The Parliament Blog

Archive for the ‘africa’ tag

Why the next Pope should come from the Global South

By Wesley Granberg-Michaelson


(RNS) As the 117 Roman Catholic cardinals walk into the Sistine Chapel month for the election of a new pope, one hopes that they fully recognize the unfolding, dramatic pilgrimage of world Christianity: The demographic center of Christian faith has moved decisively to the Global South.

Over the past century, this astonishing demographic shift is the most dramatic geographical change that has happened in 2,000 years of Christian history. Trends in the Catholic Church — comprising about 1 out of 2 Christians in the world — have generally followed this global pattern:

  • In 1900, about 2 million of the world’s Catholic faithful lived in Africa; by 2010, this had grown to 177 million.
  • 11 million Catholics were found in Asia in 1900; by 2010 there were 137 million Asian Catholics.
  • Through colonial expansion, 59 million Catholics populated Latin America and the Caribbean in 1900; but by 2010, that number had grown to 483 million.
  • In 1900, two-thirds of the world’s Catholic believers were in Europe and North America; today, two-thirds are in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

But the dramatic shift of world Christianity’s population to the Global South, for both Catholics and Protestants, has not been accompanied by any commensurate change in its centers of administrative power, influence, and authority. For the Catholic Church, this geographic disconnect between official authority and demographic vitality is reflected dramatically in the composition of the 117 voting cardinals: 62 of them are from Europe and 14 are from North America. Only one-third are from Asia, Africa, and Latin America combined.

Yet, one act by the College of Cardinals can create a dramatic, symbolic and powerful change in this present dissonant reality — namely, electing a pope from the Global South.

When the white smoke billows from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, what would it mean if the new pontiff were from Africa, Asia, or Latin America?

First, it would signify that the cardinals are attempting to embrace the future, rather than simply trying to maintain the past. The shift in Christianity,  which already has placed two-thirds of the world’s Catholics in the Global South, will only accelerate. If the public face of half the world’s Christians reflects a region other than Europe, it would be a powerful sign that the Catholic Church is looking forward.

Second, a pope from the Global South could redress the present imbalance of geographic power within the Vatican itself. Changing the overall composition of the College of Cardinals to reflect more genuinely the demographic realities of their church will take decades. But for now, there’s a historically unique opportunity to alter this dynamic by placing ultimate authority in a pope from the Southern Hemisphere.

Third, selecting a pope from the Global South would be a powerful affirmation for Catholics from those regions who already feel that they are on the margins of the church’s structures of authority and power. With Europeans serving as pope since the year 741, and European cardinals today comprising more than half of the College of Cardinals, it’s no wonder that the rising numbers of Catholics in Asia, Latin America, and Africa feel marginalized from power. They are.

Think of what would happen if, when the words “Habemus Papam” are announced, an African face appears at the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. Simply consider how a 14-year-old African-American in Detroit felt about America when Barack Obama was sworn in as president, and multiply that by the feelings of several hundred million toward their church.

Of course, many will immediately say that it’s nearly sacrilegious to suggest electing a pope on the basis of some geographical quota system. This is a matter of the deepest spiritual discernment, they would say, to seek a person of inspired vision, spiritual integrity, administrative wisdom, and pastoral skill, regardless of geographical origin.

In many ways I agree. Yet, should we honestly believe that those qualities are to be found only among Europeans (and North Americans)? Should we assume that no one among the 40 cardinals in that conclave from Latin America, Africa, and Asia has those qualities, and could be called by God? And couldn’t such spiritual affirmative action be inspired by the Holy Spirit?

Others will say that a pope could be elected from the Global South who is so conservative that he could take the church backwards. That’s possible, but the same could be said for a pope from the North. Even so, it’s more likely that a pontiff from Latin America, Africa, or Asia will carry the concerns reflected in those regions, such as evangelical outreach, social justice, relations with other faiths, and contextualized forms of liturgical expression.

I’m a Protestant, so my observations are those of an outsider, as a sincere ecumenical friend. But as the entire Christian church struggles in its responses to world Christianity’s rapid shift to the Global South, the Catholic Church suddenly finds itself with a rare, unexpected opportunity. Selecting a non-European would be a prophetic spiritual gift to the whole Christian community, and beyond. Normal church “politics” wouldn’t produce such a result. It would take a work of the Holy Spirit.

(The Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson is the former general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, and plays an active role in ecumenical organizations, including the steering committee of the Global Christian Forum. His forthcoming book discusses how “The Post-Christian West Meets the Non-Western Church.”)

Originally published by the Religion News Service on February 18, 2013. Republished with pemission of author.

Bishops and Extractive Industries: A Human Face of Mining

Katherine Marshall

by Katherine Marshall
from the Huffington Post

In far flung corners of the world, religious leaders are protesting against mining companies and projects. What are their complaints? In Guatemala, they argue that gold mining poisons the water table, in Chad that painfully negotiated revenues that promised to ease the pain of poverty are nowhere in sight, in Ecuador that oil drilling devastates the landscape, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Nigeria that mining feeds devastating conflicts, in Ghana that mining in forest reserves threatens animal and plant species, in India that it strips indigenous people of their land rights, and in Peru that it pollutes lakes and rivers. The litany goes on and on but the underlying story told is one of broken promises, of powerful companies for whom profit is their God, and of a wounded planet whose land resources are despoiled with little to show, harming the people who live nearby.

It’s not that the church leaders are fighting a futile battle to stop all mining. As a statement of Catholic Bishops from Latin America who met last July in Chaclacayo, Peru began, “the church recognizes the importance of the extractive industries, the service they can provide to mankind and the economies of the world, and the progress they contribute to society as a whole.” But, there is a long list of “buts.” The bishops’ bottom line is that they see an irrational exploitation that leaves a trail of destruction, even death, throughout Latin America.

At the Washington National Cathedral an unlikely gathering of bishops, preachers, and advocates met on April 24 to explore how they might join forces both to draw attention to the harm that bad mining practices wreak on people and land, and to point to practical, positive ways to move forward. The prime movers behind the effort are the Bank Information Center, its indomitable leader, Chad Dobson and Father Seamus Finn, whose work with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility has focused for years on nudging and cajoling companies towards responsibility in their corporate practice. Two large faith inspired organizations, Catholic Relief Services and Tearfund, have long campaigned for responsible mining and support the new coalition.

Click here to read the full article

Nigeria: Sultan Attributes Violence to Lack of Religious Understanding

from AllAfrica.com

The Sultan of Sokoto, Dr Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, said in Sokoto on Monday that lack of education was the root cause of violence in the country.

Abubakar spoke while receiving the President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue in the Vatican, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, who paid him a visit in his palace in Sokoto.

He said people were not knowledgeable enough about their religions and as such took issues in the negative.

According to him, our people do not know the similarities between Islam and Christianity due to lack of education.

The Sultan added that it was important that we must always teach adherents the true meaning of religion.

He said that that was because if people had knowledge about the similarities of the two religions there would not be conflict in the polity, the Sultan said.

Click here to read the full article. 

My Female Faith Hero: Ms. Fatuma Gebril

by Katie Taylor
from the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty.

Ms. Fatima Gerbil knows from personal experience the challenges children in her community face. As a child Fatuma became an orphan, and as she grew older, she began to understand more and more the personal burden carried by parentless children.

In 2003, she started the Community-Based Child Support Program, directed at both Christians and Muslims, in Bahirdar, Ethopia, which began with 87 children. Fatuma’s program focuses on educational and psychological support, as well as developing life- skills. An important part of her advocacy efforts is encouraging schools to provide financial support for orphaned children who cannot afford school fees. These include children who have lost one parent, those who have lost both parents, and those who are in living in great poverty. For children who have lost only one parent, Fatuma works to support that family financially and emotionally. For children who have lost both parents, they look for relatives, and support the family once the child is taken in.

What I find most inspirational about Fatuma‘s story was not only her passion for helping children in her community but how she is willing to try anything to improve the lives of these children. This includes leveraging religious leaders to support her cause, and she has an excellent working relationship with the imams as well as with other government and community leaders.

Fatuma also believes Imams can play a great role in eliminating harmful traditional practices such as child marriage. Imams are highly heard in the mosque. So if they speak out boldly on these harmful traditional practices, it will be easy to bring about the desired change.

Fatuma has become talented at leveraging religious institutions to support her initiatives. Thanks to her efforts, at the ritual Muslim engagement ceremony, it is now established practice for the couple to be asked, in private, if they love each other. The man will also be asked if he understands the woman’s rights. Fatuma has also established an impressive record of legal interventions in unlawful marriages with underage girls or polygamous arrangements. Her role in the community as the protector of the vulnerable has allowed her to expand her advocacy and she looks forward to establishing her programs in new neighborhoods to spread her message of equality.

Katie Taylor is Executive Director of The Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty (CIFA) CIFA engages and trains leaders from multiple faith traditions to deliver critical development messages and services. These messages link interfaith efforts with those of civil society and governmental campaigns to reduce poverty and disease.

This article is part of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation series: My Female Faith Hero honouring International Women’s Day

African Interfaith Group Calls for End to Violent Protests in Senegal

By Fredrick Nzwili
2 February (ENInews)–With less than a month to go until elections on 26 February, faith leaders in Senegal are uniting to urge peace after President Abdoulaye Wade’s attempt to gain re-election sparked violent protests across the country.

The protests follow a 30 January ruling by the Constitutional Council, the country’s top legal body, that Wade, 85, could seek a third term in office.

“In the midst of chaos and confusion, we heard the clarion call of some of the leaders, when they appealed to their faithful saying ‘Murids [one of the largest Islamic orders] are instructed to embrace peace and peaceful behavior’ and another said ‘We call upon all Tijaniyas [another large Islamic order] to refuse to go and destroy institutions or property,” the Rev. Ishmael Noko, president of Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa said in a 31 January letter.

At least four people have died and scores were injured in the protests which began on 27 January. On 1 February, one person died after youths armed with stones clashed with security forces in Dakar, the capital.

Noko, who heads the grouping comprising of leaders from Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Baha’i and African Traditional Religion, said the deaths were unacceptable and cautioned against the exploitation of youth and other vulnerable groups in the conflict.

“It is our hope that through you religious leaders, we can extend a call to all political formations not to exploit or take advantage of fellow citizens for personal gain,” he said.

He said violence will neither explain the reasons nor ask the question why the court ruled in favour of the third term.

According to Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Wade’s third term bid is considered illegal by the opposition since the constitution allows only two terms. But the president and his party argue the new constitution was adopted after he was elected and that it is legal for him to seek the term.

Ahead of the ruling, Roman Catholic Archbishop Theodore Sarr of Dakar had said the elections should be held in an atmosphere of peace, just like the others in the past. “The citizenry should respect the constitution and commit themselves according to the law,” Sarr said, according to media reports.

In Dakar, Sheikh Saliou Mbacke, coordinator of Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa in an email interview with ENInews said some religious leaders were calling on Wade to withdraw for the sake of peace. “The leader is from the Niassene family [a branch of the Tijaniya],” Mbacke added.

Amidst growing poverty and unemployment, Wade has been criticized for excessive spending on projects such as the African Renaissance Statue, a 160 foot bronze structure that cost US$27 million.

Webinar: Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa

Parliament Webinar Series

 

Ishmael Noko

Register Now Wednesday, July 13, 2011
10:00am U.S. Central Time

Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko will address the composition of the African Interfaith movement. The issue of peacemaking is crucial for organizing communities because it is a common value shared by the diverse religious traditions in Africa. Dr. Noko will give concrete examples of how communities have moved beyond dialogue to taking action for peace, mobilizing young people, women and entire communities around specific projects. IFAPA is genuinely rooted in the tested African traditions and approaches to peacemaking.

Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko is currently the president of Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA), a body that is seeking to promote peace and stability in the context of Africa by pulling together the resources of the religious communities. IFAPA was the recipient of the Carus Award at the 2009 Parliament for outstanding contribution to the interreligious movement. Dr. Noko was the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation from 1994 to 2010. His mandate covered international affairs, refugee issues, ecumenical affairs and dialogue with people of diverse religious communities. Dr. Noko is the recipient of many international awards and ten honorary doctorates.

Title: Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa
Date:
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Time: 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM CDT

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
System Requirements PC-based attendees Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Macintosh®-based attendees Required: Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or newer
Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/268171134

 

 

July 11th, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Until the Violence Stops: Faith, Sexual Violence, and Peace in the Congo

From The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue

Although many of the world’s religions are thought to debase women, progressive faith traditions and practices empower females as a means of attaining justice and thereby, peace. The brutal violence experienced by the women of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has summoned many religious people to come together in the pursuit of peace and justice. The Religious Institute’s Congo Sabbath Initiative is one such instance of faith traditions allying to advocate for an end to the sexual violence in the DRC. The success of the Congo Sabbath Initiative can be replicated as people of faith continue to forge the path to peace.

For the full article by Kayla Parker and Amanda Winters, in the 5th Issue of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogueplease click here.

Sudan’s Bashir offers hand of peace to south

From Reuters Africa

JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) – Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir made his final trip to the southern capital Juba on Tuesday before a January 9 vote on secession, offering a hand of peace to the southerners he fought for so long.

Bashir seemed to accept that Sudan would split in two after the referendum and his visit was seen as allaying fears that the northern government would refuse to let go of the south — which has 70 percent of Sudan’s oil output.

There have been fears that the referendum could lead to a return to war, but Bashir said he would join in the south’s independence celebrations.

Click here to read entire article.

January 4th, 2011 at 9:12 am

Ghana’s Unique African-Hindu Temple

Hindu Temple in Ghana

Hindu Temple in Ghana

From BBC

The air is filled with the sweet smell of incense burning in a corner of the huge hall.

Wrapped in shiny bright clothes, idols of Hindu gods and goddesses smile benevolently from the elevated platform.

Sitting on the white marble floor a group of more than 50 men, women and children sing devotional Hindi songs.

Nothing extraordinary about this scene, except that the temple is in Ghana and the devotees are all indigenous Africans.

The tall cone-shaped temple emerges out of the crowded neighbourhood of Orkordi on the outskirts of the capital Accra. It can be easily identified – the holy Sanskrit word ‘Om’ shines on its top.

The devotees here have no links with India and have never visited the country. Still they strictly follow religious rules and observe rituals in traditional Hindu way.

They say they have all converted to Hinduism but many still use their Christian names and African surnames.

However, they give their young ones Hindu names like Rama or Krishna.

Once inside the temple, you forget that you are a continent away from India.

Diyas or little lamps are lit in obeisance to the gods. Surprisingly, there is even a picture of Jesus Christ amid the idols of Hindu deities.

Come evening and the devotees gather in the temple hall for evening prayer rituals. Holy offerings to the gods are distributed after prayers.

Click here to read the entire article.

July 3rd, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Recipient of the 2009 Paul Carus Award Announced

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is pleased to announce that Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA) is the recipient of the Paul Carus Award. IFAPA maintains a number of humanitarian projects, and its most public activity has been in the area of conflict resolution, broadly representing numerous regions and religions on the African continent.

The Carus Award is given in memory of Dr. Paul Carus, a world-renowned scholar, writer and publisher in the fields of religion, philosophy and science. He was a key figure in the introduction of Buddhism to the West and a prominent organizer of the first Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893 in Chicago, USA.

To read the full announcement of the award, click here.