Solidarity with the poor -- or their misleaders?
September 5, 2004
The sad thing is that the "Christian right" has managed to identify "solidarity with the poor in the South" with sucking up to powerful figures like Peter Akinola - the Nigerian "big man" riding around in his chauffeur-driven, bullet-proof Mercedes, "rubbing shoulders with the rich and the powerful" as an AP story put it last November. We shouldn't be fooled by their "anti-imperialist" posture -- "standing up to Western moral decadence" and all that. It is their actual alliances and allegiances that need to be looked at, not their rhetoric.
An interesting article today in Scotland on Sunday draws out some of these:
MORE than 30 million African Anglicans are set to form a breakaway church in the biggest schism since the Reformation prompted by a backlash against liberal attitudes to gays and lesbians in the west.
The church is taking its cue from the unlikeliest champion of family values, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who in 1993 flamboyantly but infamously branded gay people as "worse than dogs and pigs".
Nigerian clerics, who are led by the fearfully homophobic Archbishop Peter Akinola, say they are linking up with Evangelicals who not only support Mugabe, but also President George W Bush and the Republican Party in the US, Ben Mkapa in Tanzania and Sam Nujoma in Namibia, to wipe clean the "evil stain" of homosexuality from the face of Africa."
There is a useful analysis of "African homophobia" done a few years back by the Black Radical Congress in the U.S. It says, in part,
"Attacks on same gender loving people are by no means an unfamiliar occurrence. In recent years, violence and hostility against this sector have escalated to horrifying proportions in practically every part of the world. In Africa however, European colonialism -- from which the severe economic problems of the African continent derive -- provides the context and fuel for this emergent witch-hunt. Virulent homophobia, incubated in the right-wing movements of the imperialist metropoles and also an outgrowth of Africa's own indigenous patriarchal systems, is finding a home in the political agendas of desperate African leaders. Sadly, these leaders, having little power in a world dominated by Western global capital, seek to buttress their authority through corruption and strong-arming. In the absence of real leverage, and confronted with more and more popular challenges to their leadership, they have resorted to scapegoating same gender loving people and fomenting a climate of heightened tolerance for misogyny.
It concludes, "The struggle against homophobia, sexism, racism, and all the forces that are destructive to the basic rights of humanity is indivisible from the struggle against neo-colonialism and imperialism."
I think the BRC is 100% right here and would urge that genuine solidarity with the impoverished "third world" will inevitably put us at loggerheads with the tiny, increasingly desperate local ruling elites among whom our Anglican bishops are too often to be found.
I pray for the emergence of a genuine "people's church" throughout the Global South -- as well as here in the belly of the beast -- and, at the same time, support those secular human rights and genuinely democratic and socialist movements who are struggling politically against misleaders like Peter Akinola, Robert Mugabe, and last but not least, "President George W Bush and the Republican Party in the US ."
That, and not handwringing about the Eames Commission [about which I'll venture to say ninety-nine point ninety-nine percent of the impoverished of the Earth have never heard and wouldn't give a damn about if they did] is what I find myself occupied with this U.S. Labor Day weekend.
As Vida Scudder used to say, "We have food. Others have none. God bless the Revolution!"
"It seems as if our spiritual fathers are on leave"
October 20, 2004
There is a very interesting open letter to Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola in The Day [Lagos] of October 4, which seems to cast doubt on the sincerity of his rhetoric denouncing "small, economically privileged group[s] of people" imposing their will on others.
"I am of the conviction that God has chosen you, Archbishop Jasper Akinola as the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, to lend your words to the teeming and unrelenting clamour for the spiritual as well as the moral rejuvenation of this nation, most especially, now that Nigerians are at the mercy of those rulers who think that the best thing to happen to Nigeria is to leave her destiny perpetually in the hands of some Oil Sheiks and an admixture of some acclaimed reformers (or are they reformists?). In addition, since it seems as if the president has decided not to listen to "mundane" advice, however professional, particularly if such advice is not IMF-compliant, at least, spiritual counsel may do the trick. It is therefore in order to prevent the continued "frustration of the people's legitimate aspirations by a few people" that the resort to CAN becomes imperative.
"Where is the CAN of the days of Anthony Cardinal Okogie and how soon has CAN forgotten that human welfare and its common good remain the greatest of all miracles? Gone are those days when CAN was the voice of the voiceless and the defender of the defenceless. President Obasanjo continues to drill and drain Nigerians socio-economically and it seems as if our spiritual fathers are on leave. He dangles carrots with his right hand and displays (his) whips with the other. And, in matters like this, the choice is better imagined. But it seems as if CAN is looking askance at the moaning and groaning of the faithful."
The letter goes on to urge Akinola to follow the examples of Oscar Romero and Desmond Tutu, as well as many Nigerian priests and ministers in the human rights struggles of the mid 80s and 90s. It observes that, in places like Rwanda, "the Church lost a substantial portion of its faithful to other religions due to a seeming loss of hope in a religion which, in their times of need, not only deserted them but also reportedly aided and abetted the annihilation of innocent souls."
But no, President Obasanjo's good friend, Peter Akinola, attributes it all to the fact that the Diocese of New Hampshire has a gay bishop.
Ted Mellor., Los Angeles