What Has Africa Done to Organised Religion to Deserve This?
The recent declaration made by the Roman Catholic Pope on the use of condoms while on his way to Africa has caused widespread hue and cry against a church that faithfully supports outmoded principles, no matter how harsh the consequences may be. But the Catholic Church is not the only culprit. At a time when Africa is plagued by social injustices, health disasters and governance issues, do we really need religious leaders crusading for ideological prescriptions that could spell enormous setbacks to health and human rights achievements? The Nigerian Anglican Archbishop has also prayed for the brutalisation of other humans to promote his ideology in a backdrop of Islamist extremism.Since the 5th century (Pope Gelasius I, 492 to 496), Africa has not seen any African elected into the prominent papal office as pope. Africa, — throughout its brutal slave history, condoned by a church that allowed the establishment of incomprehensible symbolisms like building churches atop slave dungeons as well as owning slaves whom they considered souless, — has much too often bitten the dust to the gloatful anticipation of men who kill in God’s name. Recent examples are the Nigerian Anglican Archbishop’s loud call for a statutory brutalization of other human beings (homosexuals) alongside the Pope’s campaign against the use of life saving condoms, bring the question of love and hate to the fore. Is the church’s universal message of love embedded in hypocrisy? Why would they rather people die or be tortured to promote their message. Is this a return to the dispensation of crusades where religious groups would leave no stone unturned to promote their ideologies no matter how much distress they may cause humanity? What has become of the religions of love and wisdom?
The world has come a long way since the golden era of absolute rule, during which a king’s vision of what was right could spell abysmal doom for anyone who did not fit into his defined margins. But times have changed and the quest for civilisation and human rights has paved the way for human development. Black people do not occupy the statutory ranks of animals anymore. Women have joined the rank and file of political leadership. Jews can freely practice their religion. Moslems can live and worship in what was originally considered as Christian nations. The Anglican Church has apologised for branding its African slaves like animals (Bury the Chains) whilst a part of it has advocated for an end to institutionalised homophobia.
So one would ask why the Catholic Pope would advice millions of Africans with little or no Reproductive Health Education at all to abandon condom use? Could the answer lie in the havoc the Thabo Mbeki denial of HIV/AIDS wrecked on whole populations in the Southern African region? Are his stands on condoms, which have been proven to be an indisputably effective tool against the spread of HIV, meant to further annihilate the African populations? Considering the fact that 67% – of the world’s 32.9 million people with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa? As rightly put by the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, “More people (…) died of Aids in the past year (1999-2000, ndlr) in Africa than in all the wars on the continent”. Could this mean that anti condom campaigns are, in effect, worse than pro-war advocacy? One would think that the Catholic Church has drawn enough lessons from its hard-line advocacies of the past which saw the near annihilation of Indian populations, its involvement in African slavery while insisting that Africans had no soul, its inaction during the holocaust…
Digging the dagger deeper, Franco Moretti, director of a periodical on Christian missions in Africa, was quoted by the Financial Times this month as saying that the Pope outlines”ideals” but “the principles have to be adapted to context! With a higher educational level and freedom from outmoded traditional practices, Europeans, to a large extent, have understood the benefits of informing the youth and less sexually experienced persons on protective measures rather than abstinence. Because whatever the case, people will have sex and the better they are equipped, for surprises that could affect their lives as well as others, the better. In fact, the February 14, 2009, edition of the economist pointed out that, “a research from the University of Washington suggests that teens who receive comprehensive sex education have a 50% lower risk (…) than those enrolled in abstinence-only courses. According to a health professional at the Global Fund in Geneva, “abstinence is not a prevention tool per se as it is only a partial or total suppression of sexual relations. Besides, in tradition based societies, like Africa, where men are, usually, to be obeyed and not expected to be accountable to their wives, suggesting faithfulness as an alternative to condom use is condemning millions of women to death, especially in countries where getting access to treatments can be very harsh”. Mr. Moretti might want to pay a visit to an African village to find out how people would intellectualise and “adapt” the anti-condom position “to context”. Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice, is quoted as saying; “This is a myopic view of sexuality and a nonsense-based approach to public health (…) We know that for many people, abstinence does not work. In order to be free from HIV we have got to give people in developing countries the choices that we enjoy in the North.”
Considered among the most knowledgeable men since time immemorial, the Catholic priesthood certainly has access to the numerous Western research analysis that prove that condom use has curtailed the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially in Europe.
As for the Nigerian Anglican Archbishop, Peter Akinola, it only takes a look at his appeal made at the Nigerian Senate to see through him: a robe wearing Bishop asking for fellow human beings to be mercilessly brutalised, without remorse. Gone are the days when the display of tolerance and love to further God’s message was the order of the day. The bible’s golden rule of love thy neighbour as thyself has become hate thy neighbour as thou ‘despiseth’ no other. Priests are gallivanting the face of the earth, advocating for mass deaths and torture while we stand on the sidelines and watch… . If only Africans would recognise organised religion’s incessant battle to crush their beliefs to the benefit of a religious culture that was carefully put together in Rome, the same culture that politically promoted sexual and racial intolerance while making Africans believe that the homosexuality was imported whilst Christianity is African. If only we had the slightest clue of the ongoing process of the redefinition of our hard earned civilisation and freedom. Al-quaeda is not the only threat to our future freedom.
This article originally appeared in Afrik News.