From the Worldwide Faith News archives


From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Sun, 19 Jan 2003 10:02:03 -0800


All Africa News Agency
TEL: (254 2) 442215 FAX: (254 2)445847/443241

AANA Bulletin
Editor - Mitch Odero

Bulletin APTA
Acting Editor - Silvie Alemba


Colonial Legacy, Modernity Could Be A Threat To Faith

Title -  Creation in "The Catechism Of The Catholic Church": A basis For 
Catechesis in Post-Colonial Africa
Author.  J. Njoroge wa Ngugi
Volume: 319 pages
Year of Publication: 2002
Price: Ksh.800 (about USD 10)
Publisher: Paulines Publication Africa. P.O. Box 49026,  Nairobi-Kenya

NAIROBI (AANA) January 20 - Churches in Africa, says the author of the book 
under review, should institute a theology that will effectively improve and 
rejuvenate Africans' image of self and of God as Creator.

The Kenyan Catholic priest and scholar, Dr. J. Njoroge wa Ngugi, is of the 
opinion that the faith of Africans is currently being threatened by both 
colonial and apartheid legacy, which he says, are still doing the rounds on 
the African continent today.

The author points out that apart from this, there is equally another force 
that is effectively doing the same. This, he explains, is the new modern 
secular forces both national and international, which no longer respect the 
moral order established in creation.

The paperback book is broken into two parts and eight essential 
chapters.  Part One presents a critical outlook on the religious situation 
in post-colonial Africa.  The second part analyses the "doctrine of 
creation in the catechism of the Catholic Church as a paradigm for 
catechesis for building a human community."

The book calls for the institution of African theological projects. These, 
according to Dr Njoroge wa Ngugi "should attend not only to the historical 
concerns of theologies of liberation, reconstruction and nation-building, 
but also to the wider cosmic, earthly, and cultural dimensions".

In this scheme, the doctrine of creation acts as a basis for building a 
human community that transcends the exclusiveness of tribes, races, status, 
religion, and nations.

The doctrine of creation, according to the author, makes it possible to 
build bridges between indigenous cultures of the past and the global 
culture of modern technology.

  "It also provides a common ground for facing the challenges of human 
dignity and human rights and of counteracting the degradation of the 
environment," says Dr. Njoroge.

The same doctrine, he notes, provides a better basis for a catechetical 
framework for social, cultural and religious construction that culminates 
in the new creation in Christ.

African people should now develop new structures and a new outlook, now 
that they are out of colonial and apartheid period, the book recommends.

The move, he says should effectively transcend tribalism, reconcile native 
people with immigrants from Asia and Europe as well as supporting  efforts 
to build bridges between the indigenous cultures of the past and the global 
culture of modern technology.

The author has recalled the historic 1994 special synod for African 
Catholic bishops, held in Rome on the theme "The Church in Africa and its 
Evangelising Mission Towards the Year 2000".

He recollects that the bishops at the synod considered inculturation as an 
urgent priority in the life of particular churches, for a firm rooting of 
the Gospel in Africa.

"It is a requirement for evangelisation and the greatest challenge on the 
continent at the dawn of the third millennium," he explains.

The book has pointed out that modern African societies need a theology of 
human rights, stressing that "the proposed theology should be based on the 
Christian doctrine of creation".

Such a theology, says the author, would stress the essential equality 
before God of every person, regardless of gender, race or social status.

The practice of human rights in Africa, as elsewhere, would benefit the 
Catechesis of the Catholic Church's (CCC) teaching on human rights based on 
the doctrine of creation.

The book stresses that in light of Church tradition since the Apostolic 
times and also of African traditions, catechesis on creation occupies a 
prominent position for it concerns the very foundation of human and 
Christian life.

It further adds that every living human community must be engaged in some 
kind of catechesis to initiate its members into fullness of life.

As many African theologians have recognised, the traditions of African 
communities have taken catechesis seriously through a pedagogy of 
initiation rites by means of which they have addressed the issue of 
fullness of life, explains the author.

Reviewed By Osman Njuguna


Calling For African Ways Of Resolving Conflict

Whereas this century has seen a myriad of successes in terms of technology, 
medicine, information, communication and commerce, peace and harmonious 
coexistence has remained beyond reach. Hundreds of millions of people have 
been killed in violent conflicts within this era, particulalry in 
Africa.  AANA Correspondent Isaiah Kipyegon reports that traditional ways 
of resolving conflicts could provide a way out of the various internecine 
wars that have ravaged the continent.

n Africa, the continent that has not known any single year of peace in the 
past four decades, many are calling for a return to culture and indigenous 
knowledge on conflict resolution and peace building.

According to Prof. Catherine Odora Hopper of the University of Pretoria, 
South Africa, more than 170 million people have been killed by their own 
governments during this century, and genocide has claimed the lives of over 
21 million people.

"From this perspective it would appear that the 'never again' pledge by the 
international community at the end of World War II has instead become 
'again and again'," laments Prof. Odora.

The present world realities as far as conflicts and peace building are 
concerned, seem bleak. At the same time, the methods of resolving these 
conflicts seem not to work.

Meanwhile pain and suffering, which are legacies of war, continue to 
torment millions of people all over the world.

It is against this background that a one week inter-faith peace summit was 
organised last September in South Africa, by the Lutheran World Federation 

The summit hailed the ability of African traditional ways of resolving 
conflicts to ease tensions between parties and to bring harmony and 
peaceful coexistence.

Speaking at the summit, Prof. Odora said that while tremendous progress had 
been made in the field of conflict management, very little had been done in 
the area of peace building.

In her opinion, it was time peace building took pre-eminence.

"Conflicts rack the African continent as well as a great part of the world, 
and it is clear that our understanding of innovations, should extend to the 
rediscovery of traditional or indigenous resources for peace-building and 
human security," she said.

African philosophies emphasise a way of life that acknowledges obligations, 
and seeks harmony, balance and equilibrium.

As such, all aspects of life are based on relationships embracing 
courtesies and dignities of daily life.

It is upon such principles that the spirit of Ubuntu, an attitude of 
togetherness in spirit and humanhood, is founded.

Dr. Ishmail Noko, General Secretary of LWF, describes Ubuntu (or Botho) as 
bearing the central meaning that nobody can survive and realise their full 
human potentials in isolation from others - whether the isolation is by 
choice or imposed.

According to Sultan Somjee from the African Peace Museums in Nairobi, the 
difference between the conflicts we experience now and those of the past, 
is the fact that whereas we do not seem to be able to resolve our feuds, 
our forefathers always had solutions for theirs.

Among many African communities, several different methods of resolving 
conflicts have been used.

Margaret Arach of the Landmine Survivors' Network in Uganda says that the 
various methods of resolving conflicts are universal but rather unique to 
countries, communities or even clans.

"The uniqueness of these traditions is based on the values of the members 
of specific communities, but whenever peace needs to be fostered between 
members of different communities, shared values are invoked," says Arach.

The Acholi of Uganda have since time immemorial used Mato-Oput, a 
reconciliation ritual, to bring together communities or individuals in 

In this ritual, the persons or communities involved appear before a council 
of elders (Lotido Apoki), where the root cause of the conflict is 
identified after scrutiny.  When the guilt is admitted and justice 
administered, the two parties are blessed and a covenant of peace is made.

Prof. Odora believes that the jewel in Africa's frame of reference in 
conflict mediation and resolution responses are interwoven in two elements, 
namely: a tradition of family and neighbourhood negotiations facilitated by 
elders, and the attitude of togetherness.

"Beneath these, is a profound commitment to community and an orientation to 
the comprehensive view of life through the two-fold mechanism of 
co-operation, and complementing one another," she observes.

Separateness and individualism, which set people against each other, are 
not part of African culture. Peace building in African communities does not 
acknowledge others as enemies, victors, or even victims. "Demonising others 
is diametrically opposed to the idea of Ubuntu," says Dr. Noko.

The traditional African approach views conflicts as non-isolated events in 
life. Moreover, experts say that distinctive African way views conflicts 
and their resolutions as events in a comprehensive continuum of social life.

Says Dr. Noko: "Conflict is not new to Africa. It has not been imported to 
this continent from outside, although external influences are significant 
factors. In the same way, peace cannot be imported from outside the 
continent. It must be created here from local ingredients."

"Our respective faith traditions and our cultural backgrounds provide us 
with many valuable raw materials for this process," he adds.

A Community That Sees AIDS As A Cultural Taboo

The Luo community in Tanzania believe that AIDS is a new term for Chira 
(curse) from Nyasaye Nyacalaga (Supreme Creator).  They continue to perform 
some harmful traditional practices such as tero or widow inheritance, and 
prefer doho (polygamy) and  ochodororo (entertainment of 
prostitutes).  They don't believe much on AIDS, but are very afraid of 
Chira, writes AANA Correspondent Daniel Benno Msangya.

IDS is still considered to be chira among  the Luo in northern Tanzania, 
around the eastern shores of the Lake Victoria.  And they believe that 
chira can not be treated in hospitals, similar to what they hear about AIDS.

Experts in health and education sectors say that the community cannot 
distinguish between HIV/AIDS and chira, owing to striking similarities in 
the symptoms.

Chira for instance,  is a gradual loss of weight that befalls one who 
breaks a taboo and therefore  punished	with a curse by ancestors. These 
symptoms, as the Luo  see it, are similar to those experienced by AIDS 

Christian Konjra, a village elder in Tarime district, says that taboo 
breakers must spontaneously be cursed. He maintains for example that, 
"marrying a young wife of your father when he is still alive will result 
into chira."

He also adds that marrying before one's elder brothers was not acceptable 
traditionally, and would automatically lead to chira.  "But today, they do 
whatever they want because they no longer believe in what they call 
out-dated beliefs".

Konjra is the author of a book titled Otieno Achach (Mischievous Otieno), a 
novel written  in Dholuo (1966).  He is also a former Catholic Catechist in 
Kowak Mission in Tarime.

The village elder agrees that AIDS infection among the Luo is high.  The 
major areas affected include the fishing villages around Lake Victoria, and 
market centres.

According to Konjra, most of the divorced women from far away  as Awendo, 
Migori, Kisumu, Kericho and Nairobi in Kenya, and from other towns like 
Mwanza, Dar es Salaam and Arusha in Tanzania come to the fishing camps and 
to every rural market where they get hired as cooks for the fishermen.

They later accompany the fishermen to dance in local bars, and this 
eventually leads to other forms of entertainment. "This is the main reason 
why the rate of  chira is high,"  Konjra explains.

He adds that most of them come to earn income as commercial sexual workers 
and brewers of local drinks.

"They attract  men in many ways," says Konjra.	"Many are experts in 
seductive belly dancing during popular traditional tunes played by orutu 
(an equivalent of the violin) and nyatiti (traditional harp)," he elaborates.

Otunda Okech (not real name), a highly educated man who worked in Mwanza as 
a manager of a private campany, was forced by clansmen to perform the tero 
ritual (inheritance of the widow of one's brother).

Okech died towards the end of last year in Mwanza, where he had been 
diagnosed as suffering from AIDS.

After his funeral in the village of Omuga in Luo-Imbo Division, the village 
council decided that Nyaloca, the wife of the deceased (Otunda Okech) must 
be inherited to fulfil Luo rites.

Names of potential inheritors were floated.  The name of a young brother of 
the deceased featured high on the list.  That was Otieno Okech. He was 
considered the closest brother-in-law to the widow.

The village diviner (Ajuoga) was consulted to clear any possible doubts 
about the possibilities of Otieno inheriting the widow, the children and 
property of the deceased.  After engaging in vigorous rituals, he declared 
that Otieno was the chosen one.

But Otieno is too young to take care of two wives.  He already has a wife 
with three children. Nevertheless, it would be difficult for him to escape 
Ajuoga's decision, which elders among his clansmen in  Cachiemo clan support.

Ajuoga had conviced them that the late Okech had died from chira for having 
defied some traditional rites at some stage in life, and not from AIDS as 
sounded by his co-workers in Mwanza.

Many Luo people in Tanzania still believe in chira and need technical 
assistance to distinguish it from HIV/AIDS.

According to Dr. John Mtimba, the Dodoma Regional Medical Officer, TB 
(tuberculosis) infection especially candidiasis and cryptococcosis strains, 
occur frequently among HIV infected people in Tanzania.  The rate is high 
among the Luo.

Investigations indicate that male domination over women in Luo culture 
plays a great role in the spread of HIV/AIDS within their communities.

Traditionally, African women are not supposed to be outspoken about sexual 
matters, much less to negotiate safer sexual practices.

"They are handicapped because men take charge of their economic 
well-being," says Rogate Makundi, the Manager of the AIDS Network  in 
Dodoma.  Makundi is also a gender activist.

In Tanzania, the African Rural Press in Action (ARUPA) and the Tanzania 
Media Women  Association (TAMWA) campaign against the pandemic through 
media productions, both electronic and print.

Recently, President Benjamin William Mkapa came out strongly to declare a 
national struggle against the deadly pandemic. He embarked on taking a 
number of steps.

He has for example formed the Tanzania Commission for AIDS Control 
(TACAIDS) under the Prime Ministers' office, to oversee the implementation 
of the National AIDS Policy.

The President has also called upon the government, communities, 
individuals, religious organisations, non-governmental organisations, 
private institutions, schools and  colleges to join hands in eradicating 
the scourge.

In addition he says that men should use their masculinity in fighting 
against the pandemic, underlining that they could "make a difference".

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home