Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Nigeria criticized Western attitudes toward Africa at a press conference that occured during the current Vatican synod of the human family. Denouncing foreigners’ attitudes concerning African culture, the archbishop said that Africans "have come of age," and that "we should be allowed to think for ourselves."
"We are wooed by economic things," said Archbishop Kaigama. "We are told if you limit your population, we’re going to give you so much. And we tell them, ‘Who tells you that our population is overgrown?’ "
Archbishop Kaigama is the shepherd of Jos: a city in Nigeria that has been the focus of Muslim persecution. Hundreds of Christians have been murdered, and scores of churches destroyed, by a violent Muslim sect known as Boko Haram. The express intention of Boko Haram is to impose Muslim rule and law throughout Nigeria. Archbishop Kaigama is one of three dozen African prelates attending the Synod of Bishops that started on October 5 and continues to October 19. He spoke at an October 8 briefing at the Vatican along with heads of the continent’s bishops’ conferences.
Here follow Archbishop Kaigama’s remarks in full:
We are confronted with some issues, and sometimes [they are] quite perplexing. We recently had a big conference on pro-life issues, and in that conference, we came out very clearly to ascertain the fact that life is sacred, marriage is scared, and the family has dignity.
We get international organizations, countries, and groups which like to entice us to deviate from our cultural practices, traditions, and even our religious beliefs. And this is because of their belief that their views should be our views. Their opinions and their concept of life should be ours.
We say, "No we have come of age." Most countries in Africa are independent for 50, 60, 100 years. We should be allowed to think for ourselves. We should be able to define: What is marriage? What makes the family? When does life begin? We should have answers to those [questions].
We are wooed by economic things. We are told, "If you limit your population, we’re going to give you so much." And we tell them, "Who tells you that our population is overgrown?" In the first place, children die — infant mortality — we die in inter-tribal wars, and diseases of all kinds. And yet, you come with money to say, "Decrease your population; we will give you economic help."
Now you come to tell us about reproductive rights, and you give us condoms and artificial contraceptives. Those are not the things we want. We want food, we want education, we want good roads, regular light, and so on. Good health care.
We have been offered the wrong things, and we are expected to accept simply because they think we are poor. And we are saying poverty is not about money. One can be poor in spirituality, poor in ideas, poor in education, and in many other ways.
So we are not poor in that sense. We may be poor materially but we are not poor in every sense. So we say no to what we think is wrong. And time has gone when we would just follow without question. Now, we question. We evaluate. We decide. We ask questions. This is what we do in Africa now.
Martin Barillas is editor of Spero News, where this article originally appeared. It is published here with permission. He is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.