number 7, december 11, 1998

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African 'gentility, humility' model for next millennium

By Mitch Odero

An African theologian yesterday proposed that assembly participants take home the "African gentility and humility found in our culture and which has been demonstrated by South African President Nelson Mandela as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission".

Professor Jesse Mugambi of Nairobi University suggested that "the spirit of the (South African) Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be the assignment for the next millennium for the international Christian community."

Making a padare presentation, he noted, "Won’t it be good to start a new millennium with a public acknowledgment of our sins in this century, followed by forgiveness?

"If this can happen between Koreans and Japanese, if this could happen in respect of slavery, if we could hear forgiveness and reconciliation in Vietnam, China, the United States and elsewhere?"

Paying tribute to Mandela, he recalled that despite serving 27 years in jail, Mandela had not lost the African culture of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Mugambi, who has authored several books on theology, noted that the current debate on the place of women in the church was never a problem in pre-colonial Africa and in the African Independent Churches.

"In the history of Africa, women were founders of religion and high priests." he added.

Referring to Africa’s contribution to development of knowledge, he said, "In the time of the shaping of Greek philosophy some 500 BC, Africa was the centre of learning and one was considered learned if he had been to institutions in Africa."

Noting that Christianity was now several centuries old in Africa, he said it would have been good if at least "the fifth century of Euro-Christian presence was being celebrated along with WCC’s 50th anniversary".

There was no war between evangelicals and ecumenists in Africa, he said. "The war is elsewhere where it has taken an ideological undertones."

He however expressed regret that some prominent non-African evangelicals had supported colonialism and apartheid in Africa. They included "Africa Evangelistic Enterprise", which fought against sanctions imposed on apartheid South Africa, and others who threw their support behind pre-liberation ruler in Zimbabwe, Ian Smith.

Prof. Mugambi, a professor of religious studies and philosophy, noted that globalisation had triggered a process of reconsolidation of confessional families. This would affect the ecumenical movement at a time when churches in Africa are experiencing a withdrawal of support from their traditional partners, who are redirecting support to eastern Europe.

He noted that in the coming century, pan-Africanism is likely to embrace Africans in the diaspora.

"Pan-Africanism in the next century will be one in which the largest African nation will be Brazil," he said. At present, blacks make up three quarters of Brazil’s population.

The padare was hosted by the World Student Christian Federation’s regional office for Africa, and Mugambi spoke on "500 years of colonisation of Africa".

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