number 7, december 11, 1998

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Africans put their case to the West

Africa’s humanity had been trampled upon by the north and its heritage uprooted. Nevertheless, there was a lot in Western culture that Africans should not refuse.

Dr Mercy Oduyoye, a Ghanaian teaching at Trinity Theological College in the USA and former WCC deputy general secretary, said this in response to a question during an assembly press conference on African matters.

She was asked about Africa adopting issues such as abortion, feminism and Marxism.

"Why should Africans refuse feminism just because it is Western?" she asked. "African women are asking for the same thing (as women elsewhere).

Oduyoye refuted the idea that abortion was a Western phenomenon. "It is not something only Western. I have also seen it in my own culture." She would also neither condemn nor approve of abortion without first enquiring about the details of each case.

Although homosexuality has frequently been denounced as "a Western sickness" and "un-African", Oduyoye was wary of homophobia in Africa.

"That’s something for the individuals and their pastors to deal with -- if, indeed, it needs to be dealt with."

Oduyoye expressed more concern about people "forcing their sexuality" on others — referring to the practice of "male entitlement to female sexuality".

The one phenomenon that she said Africans should not emulate was Western individualism, a philosophy by which people tended to ignore community needs.

On debt relief for Africa, another panelist, Mr Clement Janda, general secretary of the All Africa Council of Churches (AACC), said Africans were asking whether they should be struck by Hurricane Mitch.

After the hurricane devastated large parts of Latin America, some countries wiped off debts owed by countries affected by it.

"So we asked whether we should invite Hurricane Mitch to Africa for us to be taken seriously. How many children must die first, how many people destroyed, how much of the ecology destroyed, before we are taken seriously?" he asked.

Asked what the church in Africa was doing to mediate in civil wars, Janda said that the AACC had brought together church leaders and activists of all countries involved in the Democratic Republic of Congo war.

Responding to a question of what solidarity Africa expected from the West, Oduyoye replied, "We need special projects for women’s theological education and leadership training." Grants for these seemed to be allocated to men.

She also spoke against racism and xenophobia in Europe. "Make Africans living among you up north feel at home. Often they feel as if they are not wanted," she said.

On the issue of the growth of Christianity in Africa. Oduyoye said this was "disturbing". Many poor people looked for psychological healing for the church, "putting their pain at the foot of the cross", while nothing changed in their economic and other miseries once they left the church building.

Churches were helping in areas like unemployment of young people, she conceded, but bigger issues needed to be taken up to make the church credible.

Related documents and articles:

African Padares Coverage

Read other articles in this issue:

Union wants WCC to tackle Mugabe on banning strikes
Padare: the good and the bad story
Africans put their case to the West
Take Black Theology seriously, WCC told
Polygamy issue resolved
African 'gentility, humility' model for next millennium
Africa's gift of Ubuntu
Don't turn other cheek, women victims told
Churches want state to re-regulate markets
Malawi president won't sign death penalty
Chaz is all over the campus

8th Assembly and 50th Anniversary

copyright 1998 World Council of Churches. Remarks to webeditor