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Nigerian Woman Pleads for Synod to Respect the Views of African Bishops

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AP Photo/Ben Curtis

Obianuju Ekeocha - published on 10/16/14 - updated on 06/08/17

Why should the universal Church have different teachings for different cultures?

In an interview with Zenit published Wednesday, Cardinal Walter Kasper pointed out the cultural differences between the West on one hand and Africa and Asia on the other with respect to issues being discussed in the Extraordinary Synod – such as the acceptance of homosexuality:

The problem, as well, is that there are different problems of different continents and different cultures. Africa is totally different from the West … especially about gays. You can’t speak about this with Africans and people of Muslim countries. It’s not possible. It’s a taboo. For us, we say we ought not to discriminate, we don’t want to discriminate in certain respects.

The Cardinal stated that the Synod’s African participants are not being listened to on issues concerning gays, as a result of this cultural gulf. For that reason, he expects that in the Synod’s final report, “there must be a general line in the Church, general criteria, but then the questions of Africa we cannot solve. … But they should not tell us too much what we have to do.”

Obianuju Ekeocha, a Roman Catholic from Nigeria who now works as a biomedical scientist in England, responded to these comments on Culture of Life Africa, an organization of which she is a founding member. The text of her statement follows:

Many Africans have been prayerfully following the reports from the Extraordinary Synod. As I say this I think of my mother who is living out her faith in the small city of Owerri in Nigeria. She has assured me that many of the women in her small parish are fervently praying for all the Synod Fathers, that they may be strengthened and sustained by the Holy Spirit during this important synod. Many of these women in my home parish where I grew up are materially poor but spiritually rich with tremendous love for the Church. And it is such a marvel to me that the Catholic Church is so universal that it embraces people of every race, nation, culture, tribe and tongue.

So imagine my shock today as I read the words of one of the most prominent Synod Fathers  who implied that the views and values that our African Synod Fathers have expressed on certain issues will not or have not been listened to (probably by the Synod Fathers from the Western and more wealthy parts of the world).
He also went further to say:

…the questions of Africa we cannot solve. There must be space also for the local bishops’ conferences to solve their problems but I’d say with Africa it’s impossible [for us to solve]. But they should not tell us too much what we have to do.

Reading this interview brought many tears to my eyes and much sadness to my heart because, as an African woman now living in Europe, I am used to having my moral views and values ignored or put down as an "African issue"or an "African view point." I have had people imply that I am not sophisticated or evolved enough in my understanding of human sexuality, homosexuality, marriage, the sanctity of human life from conception, openness to life and so-called "over-population."

So as a result, in many circles, any contributions I make in discussions are placed in second or third rung.
How can Africa stand shoulder to shoulder with other cultures if our views are considered uncouth or uncool by a standard strictly scripted by Western, worldly and wealthy nations?

This is touching and troubling to me but in spite of this unfair reality, I have always been confident that the one place where there is true universality and unity is within the Catholic Church. The one place where the standard is scripted by God Himself through the Scriptures and Magisterium.

I am a third generation Christian and the Gospel has been accepted and handed over to me from my grandparents through my parents. I, and millions of Africans like myself, have been raised to love the Church and to trust that the Church will always hold up the unchanging truth of the Gospel. That she will hold up this truth high enough for every Christian in every part of the world to see, even the most far-flung, uneducated and poorest ones in the most rural parts of Africa. Yes. I know many people where I come from who cannot read the actual words of the Gospel, but they have heard and embraced the Good News brought to them by the Church. Some of them could have chosen polygamy but because the Church has taught them what true marriage is they have resisted and overcome this lifestyle. Some of them could choose infidelity but the Church lovingly has taught them that this choice is contrary to the Gospel. Some of them may have wanted to get into a convenient and cheaper arrangement of cohabitation but the Church says that is not consistent with the Gospel.

Through all of this fidelity to the teachings of Christ, African churches have flourished and blossomed even in the midst of the most difficult tragedies, even in the most extreme conditions and in the face of a growing cultural imperialism from the Western nations.

When Africans lose everything, they still have their families and they have their faith. And this is how we remain resilient even in the darkest and most turbulent times by leaning on the unchanging Faith preserved in the Church and by clinging to our unbroken families protected by the heart of the Church.

So I respectfully turn to your Eminence and to all the Western Synod Fathers who may not want to listen or consider the African contributions at the Synod, and I appeal to you as a woman raised in the world of the poor but faithful ones. Our moral views and values are not irrelevant to the universal Church. Even when we express views that are considered countercultural and politically incorrect by the preeminent worldly and western standards, our unflinching hope is that all the Synod Fathers will listen to us and consider the devastating effects that will be unleashed upon millions of faithful families in Africa if our world is redefined and reshaped.

Our heart-felt appeal for Gospel values to be upheld is indeed a cry for survival for our people. Because in this year alone many African nations and leaders have been terrorised and threatened by powerful and well-funded homosexual lobbying groups who have tried to bend us or break us into acceptance of their lifestyle.

We have seen humanitarian aid withdrawn by Western nations at the insistence of these totalitarian groups. We have seen a new brand of "comprehensive sexuality education" targeted at our African children. We have suffered the scourge of abortion lobbyists from the West. We have been forced to welcome extremely rich western philanthropists bearing the unwanted "gift" of contraception.

All of these have become a heavy cultural noose around our neck which could very easily enslave us or destroy us if we resist. And this is why we weep and cry at the feet of all the Synod Fathers to hear and respect the voices of our African synod Fathers on these issues that have been blown into Africa by a powerful wind from the West.

No, these are not just "African problems," they are global problems that have violently ravaged many western societies with an unacceptably high toll on marriages and families.

If the structure and stature of marriage and family life is to be protected everywhere for peoples of all cultures, all races, all nations, tongues and tribes, if this our Catholic Church is truly a universal church where the poor are considered the "treasures of the Church," then all the Fathers of the Synod should protect us by unanimously and heroically rising in defence of these "unsophisticated," "unevolved" and "uncool" Gospel views and values that are still being proclaimed loudly and clearly from the Altar of the tiniest and poorest parish church in Africa. For we are the Church Universal.

Respectfully and humbly I lay down my appeal at thy feet your Eminence.

Consider the tears of the poor who confidently turn to you.

Obianuju Ekeocha
was born and raised in Nigeria. She has a BSc in Microbiology from the University of Nigeria and an MSc in Biomedical Science from the University of East London. She is currently living and working as a Specialist Biomedical Scientist in England. She is a founding member of Culture of Life Africa, an initiative dedicated to the promotion and propagation of the Gospel of Life in Africa through the dissemination of good information, sensitization and education. 

Tags:
HomosexualitySynod on the Family
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