Friday, November 12, 2010

Africa is not hopeless...Our destiny is in our hands

In October 2009, the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, gathered 33 cardinals, 79 archbishops, 156 bishops, a number of priests, nuns and lay people, men and women, to consider the theme "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace."

For three straight weeks, the assembly made their way through a series of weighty matters, ranging from migrants and refugees, elections, politics, environmental evangelization, family, international aid and trade, inculturation and Mary, Our Lady of Africa.

A section of bishops at the opening Mass of the Synod

Scanning through the draft version of the final message released at the end of the assembly, i get a strong sense that this is one of the most comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the picture that is Africa today.

The last few years have been for me very intense to live in Africa, and to be an African. This intensity has perhaps been enhanced by the fact that i have had the opportunity to meet people from different parts of Africa, and the world, and often we would be sharing life from different perspectives.

For a continent that has witnessed both the ruthlessness of apartheid...and the magnanimity and courage of leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu in South Africa..a continent that has endured the horrors of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, and ongoing violence in Darfur and Eastern Congo...while hosting the World Cup soccer tournament in is impossible to imagine the two faces of the continent - suffering and beauty.

While acknowledging the myriad of problems that Africa as a continent is faced with, Fr.Kieran O’Reilly, a missionary priest, in his presentation to the Synod had this to say about the image of Africa that is seldom seen in the media:

"...the Africa of immense beauty, of open spaces and luminous skies, the Africa of ordinary people who humble us by their stoicism, selflessness and exuberant delight in company. This is not the Africa of helpless victims, worthy only of pity. It is rather the Africa of song and dance, of laughter and celebration, of energy, creativity and resilience. It is an Africa that can teach us a lot about what it means to be human about reconciliation about achieving Justice and establishing Peace despite many images to the contrary, and remind us of values that are fast disappearing from the developed countries of the world."

Fascinating...but true. Many first time visitors to Africa that i have met, have said to me that their whole perspective towards life has changed. I hear them trying to express in words, something that must be very deep...that only they truly understand. It is no wonder that many of them have been back or dream to come back.
In my own country, after being literary on the brink of collapse at the end of 2007, Kenya is now on what seems to be the path to renewed nationhood, one of unity and hope.
In about 8 or so weeks, Africa might give birth to its youngest child, South Sudan. I pray that the referendum works out peacefully. Sudan has been through more than 2 decades of civil war, between the north and the south.

Flag of South Sudan
You only have to go to Sunday Mass at Nairobi's Hekima college (Jesuit Theologate), and see the number of people belonging to the Sudanese community, to understand what war does to a country. In Guinea Conakry, the military junta has organized elections and has pledged to support whoever is democratically elected by the people. The Ivorians have just been through the first round of elections after a 10-year period. The incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo will face-off with Alasanne Outtara in the second round. I hope that this will mark the return of Ivory Coast to its former prosperous past.

When i speak to my friends, i see in them a young generation of Africans who have no prejudice for their peers based on tribe or religion. I see in them people full of positive hope, amazing talent and potential...and more importantly people full of human values.
But what is even more encouraging, is the fact that Africa is not alone.At the concluding Mass of the Synod, Pope Benedict XVI assured the continent that "...The whole Catholic Church is near you with prayer and active solidarity, and you are accompanied from heaven by the men and women saints of Africa, who with their life -- sometimes to the point of martyrdom -- have witnessed to total fidelity to Christ."
I can personally witness to this fact: after their experience in Kenya and Tanzania in July/August of 2009, a group of young Polish friends meet every month to pray for and with Africa. I bet many such groups exist across the world. I hope that this new generation will bring about a new international solidarity, that can show 'clubs' such as the 'G20' what solidarity really means.
Here is a prayer that concludes the Synod's message:

Africa, rise up, take up your pallet, and walk! (Jn 5:8)
"In the meantime, brothers,
We wish you happiness.
Try to grow perfect,
Help one another.
Be united; live in peace
And the God of love
And peace will be with you."
(2 Cor 13:11)

Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika! God Bless Africa! Mungu ibariki Afrika!

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