africa. This we can see in most African countries selling maize on roadsides, distilling local brews and walking with sleepers in African streets selling items as Africans. Our African sisters have become strategic partners in producing children who look something beyond Africans, close to Asians and yet are abandoned and not taken care off, causing another pain on Africa.
Africa is living in the world shadow of development, technology, and advancements, unless we claim our future, become responsible and ardent sons and daughters, we are turning into slavery continent who work, sweat and die sweating in the deep holes and caves of mines for the Chinese yet get back to sleeping on mats and animal skins in grass-thatched huts with nothing to show for it.
The power of imagination should make young Africans with mentioned qualities to dream big, inhabit a memory that is sharp and refreshed. An African in 2019 is not an African of 1856, or 1964, but a truly endowed son and daughter of the soil. This being sensitive, open-minded, dialogical, reconcilable, and fully aware of his surroundings and who cares for his environment before his own destroy him of not keenly cared for. It's like returning to a good book. You have to start reading it from the end in the picture to get the gist of the reading.
Toni Morrison depicts this from her book entitled “Beloved” when she drives the point home of romance in a way that captivates and makes one love the whole picture of romance as ought to be. She picks up a story of a young man and lady who fall in love, run through the plantation, and find themselves in the open field, and according to them, nobody is seeing them and romantically get involved. Toni invites us to imagine the scenario of that Romance: The sound of maize leaves, the maize cob being peeled off and the seeds prinked and white liquid splashing out. There you can feel what the lads are getting involved in…
 
This is a powerful image that captures romantically. It is not about touching a female body, putting your legs everywhere that can be done termed as infatuation, but a mature man and woman to go beyond to see what lies beyond the eyes that brighten, shades, light and fears from far that is a contemplative imagination. That is what we need when we get involved in imagining.
We need to relearn on how to fix our problems as Africans. Today's evil seems to be glorified and worshipped. This we can witness in the way African lives are handled and treated, as that of animals without rights, but even animals in the western world are adored and treated better than African lives, a deplorable scenario and evil axis of exploitation yet we still love to go to Europe. Goodness doesn’t have a language, knowledge will always be a search, quest for perfection. Acquisition of knowledge is how to get there.
 
We need to enter into the world of connectography, a straight line of thought that should produce lightning in the so-called Dark Continent, or a continent formed in a question mark tag. We need to create an imaginative resistance to our weakness and evil. We need to develop a language, this language should be powerful against neo-colonialism, oppression, exaggerated ethnicity. Sometimes African women are being turned into sexual objects erasing themselves to lose themselves in the wealth of Europe in the name of better living: prostitution, drug trafficking, clandestine trade and transporters of cocaine and drugs on international routes.
Africans have turned into trade, like the slave trade was all about money, labor and wealth for the west. Today emigrants have turned into money business nothing else with someone across the deep waters to be wired his money as a business consultant, traded on the market stock exchange of the deep seas. African can either be the center of civilization or periphery of death and destruction. This will be real when there is a meaningful education, not illiteracy, mediocrity and ignorance. It's not about what I always thought I wanted to be, but going out of myself and to live I have to die, to that which carries value, not just to die.
 
This will be a result of making the self-real and more myself. People who know nothing of God and whose lives are centered on themselves, imagine that they can only find themselves by asserting their desires and ambitions and appetites in a struggle with the rest of the world. They try to become real by imposing themselves on others people, by appropriating for themselves some share of the limited supply of created goods and the other men who have less than they, or nothing at all. They can only conceive one way of becoming: cutting themselves off from other people and building a barrier of contrast and distinction between themselves and other men. As an African, I will never be able to find myself if I isolate myself from the rest of mankind as if I were a different kind of being.
 

 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

PRAYER AND HEALING

We all have the human desire to be in good health and a good bill of health, spiritually and physically as complete wellbeing. But at times the reality of our sickness and sudden change of health conditions puts most us off to rethink and question the state of nature we find ourselves in. We start asking many questions in the why form with few or none of the why not? Once our health fails, we tend to have a human mode of falling to quick fix, miracle, we tend to pray a lot, and simply look for charlatan pastors, seeking miracles and instant solutions to our health.

To those who feel like don't believe in God seek independent prophetic healing or consult the medicine men or simply fall back to the traditional way of doing things. (waganga na wajajauri- witchcraft, sorcery or devil worshipping or cults of all sorts). For the ardent followers of Christ, tend to move from one adoration chapel to another, one prayer group to another, one charismatic group to another, from one priest to another, in that even some priests in this prayer groups often feel mixed up going overboard with all sorts of miracles Mobile  Mass hours and crusade healings, out of jurisdictions and without the local ordinary fully getting informed of what this healing masses and crusades publicized all over of visiting priests in coordination with one priest of his diocese. Of course, there is some information passed but sometimes most of our bishops play damn without a Yes or No answer. It turns out to poor fame and bitter taste in the mouth for the organizers and group members, and without the bishop shout out, it ends up into group struggles in parishes with his priests. The priests too feel reluctant to respond or accept these groups in parishes.
Prayer for restoration to health is part of the Catholic Church experience in every age, including ours today. This will call for proper discernment from a liturgical perspective, more so on the part of those responsible or the authorities, who are the safeguards of the norms for the proper function of a liturgical celebration. The right place to get this healing and anointing is right in the church, not outside the church and above all in that name Jesus Christ the healer, not one famous human healer, the power originates from Christ to a person who guides the group in that given power of healing. This guidance is well guarded by the ordinary of the diocese as far as what is good and correcting what is to be avoided stipulated in the Code of Canon Law 34. (Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith: Instruction on Prayers for Healing).
In the OT the experience of sickness was attached to sin and evil and God would punish the individual or the community for being unfaithful this we can read in (Deut 28:21-22. 27-29, 35). The sick person who beseeches God for healing confesses to have been justly punished for his sins (Cf. Psalm 37; 40; 106:17-21). Sickness too could strike the just, and people wonder why. The best example for everyone who reads the Holy Book is Job, this question occupies many pages. Of course, suffering has the meaning as punishment more so if it is connected with a fault, it is not true that all suffering is consequences of a fault and has the nature of a punishment. The figure of the just man Job is a special proof of this in the OT…if God consented to his suffering it's because He wanted to demonstrate His righteousness. The suffering has the character of a test.
In the NT, we also come across illness that afflicts the just, but Jesus heals many through miracles, so that miraculous healings characterized his activity: For “Jesus went through towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness” Mt 9:35; 4:23). These healings were part of his strategic mission plan which lasted for short term plan of three years. (Luke 7:20-23), overcoming all sorts of evil, and becoming a symbol of restoration to health of the whole human person, body and soul. They serve to demonstrate that Jesus has the power to forgive sin (Cf. Mk 2:1-12).
Jesus promised the following signs to follow his disciples… “They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover (Mk 16:17-18). The preaching of Philip in Samaria was accompanied by miraculous healings: “Philip went down to a city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Phillip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out many possessed people, and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured” (Acts 8:57).
The signs and wonders, manifestations of the power of God that accompanied the preaching of the Gospel, were constituted in large part by miraculous healings. Such wonders were not limited to St. Paul's ministry but were also occurring among the faithful. Christ has raised human suffering to a level of redemption. Thus each man in his suffering can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.
The phenomenon of healing was not confined to only to the apostolic period, but special prayer meetings organized to obtain wondrous healings among the sick who are present, or prayers of healing after Eucharistic communion for the same purpose. St. Paul had to learn from Jesus his master that "my grace is enough for you; my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9) and that means that meaning of the experience of suffering can be that “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Col 1:24). Today we have disciplinary norms that ought to be followed if we are to be fully engaged in healing ministry, those norms stipulated by IPH, disciplinary: 

-          It's illicit for every member of the faithful to pray to God for healing. It's appropriate that such prayers be led by an ordained minister.

-          Liturgical books approved by the Church’s competent authority; otherwise, they are non-liturgical.

-          Liturgical prayers for healing celebrated with proper sacred vestments indicated therein.

-          The diocesan bishop has the right to issue norms for his particular Church regarding liturgical services of healing, following can.838 § 4.

-          Those who prepare liturgical services of healing must follow these norms in the celebrations of such services.

-          Permission to hold such services must be explicitly given, even if they are organized by Bishops or cardinals or include such as participants. The diocesan bishop has the right to forbid even the participation of an individual Bishop.

-          Anything resembling hysteria, artificiality, theatricality or sensationalism, above all on the part of those who are in charge of such gatherings, must not take place.

 

 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Voices from the Third World (EATWOT) Gender, Power and Theology


ARTICLE REVIEW
A.J.M Ndeda, "A Gender Analysis of the Dynamic of An African Independent Church: Nomiya Luo Church in Kenya (C. 1907 to 1963)" in VOICES FROM THE THIRD WORLD, Women Reflecting on Gender, Power and Theology, (December 1998, Vol. XXI, No. 2), 83-110.

Mildred, J. Ndeda ushers her reader into a Post-Christian and modern realities of gender and independency of Christian ideology, in the formation of new social relations, as well as affirmation of traditional relations of domination between men and women. The Nomiya Luo Church (NLC, henceforth) developed within a semi patriarchal set up hence Ndeda putting us in the perspective to analyze male dominance and its persistence in that church. Much of this church's tenets are based on religious doctrines, beliefs and value systems and their impactful consequences on the roles and values concerning how women are considered.
 
Roles of women in the independent churches, the opportunities for leadership, and their roles as healers and patients and in relation to their background and concerns of daily life are what the author tries to usher the reader into. What ought to be understood is that women also possess their hidden sub-cultures and practices, which influence the groups. This is what they want to build within the church hierarchy as a group that is able to roll the stones to reconstruct a new leitmotif.
M. Ndeba tells us that, the study of independent churches is creating a new paradigm shift in the understanding and interplay of power imbalances today in Africa and more so in Kenya in matters of wealth distribution, and responsibility in women roles who are waking up from the shackles of male domination and oppression. Because the older churches have been identified with nativistic, separatist, sectarian, messianic, Zionist, prophetic and cultic where these kinds of models do not involve or consider the gender of women.
These independent churches were first seen as reactionary in attitude towards colonialism; but when they continued to mushroom, new explanations had to be sought. Today we can talk of not anything less than 9000 African Independent Churches (AICs) with millions of followers estimated at 15 percent of Africa's total Christian population. Sometimes they are growing far beyond the studies about them. As Hoehler-Fatton (1995:98) says:
The actual number of Africans involved in various kinds of indigenous Christianity may be much higher still, for the figures published in large surveys frequently exclude small, local Christian groups that stand distinct from established religious denominations but are not officially listed or recognized by their respective governments.
These independent churches emerged before the world war to articulate their independency. The efforts of the colonial presence and became a vital part of the political history of Kenya, more so when the local had no any other way of expressing their feelings and the freedom to meet and talk of community matters, this to the colonial master meant rebellious minds to fight the invader. These churches rejected the paternalistic and monopolistic attitude of the mainline churches. They aimed to create a fraternal spiritual understanding as a means of arousing a sense of unity among the followers and fulfilling the fulfilling immediate needs of the communities. (Baeta 1962:6). By 1966, there were 166 independent churches in Kenya and by 1978 they had become a matter of concern to the post-independent state (Barret 1968:30).
The women who were ardent followers in these churches make up at least two-thirds of the non-missionary church members with the great attraction of religious faith and religious participation of women than men. Nearly every major studies have talked about women and comprised a majority of the adherents of the churches they studied. (Sundkler 1976:79). Women have played and continue to play significant roles, either directly or indirectly, in the troubled life of the church in recent years, especially in the independent churches.
 
There is little information about how gender shapes religious ideology in our understanding. In the academic circles, gender debate proceeds apace, in the church it is not taken seriously. Kretzschmar (1991:106-119) states "Can we afford to ignore the vital issues of gender?" We need to ask how those who are proclaiming the good news, respond to the oppression or subordination of women within its ranks? What is the reason for the subdued silence of women in the church and other areas? What does this convey of the church and its perception of women?

(Ramodibe 2000:255) carries this comment further:

There can be no argument that the church is one of the most oppressive structures in society today, especially regarding the church are women, but men make decisions affecting them alone (with very few exceptions). Once women are acknowledged as pastors, as the body of Christ, we can build a new church. I say a new church because the church as we have it today is a creation of male persons. As women, we have always felt like strangers in this make the church.
This always takes the form of male dominance and female subordination, where women are always excluded from positions of responsibility more so in matters of sharing in status because a great deal of decision-making and authority goes to men. A gender approach means analyzing the forms and the links that gender relations take, and the links between then and other wider relations in society. Ndeda says that sexual dominance prevails and men are privileged over women. Males retain exclusive access to key authoritative posts such as the pastoral office and eldership board membership. She quotes (Sered 1994:3):
Ethnographic and historical studies of women and religion have thoroughly documented patterns of women's exclusion from positions of significant religious leadership. In many societies, women have active religious lives, yet ecclesiastical hierarchies rarely include women and official or official or great tradition or religious concepts generally reflect men's and not women's priorities and life experience. But scattered throughout the world and centuries, there are instances are religious domination by women in which women have been the leaders, the majority of participants and in which women's concerns have been central.
The most puzzling issues for Ndeda is the immense power and influence which female leaders often wielded in these churches contrary to male dominance in the mainstream churches. In some of these churches, she says that prophetesses have left indelible marks on the African continent, for example, Alice Lakwena of Uganda, Mother Jane Bloomer of Freetown. In Ivory Coast, Marie Lalou was inspired by a dream to start a cult so that women have ceremonial leadership and a clear sense of gender roles is maintained. Such independent churches believe that it is the Holy Spirit that raises people to positions of authority, irrespective of gender. Locally in the Kenyan scene, we have Mary Akatsa of Kawangware and Maria Aoko of Legio Maria who carved niches for themselves in Kenya's religious history.
Independence and the Subordination of the Luo Women

Owalo the founder of NLC established what seems as a paramount chief type of leadership, in that the leadership went beyond clan boundaries. He mingled with Luo leadership pattern and the Christian one. His church was an ethnic group and he insisted that the only true Luo could be his followers. Ndeda states:
In the NLC titles, marital status and age assumed significance in conferring status. The ideal leader in addition to being male has to be at least middle age and married. The leadership, literacy was a requirement but nor necessary a high level of education. Before assuming a position of spiritual leadership ordination and proper consecration was done in the presence of many adherents. During the ordination, the leader's responsibilities were delineated to avoid conflicts. The dominion of leadership roles by men shows evidence that in the NLC, women were subordinated. This subordination simply means to put a person, or group, in a less important position, the subordination of women refers to relations between men and women within the social process as a whole and the way those relationships work to the detriment of women.
She always quotes (Collins, 1971) in his argument from the Freudian perspective that women's subordination is fundamental as a result of men's sexual lust and men have used their size and strength to coerce women, while Tiger, on the other hand, asserts that men dominance arises from their social bonding.
 
The argument here is that their subordination was not solely the result of policies imposed by foreign capital and other forces of colonialism. Rather, patriarchal value systems borrowed patriarchal control and reinforced and transformed one another evolving into new structures and forms of domination. These structures were not questioned. The inequality between men and women remained rooted and perpetuated and determined and distorted traditional traditions. Women continued to be victims of male dominance. Patriarchal value systems, borrowed from the Luo patterns and colonial system. Were supported by religious beliefs of the NLC and exerted social belief in male superiority and female inferiority. Hence the subordination of women was rubber-stamped by the NLC.
Ndeda says
As in the rest of society, the major decision-makers and functionaries were men. The main figures in the church were the bishops, elders, and administrators. This religious movement was viewed as everyone's concern but with the specific responsibility and privilege of men. Women were extremely important, absolutely important, essential and highly regarded but primarily as facilitators of the men's religious activities. Most of the women were not aware of their giftedness, dignity and potential and self-worth because they were unconsciously victims of male dominance, social prejudices, and discrimination. Their valuable contribution to the church was either insignificantly appreciated, or not at all.
In the churchmen regarded themselves as superior to moment and as their roles increased in number importance so women were denied equal opportunities in the church. Women were not appointed into the critical areas of decision-making and participation like the NLC gatherings of leaders. They were excluded from the leadership role in public rituals, for example, no women officiated as elders during ordination and baptismal ceremonies. Women were seemingly excluded from positions of authority, for at the death of Owalo (founder) his close adherents and the bearers of his mantle and vision were men. Cleaning the church, cooking and serving during the ceremonial functions and organizing prayers for the sick but were never assigned priestly functions, they directed the church singing on Sundays and other occasions because music as a form of presentation and expression was greatly appreciated by women.

Women's religious lives are often closely linked to their interpersonal concerns: the network of relationships that seem most relevant to the understanding of women's religiosity is the family. An intense concern with the well-being of the extended family characterizes the religious life of many women. (Ndeda 1991) says that: NLC needs to address the issue of the liberation of women must be given roles in decision making and this will help towards equality. It should always come to grips with its concept of vocation and perhaps develop a consciousness of gender-related issues. There is a need for increased education for women. Men also need to be liberated from the attitudes and structures that bind them. This implies that male and female liberation and wholeness in the church.
 
 
Bibliography

Baeta, C.G., Prophetism, London: SCM 1962.

Barret, C.D., Interdisciplinary Theories of Religion in African Independency, Nairobi, East African Publishing House, 1970.

Colloins, R. Conflict Sociology: Towards an Explanatory Science, New York: Academic Press 1971.

Hoehler- Fatton, CYNTHIA. Women of Fire and Spirit: History, Faith and Gender in Roho Religion in Nyanza, New York: Oxford University Press 1995.

Kretzschmar, L., “The Relevance of Feminist Theology within the South African Context”, in Women hold up Half the Sky, (ed,) D, Ackermann, J.A Drapper and E. Mashini, Pierermaritizburg: Cluster Publication, 1991, 106-119.

Ramodibe, Dorothy, AIC Women in Mission, Missionalia, 28 (2/3), August/November, 2000, 255.

Sundkler, B., Bantu Prophets in South Africa, London: Oxford University Press, 1961.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Letting Go and Speaking Out

 
Prophetic Dialogue and the Spirituality of Contextualization
The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) had a Golden Jubilee celebration in Uganda, commemorating 50 years of evangelizing in fraternal communion. This took place from the 21st to 28th of July 2019. This all was due to the sense of brotherhood that was built upon and efforts of living together in this common home. The homestead builds on strong pillars of unity, collaboration, support, and Harambe lasts forever.
50 years coincides with what Pope Paul VI proclaimed the following words: "you Africans, you are now your missionaries. You can and ought to have an African Christianity" … In 2019 the theme of the symposium was Church-Family of God in Africa, Celebrate your Jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ your Saviour. The question is not now whether we can handle our issues without missionary support or financial support from Europe? This to me should not be our preoccupation after 50 years, but what do we have to showcase after 50 years of existence? This question should be answered honestly without mincing around polemic emotional hot air to whether there African Christianity exists or not. The answer is that here we are and are ready to voice ourselves through the airwaves to reach every part of the world.
Like someone recently was sharing with me at the bus Termini in Rome: "Don… look how many Africans we have now in Rome… Europe has to be re-evangelized either by art and dance or by passion which you Africans come with from Africa". Since I love listening more than talking to such voices, I didn't respond immediately, he looked at me and he felt sad because I didn't respond to his sentiments, the bus arrived and jumped into the bus to take my seat to enter into contemplating over that… I was enriched and leaned to let go of what my brain had accumulated.
These are sentiments and words that keep us African theologians and scholars at the edge of the seat. We have grown to start speaking from our experience, the task of incarnating, contextualizing or inculturation Christian faith with the heart of the church's missionary vocation. To study and live the reality of inculturation can be compared to undressing to redress, but on condition that you will have to accept to be naked before redressing as removing all your biases, stereotype, judgments out and redressing into another culture to learn and relearn other cultures. This inculturation in many parts of the world is proving to be a very exciting task, but it is also one that often causes pain that is ultimately liberating and life-giving because we have to now take the center stage of being the driver of the bus (Church), not passengers. This sometimes will force us to confront the fact that our understanding of Christianity will be conditioned by colonial sentiments, racial undertones, and the western mentality of superiority. But as Bernard Lonergan put it "Know always makes a slow, if not a bloody entrance" (Cf. B. Lonergan, Insight, A Study in Human Understanding, 1957:187).
This, therefore, means that those who work for inculturation need a spirituality, not enough to know the values or key symbols of a particular culture or the nuances of a situation. Nor is it enough to have mastered the content of the Christian tradition. Working for inculturation is an art, it will demand skill and knowledge and accuracy but it demands much more than that. The qualities of insight, depth, creativity, imagination, wisdom, openness to grace, courage in the face of risk and recognition of the unexpected. It is not about what we can do, but who we can become is what is important.
It is this more self-involving, ascetical, prayerful aspects of ministry that we need to be engaged in, building a contextualized spirituality, that emerges from the practice of real reading proper signs of the times which are prophetic and messianic and that produce desired returns. This will call for a change of symbols, doctrines, attitudes, and practices that persons or a community set about trying to make their own to be able to cope with a particular situation, to grow in the love of God and self-reawakening. Spirituality is a fountain/ reservoir from which a person or community can draw, to motivate action, to keep on track and commitment, to avoid discouragement when times get rough.
When we talk about contextualized spirituality, it means the whole complex of ideas and practices that can open people up to Spirit in such a way that there emerge an understanding and expression of Christianity that takes its form in a loving, creative, and sometimes critical dialogue with particular social or cultural context. These we shall categorize them in two categories: The sent (stranger, the guest, the missionary, the ambassador, the envoy). This is around the spirituality of hands off a bit from total control of issues. Those who are called to listen, observe, let it be, taking interior dialogue. What we call self-examination for better re-awakening. Then followed by the host spirituality (the locals, indigenous, those who speak out, those who narrate and transmit the values and movements in and out of the community. This will call for activating the let off voices which if not interpreted well could sound properly rebellious against those sent.
The spirituality of let-off (Spirituality of the Sent/ "Muzungu")
Today, once we get involved in historical explorations and expositions, we become so emotionally charged and negatively drained with past baggage that blocks our objective criticism. There has been a well-deserved focus on the negative aspects of missionary activity and missionaries. Those sent often have a practice a particular form of spirituality that should revolve around the asceticism of let-off. As the Ghanaian proverb states "the stranger has eyes like saucers, but doesn't see anything", we can also say, even despite having large ears! Seeing what is relay there and listening to what is relay being said takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline and is a genuine practice of kenosis. This has to be the real virtue of those sent spirituality. Each one of us sees the world through a particular set of lenses and hears others with a particular filter and divesting ourselves of those lenses and filters is hard work, in many ways a life's work. Sometimes it will necessity you to close your mouth for the first year to learn to see and listen.
But as Lonergan would tell us in his five imperatives: "be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, and be responsible and if necessary change". The attentiveness sometimes costs and hard to achieve. (Cf. D. Tracy, "Traditions of Spirituality and Practice of Theology", Theology Today: 1998, 235-41). This will call for great humility on the part of those sent if they have to be successful in their missioning in the contextualized reality. This involves taking a risk for the sake of the gospel, where they have to shade off their thinking of the contents of the bible they have come with to a specific people, community and learning how things are done in the new common home, literally learning a new language, food, climate and breathing new fresh air to refresh their minds and hearts and they have to feel this wind blowing in their hearts.
As Vincent Donovan argues so eloquently, "the role of those sent, the missionaries, is only to preach the gospel presided is a "naked gospel", shorn of as many of the preacher's presuppositions as possible. But once this gospel is accepted it no longer belongs to the missionary; it belongs to the people". (Cf. V. Donovan, Christianity Recovered: 1982). Those sent have to believe that the people now are, like him or, under the guidance of God's Spirit that the Spirit will lead them towards a faithful expression of their faith that nevertheless their own.
Unless we learn to lose the gospel in the process of contextualization, they will never see the gospel become an integral part of a culture. Truth often doesn't prepare us to grasp in human terms and symbols right timings. This is the time for those sent to take leave of the gospel so that the gospel can be spoken in real language of the native with their expressions and experiences. The gospel message must be wrapped in the tree bark clothe and not thinking that it's being adulterated. This will call for deep pain of let-off in the way of seeing, ways of hearing, and ways of understanding.
This Steve reminds us of who missionaries came to embrace and baptized. The missionary has to be willing to look at himself as "missionary ghost" (Cf. S. Bevans, "Seeing Mission Through Images", Missiology, International Review, 19/1, 1991: 45-57). Being able to look upon one's achievements with a certain amount of ‘holy indifference', being able to leave them behind, allowing others to build up a parish or school or organization, and then simply withdraw and leave it to another. We know missionaries who feel quite bitter about the fact that after so many years of service their work was not fully appreciated by locals, looking over leadership, changed things according to their vision.
Let-off is part of being sent, moving on (la uscita) and leaving the locals to take over. If those sent are bitter and try to hang on, or bitter because he or she cannot, something is wrong. They have to let-off their work, die to it to speak, and remain present only as friendly ghosts. Perhaps it is the most difficult sacrifice of all that is required for real fruitfulness of their labor. The locals have to adapt this Jesus in their way of understanding him, because this Jesus has to be welcomed in this culture and tradition, undressed and vested in their wrappings not remain in the wrappings which he came with, you can lay a bed and fail to sleep in.
Speaking out and voicing a critique of the context in which the sent live, calls for that context to conform itself to the gospel. But this speaking out we can say can only be in the context of the let-off, it can never be the result of one's frustrations, it can never be done out of anger or feelings of superiority. (Cf. Amos 7:12-15). This is tremendously hard work and will shape and stretch those who engage in it in ways almost infinitely beyond imagining. This is the task of African theologians and scholars now to prove their worth, not photocopy European methods into African context, it won't work. If an African son can't talk in his mother tongue there is a serious problem that gospel will be dead on arrival. Contextualization has nothing to do with decorating yourself with indigenous attire and think you are missioning, it's what you do with them, and you either lose something in the process or remain in your ignorance of where you are and enjoy the game safari.
The Spirituality of the locals (Wanjinku's voice)
This has nothing to do with theological experts but that woman who sells her commodities on the roadside. It the African theologians and scholars have to do theology, it should be found there out on the street with that woman called Wanjiku or simply close the academia and seminary. The locals have to express their voice and their voice has to be heard. As P. Schineller wisely says, The process of inculturation is far too complex to be left only to professional theologians, and such complexity can rarely if ever be grasped by outsiders. (Cf. P. Schineller, "Inculturation and Modernity," Sedos Bulletins 2:1988, 47). The locals have to speak out and differentiate the wheat from the chaff, truth from fake news, false prophets of doom versus agents of capitalism who are only interested to make us fight while they steal our resources and then get back to get their loans with unfriendly terms…friends to have to be tested.
When people in a context who are often ignored or discounted can tell their stories as blacks, Hispanics or homeless, disabled or lay, people, as women, as Asian Americans. Authentic contextualization can take place only when that bare feet theology of that woman called "Wanjiku theologies" as well as the "big theologies" are to be articulated. Often many African theologians and scholars have been intimidated by church leaders who see them as the only interpreters of the gospel. Any kind of popular expression of faith is suspect and smacked of "syncretism." That is why the locals in their particular social-cultural context need to practice a spirituality of voicing out, shout out.
A spirituality born out of courage that gives them the energy, insight, and creativity to articulate how God is present in their lives, their work, and their struggles. They will have to develop the skills of really seeing and listening to the culture. Develop a kind of scanning machine, x-ray vision, where they can begin to see the ways that God is present and active in their situation, and the values in the culture or context that might even add to the entire church's understanding of a rich source of meaning for her own Christian life in the Buddhist teaching of meekness, (Cf. D. Whiteman, Contextualization, NY, 1999:44) all Christians might profit from the attention to the concerns with healing and lively prayer that African initiated churches especially those with Pentecostal bent, in the recent years.
The locals need to focus on God's immanence, God's nearness, and God's presence in normal realities. Looking for God in places neglected in a very warp and woof of the context. The locals should believe that God can be found anywhere in their context, in ordinary custom, myth or legend. (I Kings 19:9-13). God is in the presence of the obvious and therefore most overlooked places, and yet places where only the locals might think to look. This spirituality is about the discipline of seeking and courage to proclaim what is found. In this context, courage could mean taking risks.

 

Friday, August 2, 2019

AFRICAN RELIGION AND CONTEMPLATION


 
We are all living in the world where identity and origin have become a very emotive factor of understanding and comprehending who we are and where we come from, leave alone where we are and where we want to go. These are real factors which before were not put in consideration and interest because we were sure there is something new coming along with technological advancement, revolutions into the man world where everything will have to be technologically sophisticated to the extent that man will eventually get lost into the machines and technological world, but it has not turned to be so. It looks like the more man becomes technologically advanced, the more ignorant he sinks himself into oblivion of community life, ethical values, religious beliefs and with little sense of brotherhood. These are values grounded on African religion and post-modern Christianity paradigms that need to be rediscovered in a very  interdisciplinary approach.

Being African today calls  for all Africans in and out of the continent to be truly human and truly African Christians in themselves, where concretely  they have to enter into serious contemplation of our own experiences and therefore fully owning up and tracing back our roots in solving the challenges African continent is undergoing. this will come as a result of pulling together the Harambe spirit (Swahili for coming together, to uplift ourselves and our communities) building up the Ubuntu spirit of brotherhood with a deep profound slogan of I am because you are and you are because I am. This is a call to consciousness hence delving into the religious and ancestral reality of being qua being. This has to create space for contemplation.

The question to be asked is: Did Africans practice contemplation , if yes, then which form did it take? Today, in the world is fluid in it's  globalized common home how is it being expressed? What has changed and by what magnitude? Africa is part of this common home that compromises of many cultures, religions, and traditions, this in its very vast coverage poses a challenge when we have to talk of African Religion and contemplation.

African religion and contemplation should be contextualized and with the view of unlocking its potentiality in Africa will be based on the African value system of community, religion, ethics and role of man in the Christian community in the context of Kenya, basing on the role of elders as custodians and contemplative interpreter of the lived experience. Many would like to call African religion and contemplation as part of African animism, spirit-filled, way of life, what in the Christian world we could call the Spirit of the Father. This will also tackle the issues of African mysticism, the contribution of African Father to the Synod, where we shall single out a few prominent authority in this field Like John Mbiti, Magesa, Orabotor. This will have to give us a sense of piety versus paganism. All this will be connected to the man in his being of generosity, community, welcome.

Contemplation in an African context is a sense in which the elders help the community and society to confront their challenges lived, natural disasters, wars, emergencies, and catastrophes both natural and man-made. Africans are known as very resilience amidst the harsh realities, like do we think of this as a contemplative lived experience. For a long time has been isolated and left to the mercies of its ancestors and even used to be called a dark continent, a virgin land not until the partition of African in 1885 in Berlin in search of raw materials, which ended into slave trade and complete rape of Africa and robbed of her dignity and resources by the western world powers. African religion and contemplation will have to enter into just enter into these realities, not to solve the problems created but to know where we have come from, where we are and where we want to go, a concerted effort that will not be done by anyone else except the African sons and daughters.
Contemplation is something that was done by most African elders, hence Mbiti building it up into the famous phrase “Africans are notoriously religious. This should help us to have the continuity by retaliating that if Africans are notorious religious then they also must be contemplatively resilient par excellence. African region can be traced right from the African Sahara deserts, monasteries in Egypt where hierographic discovery and civilization took place. This can be witnessed by the pyramids which were built, with River Nile being the sources and fount of supply, and agricultural methods, dunes became the true places to confront and fight the devil, the real battle place to combat the devil in his territory, a place where body mortification, detachment from the world possessions was tested.

This type of life was never taught to one to become a contemplative, except individual breakthrough into solitude as a means of reaching sanctity and listening to the voice of God, it became a revolutionary turning point into a personal and community life of searching for holiness and God in the daily lived experience of struggling with evil spirits and demonic powers through contemplation and prayer and adoration. It is not about a magical power but interior life and convictions.

Sometimes much associate contemplative life with Catholic religious congregational orders, ab Initio contemplation is an experience for all in their understanding and personal religious encounters. It's not much about intellectual prowess, great theological slogans or big jargons but a lived experience of simple people in the village, parish community who can be helped to enter properly in their hearts of their religious understanding. 

Almost everything has to be evaluated with an intellectual and spiritual scale. Many due to the hindsight of ignorance tend to live in the utter darkness of the past, stereotype and failure of reasoning and their spiritual enlightenment never took over and as such their actions remained in mere wishes and admiration and never went beyond that line of thought and encounter. As T. Merton states that:

Man’s intellectual and spiritual life is life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive…the awareness of the reality of that Source. It knows the Source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with certitude that goes beyond reason and faith aspire, by their very nature, because without it they must always remain incomplete.

The importance is to be aware of the self before the concrete world out there. Contemplation always goes beyond our knowledge, beyond our light, beyond systems, beyond our self. This carries with it the connotation of death, to acquire higher life, it's the death for the sake of life, which leaves behind all that we know or treasures as life as thought, as experience. As St. Paul could reiterate in his writings "It's not me who lives but the Christ who lives in me". We can say that African religion and contemplation creates a complete abandonment of our cultures, beliefs, belongs to acquire something more than the ordinary physical. This is the context of African mode of thought is the presence of the sacred, animation of spirits, infusion into extra-terrestrial reality. The real communication with the ancestors in a new language which only one who can tap that spirit of the ancestors can know what that world comprises of. It can also manifest itself or reveal itself in messages which we become message carriers and implementers of what is being wished by the ancestors. This comes with the message and answer of life, not death, refreshing the planet, creation and in the homesteads of the living. All this has to be considered within the here and now where the underworld of the ancestors is fully connected with the spirit world where man becomes the conduit and point of synergy.

African religion and contemplation is a reality that should raise a question and at the same time give the right answer to the question raised. The questions we need to engage ourselves with is not whether it exists or not, but what experiences can we share about it with other religions, what can we share with respect and open-mindedness. As T. Merton puts it: "We awaken, not to find an answer distinct from the question, but to realize that the question is its answer…And summed up in one awareness not a proposition, but an experience: "I AM".

As the African adage would put it,  "I am because you are, and you are because I am", properly infused in there. To separate oneself is like separating blood and water, your backbone is strong as long as you recognize where you get your force and reinforcement. This T. Merton drives the point when he states: “Contemplation is the awareness and realization, even in some sense experience, of what each Christian obscurely believes, for it is now no longer I that live but Christ who lives in me”. This should be the spirit that lives in us, that force that moves us. For contemplation doesn’t simply “find” a clear idea of God and confine Him within the limits of that idea, and hold Him there as a prisoner to whom it can always return.

Contemplation is about living the experience, it can't be taught. Contemplation cannot be a function of this external self. Sometimes we portray our self-image as the true self, but it's our individuality. There is a hidden self which we daily are struggling to come to terms with, we cannot fully know ourselves, but through Contemplation can we try to reach the hard question of who are we? The African understanding of masking or using of masks has this cause why in most celebrations we use a mask, not to know the hidden face behind the mask. These represent the spirit of the ancestors, mythological heroes, moral values a sort of honor to a person in a symbolic way. They are made out of wood pottery, textiles, copper, and bronze. They could also be made from animal teeth, hair, bones, and horns as well as feathers, seashells, and even straw and eggshells. He who makes masks is believed to have contacts with a spirit world and making masks is a craft passed down in the family. Africans cultures distinguish between the outer look of something and its essence.

They represent the spirit of an animal and one that bears the mask, becomes that animal himself which allows for communication with that animal is a symbol of virtue. The animals portrayed on most masks include buffalo, hyena, hawk, crocodile, and antelope. This trance-like state is accomplished with specific music and dance. Ceremonies as weddings, initiation rites and funerals have a masked dance.

Contemplation is not and cannot be a function of the external self, but it is a hidden and mysterious person in who subsists before the eyes of God. There in silence do we confront our secrets, worries, doubts, and experiences, not to solve all problems but to start falling in love with them and abandoning everything to God in those intimate moments. This is the reason we find that masks play a great role in personal life that we feel comfortable in them, not until people start poking through them hence deflating our egoism and pride and destroying the image we had built of ourselves.

Contemplation produces in the individual reality as subjective, not so much as in mine mentality with an outlook view but the person in his concrete reality. This, in the long run, should lead to self-unveiling before God. That inner center where God dwells with infinite sweetness and unlimited power. Therefore contemplation is something more than thoughtfulness or a taste for reflection. Contemplation is not prayerfulness, or tendency to find peace and satisfaction in liturgical rites, nothing to do with temperament. One who is passionate and fully awake can contemplate without too much struggle but it cannot be an object of calculated ambition. It is not something we plan to obtain with our practical reason, but the living water of the spirit that we thirst for, like a hunted deer thirsting after a river in the wilderness.  It is not we who choose to awaken ourselves, but God chooses to awaken us.

Many may think it is all about trance or ecstasy nor the hearing of sudden unutterable words, nor the imagination of lights. It is not the emotional fire and sweetness that comes with religious exaltation. Nor can we think contemplation in terms of the gift of prophecy, nor does it imply the ability to read the secrets of men' hearts. Contemplation is not also a time meant to escape from conflict, anguish or from doubt. But it should be an experience that awakens a tragic anguish and opens many questions in the depths of the heart like wounds that cannot stop bleeding. These may be false definitions we carry along as we enter into contemplation which is what we often live by and which we even come to confuse with "religion". To examine, to doubt and finally to reflect all the prejudices and conventions that we have hitherto accepted as if they were dogmas.

Contemplation is not a painkiller. In the end, the contemplative suffers the anguish of realizing that he no longer knows what God is. God is not someone to associate with "what", nor a "thing". At this point we can reach a point of saying there is "no such a thing" as God because God is neither a "what" nor a "thing" but a pure "who". This should not be taken to mean that man has no valid concept of divine nature. Yet in contemplation abstract notions of the divine essence no longer play an important part since they are replaced by concrete intuition, based on love, of God as a person, an object of love, not a “nature” or a “thing” which would be the object of study or possessive desire.
 

Seeds of Contemplation

As man exists he should always realize that he is planting something in his soul. The challenge is always is he aware of that reality. Coming to terms to germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost because men are not prepared to receive them; for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity, and love. The seed is the word of God, which we often if not as a message we hear from the gospels on Sunday in our churches. But every expression of the will of God is in some sense a word of God and therefore a seed of new life. It's about the dialogue of love and choice. A dialogue of deep wills. The will of God that comes to us merely as an external dictate of impersonal law but above all as an interior invitation of personal love. So much depends on our idea of God. Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.
The love of God seeks us in every situation and seeks our good. His inscrutable love seeks our awakening. This awakening implies a kind of death to our exterior self, we dread His coming in proportion as we are identified with this exterior self and attached to it. Learning to let go of the familiar and the usual and consent to what is new and unknown to me. It’s about learning to love the self in the order of finding oneself and yielding to the love of God. This follows that whatever you want to harvest should come as a result of what you have planted and taken care of, you can’t harvest what you have not planted. In giving oneself I should be risking myself into a new reality, hoping to find myself there in that new reality.

The big question is how can I know the will of God? Each situation always will bear written into itself some indication of God's will. This will demand truth, justice, and mercy. To consent to the will of God is all about what is true or simply speaking the truth always, obeying God and above all expressed in the need of another person, or at least to respect the rights of others. No man who ignores the rights and needs of others can hope to walk in the light of contemplation, because his way has turned from truth, from compassion and therefore from God.
One has to be true to the task assigned to perform, doing it well, with love and respect for the nature of my task and its purpose but above all to unite everything to God's will in daily work. Our work should be an obstacle to contemplation, even if the day may be as demanding as nothing else, but still, you can find time to contemplate. We have to make the best of what we cannot avoid. The contemplative must certainly be detached, but he can never allow himself to become insensible to true human values, whether in society, in other men or himself.

To many contemplation is mediation, or simply plain old “prayer” because prayer is conscious conversion with God, but what is important is that in contemplation you should be so imaginative with the senses to find new meaning for example where do I come from, in contemplation God can surprise us with the answer we get to this question. The interesting thing with contemplation is like a love of a mother for his children, even when the children are asleep the mother always loves. Therefore, in resting in the presence of God is a lovely way to pray. It will involve our emotions, feelings, memories, desires, and insights that arise. What might God be telling me in all these experiences? One has to place himself in the place or scene of the Gospels. One has to ask himself, what I am seeing, what am I hearing, what I am hearing, and what feelings am I getting in the tastes and smells. This can come in the form of Lectio Divina . Reading quietly through a text and see what God wants you to notice? Then see what all that will take you.

In contemplation you should pray in your own way. It’s a profound encounter with the living Christ. This Christ is the same who has risen and alive and is present to us through the Spirit, who works through prayer. You should truly feel encountering Christ. You have to make use of your imagination in placing yourself in a scene from scripture or with Jesus or Mary or God the Father. It may sound a heavy stuff but that is it. It asks you to compose yourself, place, with clear structure, a systematized order, listening to the natural orders of the body, environment and surroundings. You have to organize your place of prayer. The prayer is not only that what is formed in your own head, but closing your eyes and imagining your space with interior sense and allowing the lord to take the lead. This can come with the help of daily readings of the Holy Mass like the gospel reading, and then letting God take you where He wants.
God works through your imaginations. But remember that not everything that pops in your mind is from God, of course. It’s easy to tell. Anything that draws you to God builds you up, helps you feel closer to God, or, as Ignatius say “builds you up, encourages you, gives you hope, is probably coming from God”. In contemplation you should not have many expectations, God will meet you where you are. The best way to pray is the way that you feel that brings you closest to God.        
 
Good exercise!!!!

 

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Ecological Paradigm Shift of Pope Francis


 The Ecological Paradigm Shift of Pope Francis
Pope Francis defines discernment thus:

Discernment is necessary not only at extraordinary times when we need to resolve grave problems and make crucial decisions. It's a means of spiritual combat for helping us to follow the Lord more faithfully. We need at all times, to help us recognize God's timetable, lest we fail to heed the promptings of his grace and disregard his invitation to grow. Often discernment is exercised in small and apparently irrelevant things since greatness of spirit is manifested in simple every day realities…I ask all Christians not to omit, in dialogue with the Lord, a sincere daily "examination of conscience." Discernment also enables us to recognize the concrete means that the Lord provides in his mysterious and loving plan, to make us move beyond mere good intentions.[1]

The issues at stake are about the ecological and environmental crisis. These issues are to be engaged with an outlook that is global but also within properly contextualized outlooks: family life, poverty index, terrorism threats, social structured injustices, and international peaceful relationships, control of pollution, global warming phenomenon, and human trafficking networks. According to Pope Francis, this has to set in time for many things to change the course, direction, and trajectory, above all the human beings who are in charge of rightful reading the signs of the times:

Many things have to change course, but it's we human beings above all who need to change. If we lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and our future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes, and forms of life. A great cultural spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out the long path of renewal.[2]

In this research, we are venturing into scientific paradigms which are a collection of texts, theories that have to be tested, tools that help in problem-solving in given specific communities in understanding the world around them, how all have to be engaged in defining the challenges and approaches utilized to reach holistic paradigm shift. This is also built up by S. Covey:

The word paradigm stems from the Greek word paradeigma, originally a scientific term, but commonly used today to mean a perception, assumption theory, frame of reference or lens through which you view the world. It’s like a map of a territory or city. Inaccurate, it will make no difference how hard you try to find your destination or how positively you think, you will stay lost. If accurate, then diligence and attitude matter. But not until.[3]

While on the other hand, J. Gardener states:

Most ailing organizations have developed a functional blindness to their own defects. They are not suffering because they cannot resolve their problems, but because they cannot see their problems. The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. If we want to make minor incremental changes and improvements, work on practices, behavior or attitudes. But if you want to make a significant quantum improvement, work on paradigms.[4]

Man has to get in touch with the environmental ecology once more and start singing the love tones of nature as St. Francis could sing the Laudato Si’, for as tree branches swing themselves in praise of the creator and praising themselves, birds of the air producing lovely song tunes, sounds of the rivers and lakes whizzing, hissing of insects, reptiles, should remind man of his responsibility of being a co-creator called to take care of the garden of common home, cultivating and nurturing it.

Man is called upon to grasp the pace and logic of creation. A man takes care of his personal body, he should also realize that the same attitude and passion ought to be rendered to the environmental ecology. Man is considered a gentleman on the way he takes care of everything that is around him. This is what Pope Benedict XVI calls the origin and rhythm of a love story between God and man.[5]
As one gets himself into research on ecology as a science, we come across many types of ecology that are packaged as political ideologies and controversies. In this research, we shall not trend on those controversies or ideologies but will help us to see where we are coming from.
It’s from Germany that we come to unveil the term Oekologie that first appeared in 1860. The term was used by a German biologist, E. Haeckel in 1866 to indicate the study of organism's relation to the exterior surrounding world, that is, in a broad sense, the study of the conditions of existence. He developed what has later termed Haeckel's law of recapitulation according to the principle that ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny', and was first to draw up a genealogical tree relating the various orders of animals. As a philosopher, he was exponent to monistic philosophy, which postulated a totally materialistic view of life a unity and which he presented as a necessary consequence of the theory of evolution.[6]
The term ecologism is usually connected to ideologies which conflict with the Catholic faith. It is, therefore, necessary to take caution to differentiate between ecology as science versus ecologism as mere ideology. Today, we live in the world where there is a propaganda promotion of almost everything in the name of spirituality, in all sorts of branding and promotions, integrating elements of pagan religions and traditions of global indigenous cultures with an emerging scientific understanding of the universe.
The Church has on several occasions has drawn attention to these problems and advised vigilance on the part of the faithful.[7] As politics and economies take the center stage, some political ideologies are advanced at the exclusion of some people and those who advance those ideologies are usually funded by big international firms to cause a mess in the ecological systems and structures. Those who are usually in the receiving end in all these dramas are the poor.  This is clearly stated by Boff who puts the poor and the earth on the same level of those being equally oppressed:

The existence of rich and poor in our societies is in itself a form of ecological aggression. The rich consume too much, wastefully and without thought for the present or future generations; they have set up a technology of death to defend their privileged position, with nuclear chemical arsenals that could, at worst, bring about biocide, ecocide and even genocide; furthermore, they defend a production system whose inner logic makes it predator of nature. The poor, the victims of the rich, consume less and, in order to survive, live in unhealthy conditions, cut down forests, contaminate waters and soil, kill rare animals and so on. With greater social justice they would be able to operate better environmental justice.[8]
As we come to the understanding of ecology and ecologism and its historical development. One has to put in mind that ecology comes attached to political ideologies. We have so many ecologies but all tied with political ideologies and political correctness. Within the ecology, we find a system to be manipulated and worse once it lands in the hands of politicians, they use it for their political milestone. It often starts as something small and for the common good of all, but in the long run, ends up as a tool for destruction.
As we learn more about the environmental and ecological crisis within this common home, we cannot simply ignore the politics that is also being advanced in this common home. The ecological and environmental crisis has political underlying tones and once it gets mixed with politics without principles or education without morals it ends up being a timing bomb in the making, ready to be activated at the appointed time. All this will depend on our understanding of the environment this common home is based and who are the key plays in the fight against environmental degradation, what are their invested interest.

The term ‘environment’ leads us into the discussion of ecology and its various themes. One can speak of the natural environment, which includes the physical environment with its mineral resources, energy, water, air and so forth.[9] These resources have to be clearly protected that the communities can learn to protect and share resources rather than government putting them into corporate hands.
Today environmental destruction has taken different manifestations and revelation. We are fighting environmental destruction but we buy and drink plastic bottled water, we are all up in arms with international firms but we are the same people cutting down trees for building our homes and producing tones and tones of ecclesial documents from paper, which come from cut tress. There is lack of transparency and accountability impacting on the human rights and ecological abuses involved in their sourcing and production. We talk one thing but our actions communicate something different. We have become unconcerned that we have become at the same time complicit consumers of this business process. We have all have become compromised into the conspiracy of silence.

Auer, states: “The environment is constituted by the whole of our living conditions; therefore, not only “raw nature”, but also the “living space created by man”.[10]This means that we have to go beyond the ordinary understanding of term environment. There’s more to this than meet the eye. We have to build the culture of getting back to the basics of knowing where we are as in terms of the environment, what are doing that is helping us build a just society but above all being just to nature a gift bestowed upon man by God. If we are not conscious of where we are, not full of self-love, not learnt to cry over our sins then we have not yet started living, for living means being able to breathe the gift of life given by God. This gift now seems to be polluted because the fresh air has been contaminated by the global warming gases.

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini and Lombardy Episcopal Conference reject a materialists understanding of the notion of environment:

The human environment relationship… presents complex aspects…about which the Christian conscience is called to seek, above all, an initial clarification. Reduced to its most essential terms, Its question of man’s alteration of the biosphere, and therefore of the resources which are necessary for life…Nonetheless, beyond, beyond this small reality, environmental crisis can be and its spoken of not only in terms of material resource availability, but also in terms of its meaning and consequent spiritual values.[11]

Archbishop Renato Martino proposes the following definition at the Rio Conference:

The word environment itself means ‘that which surrounds.’ This very definition postulates the existence of a center around which the environment exists. That center is the human being, the only creature in this word who is not only capable of being conscious of itself and of its surroundings, but its gifted with the intelligence to explore, the sagacity to utilize, and its ultimately responsible for its choices and the consequences of those choices. The praiseworthy heightened awareness of the present generation of all components of the environment, and the consequence efforts at preserving and protecting them, rather than weakening the central position of the human being, accentuates its role and responsibilities.[12]

In the Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II Centesimus Annus, the Pope provides an even more complete formula regarding the definition of the environment, which goes against modern inclination to new forms of paganism:

In addition to irrational destruction of the natural environment, we must also mention the more serious destruction of the human environment, something which is by no means receiving the attention it deserves. Although people are rightly worried- though much less than they should be about preserving the natural habitats of the various animal species threatened with extinction, because that realize that each of these species makes its particular contribution to the balance of nature in general, too little effort is made to safeguard the moral conditions for authentic human ecology. Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given to him, but man too is God’s gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed. In this context, mention should be made of the serious problems of the modern urbanization, of the need for urban planning which is concerned with how people are to alive, and of the attention which should be given to a ‘social ecology’ of work.[13]



[1] Francis, Apostolic Exhortation on the Call to Holiness in Today’s World, Gaudete et Exsultete, Liberia Editrice Vaticana, Cittá del Vaticano 2018,106. 
[2]  LS, n. 202.
[3] R.S. Covey, The 8th Habit, from Effectiveness to Greatness, Simon and Schuster London 2014, 19.
[4] R.S Covey, The 8th Habit, from Effectiveness to Greatness, 21.
[5] Pope Benedict xvi General Audience, June 5, 2013; Jürgen Moltmann, et.al, La Terra Come Casa Comune, Crisi Ecologica ed Etica Ambientale, Edizione Dehoniane, Bologna 2017, 23.
[6] P. Haffner, Towards a Theology of the Environment, Gracewing, Herefordshire 2008, 77.
[7] Cf. P. Haffner, Towards a Theology of the Environment, 83.
[8] P. Haffner, Towards a Theology of the Environment, 87; L. Boff, Gaël Giraud – G. Costa, Curare MadreTerra, Commento all’enciclica Laudato Si’ di Papa Francesco, Edizine Dehoniane, Bologna 2017, 23.
[9] Cf. P. Haffner, Towards Theology of the Environment, 88.
[10] Cf. P. Haffner, Towards a theology of the Environment, 88.
[11] P. Haffner, Towards a Theology of Environment, 89.
[12] P. Haffner, Towards a Theology of Environment, 90.
[13] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991) in AAS 38(1991) 840-841.

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