AMORIS LAETITIA: ADDRESSING PASTORAL CHALLENGES OF THE FAMILY IN AFRICA TODAY
Emily Choge Kerama and Eunice Karanja Kamaara
The family in the contemporary world is in crisis: a myriad of pastoral challenges afflicts this basic social unit. The Church has a mandate to respond to these challenges. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis leads to address the challenges faced through the entire spectrum of life; from upbringing, through courtship, preparation for marriage and marriage life right up to death of a spouse. But is Amoris Laetitia relevant to Africa or it answers questions that Africans have not asked? In this chapter, we respond to this question by offering a critical reading of chapter 6 of this papal exhortation on the pastoral challenges of the family from the perspectives of the family in contemporary Africa. We begin by presenting the situation of the family in Africa before commenting on the chapter to show that Pope Francis is often spot on. However, his silence on pertinent issues of concern to Africa including but not limited to condom use especially in the context of HIV/AIDS, polygamy, celibacy of priests, corruption, youth unemployment, and radicalization, among others, is worrying. Yet, we concur with the Pope on the way forward: for effective family apostolate, the Church has to meticulously plan and implement concrete pastoral actions which appeal to specific cultural contexts and values. For the African context, we propose a move beyond theoretical discussions on inculturation to practical integration of African traditional values with Christian values. In this paper, we share a model from Kenya, the African Christian Initiation Programme (ACIP). ACIP is a pastoral formation and care program that supports adolescents to effectively transition into responsible adult members of the society. It is a practical reconstruction of traditional rites and rituals through which the values of relationships and community were inculcated to integrate them with Christian values.
Throughout the ages, the Catholic Church through her ecclesial structures and more specifically her teaching authority or magisterium has emphasized the central role of the family as the basic unit of evangelization; the basic church. Therefore, the church through various avenues creates opportunities not only for reflection but also for sharing on individual and familial experiences towards appropriate pastoral care. After Vatican II, Pope Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops aimed at interrogating the signs of the times and as well as trying to provide a deeper interpretation of divine designs and the constitution of the Catholic Church, set up after Vatican Council II, in order to foster the unity and cooperation of bishops around the world with the Holy See. It does this by means of a common study concerning the conditions of the Church and a joint solution on matters concerning Her mission.2 2
Drawing from the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops and the Synod of the Family held between 4th and 25th October 2015, Pope Francis released, Amoris Laetitia (AL) (the Joy of Love), an apostolic exhortation addressed to “bishops, priests, and deacons, consecrated persons, Christian married couples, and all the lay faithful on love in the family”. In this chapter, we offer a critical reading of the presentation of pastoral challenges to the family in the exhortation of the Holy Father, from the perspectives of the family in contemporary Africa, with illustrations from Kenya. The aim is to show how Pope Francis speaks to Africans in this exhortation and to share a pastoral care model which we hope will offer what Pope Francis calls ‘the art of accompaniment’ in the pastoral care for families in Africa
A reading of Amoris Laetitia chapter 6: Pastoral Challenges of the family
It has already been mentioned that Amoris Laetitia addresses not only the clergy but also Christian married couples, and all the lay faithful across the world on love in the family. Does the chapter on pastoral challenges of the family by Pope Francis have any relevance for contemporary Africa? In this section, we critically comment on chapter 6 (some pastoral perspectives) showing how this relates or does not relate to the contemporary situation in Africa. But first, a summary on the family in contemporary Africa suffices.
The family in Contemporary
Clearly, Africa is not homogenous so there is nothing like the African family. However, traditional Africans3 share a common worldview and the values governing the diverse customs are the same. The African traditional family is an extended family where up to three or more generations live in many households within one homestead. Each household is made up of a nuclear family. So, within one homestead, there are households of grandparents, a household for each of the sons and their families of procreation, and a household for each of the grandsons and their families of procreation. Within each homestead therefore there will be people who are related to each other in different ways and at different levels: grandparents and grandchildren, parents and children; brothers and sisters; stepbrothers and stepsisters, co-wives and co-husbands; mothers and step-mothers; aunties and uncles; nephews and nieces; cousins, among others. Food is normally cooked and shared within households but there are no strict arrangements on this. Members of the homestead, especially children, eat in whichever household they find food ready or whichever household mealtime finds them in or near. This serves to buttress the value of relationships and community.
Throughout this section, we deliberately use the present tense to show that traditional families and the family values associated with these exist to date even as others have been eroded by modernity.
There are no single parents in traditional African societies because there is no divorce and in case of death, the spouse of the deceased remarries soon after: the man marries another woman, and the woman would be ‘inherited’ by a brother or close relative to her deceased husband. Among the Luo of Kenya for example, ‘wife inheritance’4 is a common practice to date in spite of its association with HIV spread5. There are no orphans as children belong to the community. If both parents die suddenly, the children are absorbed into another nuclear family within their homestead. Many children are considered a blessing and there are no families without children – a barren woman would marry another woman to sire children on her behalf and an impotent man does not exist because there are social systems in place to address this. If a man dies without having sired children, another man, usually his brother would sire children on his behalf – like the Old Testament levirate marriages.
The term ‘wife inheritance’ is used here but it is not appropriate. For a detailed description of why such a woman may not be described as a ‘wife’ to the husband’s relative and why the practice is not ‘inheritance’ please see: Evelynes Kawango Agot. 2001. Wife inheritance: its meaning and geography in Africa. pp 83f. Doctoral thesis of the University of Washington, https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/handle/1773/5660 Accessed on December 2, 2016.
Brian Perry, et al, 2014. Widow cleansing and inheritance among the Luo in Kenya: the need for additional women-centred HIV prevention options. Journal of International AIDS Society, 17(1) 19010. Published online 2014 Jun 26. doi: 10.7448/IAS.17.1.19010.
6 This is a Kiswahili word which literally translates into ‘side arrangement’ in this case, a ‘side relationship’. A mistress is jokingly referred to as a side plate.
While many traditional families continue to exist in Africa, hence the use of present tense in the this section, immense social and cultural changes associated with modernization and urbanization have seen emerging forms of family: we have nuclear families (made up of a father, mother and children) but also child-headed households, street families, single parent families, polygamy. Recently the phenomenon of mistresses otherwise known in Kenya as ‘mpango wa kando”6 This renders attempts to define the family in Africa today difficult. Still, Christian values find significant meaning in Africa. Still, various threats are emerging and without the buffer zone that was provided by extended families, the family in Africa faces many life challenges. Against this background, there is need to reflect on the pastoral challenges facing the family in Africa today. We will show that just like in other parts of the world new practical and effective pastoral responses can be proposed for Africa… and to create opportunities for the family to grow together. Pope Francis initiates response to these needs in his teaching on what he considers as the major pastoral challenges of the family in Africa through the entire spectrum of human life. In the following paragraphs, we comment on these challenges from an African perspective and experience.
On preparing for marriage
The Pope focuses on premarital counseling – especially with regard to passing on to young or new couples the virtues of chastity and genuine love – as a pastoral challenge all over the world today. He notes that there is need for adequate preparation for marriage and that the “best preparation for family life “is that learned from the parents” (158) at an early age. He refers to parents as family formators. In addition to the family preparing the individual for marriage, the Pope emphasizes the need for long and open courting among fiancés and fiancées. This allows the two to know each other enough to make an informed choice to enter into a marriage 4 relationship. However, he is quick to point out that this does not guarantee that the lovers get to know each other enough. Therefore, beyond family upbringing and long courting, he emphasizes the role of pastoral agents. He decries that pre-marriage counseling is often left to priests, who are poorly trained, implying that such pre-marriage counseling is neither appropriate nor effective. He exhorts other members of the community including other couples and teachers, among others, to provide realistic pre-marriage counseling to young people intending to receive the sacrament of marriage. Such counseling includes provision of information and skills on “detecting danger signals before marriage” (210) – in order to address them or to at least beware of them in marriage.
Analyses of the traditional societies in Africa suggests that preparation for marriage at the family level was effectively done through an intensive and complex system of education marked by elaborate initiation rites throughout various stages of life – from the moment of birth to life after death.7 8 Each of the rites builds on the values inculcated in the previous rite. Within this system boys and girls received knowledge and skills that prepared them for marriage. However, with modernization and Christianization, this system has been largely eroded especially as children pursue education away from home. For example, the modern formal educational system in Kenya literally takes the individual away from family and community and does not pay attention to preparation for life in the family. Children in Kenya barely spend time with their family: They are in school for ten months and only at home for two months each year. But even the two months at home are barely spent with family and community as the parents are away at work for much of the time. Besides, the children spend most of the time in studying in preparation for national examinations which puts anxiety and pressure on the children to attain the best grades possible. The system prepares them for professional life as doctors, engineers, teachers, and lawyers with no regard for various aspects for life in the family. In this situation, parents look up to teachers and religious leaders to provide information, for example on sexuality, but teachers have no time for this as they work towards covering school curricula and religious leaders are ill-trained to talk about sexuality. Eventually, young people rely on their peers and the public media, including social media and the Internet for this information. Various studies suggest that while parents and religious leaders are the most trusted and the most preferred by young people to provide information on sexuality, they are not the actual sources of information.
Paul Kyalo, 2013. Initiation Rites and Rituals in African Cosmology. International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 1(1); June 2013 pp. 34-46.
J.S. Mbiti, 1969. African religions and philosophy, (Nairobi: Heinemann publishers).
Eunice Karanja, Kamaara, 2005, Gender Relations, Youth Sexual Activity and HIV/AIDS: A Kenyan Experience ( Eldoret: AMECEA Gaba publication)
This state of affairs is complicated by the short courting periods that young people in Africa experience before they decide to marry. In Kenya, courting is generally short and uncommon. As for pre-marriage counseling, training sessions are often non-existence or compressed into a few hours just before the wedding day. Often, the emphasis in the few premarital counseling sessions is cosmetic, because they address only the expected joys of marriage without bringing out major sacrifices that couples are called to make for successful and fruitful marriage. The sessions are often led by the priest that the betrothed choses to celebrate their marriage – who is sometimes not the parish priests of the individuals. Sometimes, the priest chosen to celebrate the marriage does not know the betrothed at all. Within the Catholic Church, as unmarried men, priests may have little knowledge and have little experience about marriage and may therefore be ill equipped for doing this job singlehandedly.
Clearly, preparing for marriage is a major pastoral challenge in contemporary Africa. Pope Francis therefore speaks appropriately and directly to the family in contemporary Africa when he writes about the pastoral challenges and appeals to the great need to prepare for marriage in a realistic manner – preparation for the joys and beauty of life-long marriage as well as for self-sacrifice, tolerance and understanding.
On the Wedding Event
Effectively and rightfully so, Pope Francis indicates that weddings have been viewed as an event rather than part of a process in family life. Rather than focus on weddings as moments of grace and reflection towards lifelong commitments, weddings have been glamorized: they have become materialistic at the expense of future needs and love. This is evident across the world with wedding ceremoniess costing millions of dollars in certain parts of the world The Pope could not have been truer even for Africa.
Africa has quickly copied from other parts of the world to make wedding celebration a show most extravagant event: the classiest car; the most expensive dresses and cakes; the most posh reception. – There is even the Wedding Show as in America! Lately in Kenya, there are VX Stretched Wedding Limousines for hire at USD 480 for 4 hours, not to mention choppers for hire on wedding days at USD 2,000 per hour!10 Even church weddings have become prohibitively costly as individuals ‘shop’ for the most aristocratic church building. There is so much pomp and display with the focus increasingly becoming more on the day than on the marriage itself. Sadly, many who don’t have money to show off or to pay for glamorous weddings are increasing opting for “come we stay unions” thereby missing the sacrament of marriage.
Please visit: chopper for hire wilson airport nairobi Accessed on November 4, 2016.
Africans need to hear the words of caution that the Pope gives in this document: “the wedding ceremony is not the end of the road. Marriage is a lifelong calling based on a firm and realistic decision to face all trials and difficult moments together.” (211) The Pope appropriately dares young people in Africa to be different. He also gives this personal challenge which will go well if young people in Africa can heed it; “Have the courage to be different. You are capable of opting for a more modest and simple celebration which loves takes precedence over everything” (215). This is a most needed gift from the Pope to young people.
On Married life.
Talking like one who is effectively experienced, the Pope gives attention to the turbulence that couples experience as they get to know each other uninhibitedly. With little or no preparation for marriage, courting periods getting shorter and shorter and with betrotheds presenting the best of each to each other over courtship, within the first few years of marriage, couples realize how little they know of each other. To complicate this, the young people have a host of challenges to grapple with after the wedding: relations with in-laws, financial management, sexual intimacy, and premarital connections. When the Pope refers to challenges of inter-tribal marriages, he speaks directly to Africa. In Kenya for example, tribalism is among the major challenges, especially to political development. It doesn’t help that political parties are largely created on tribal lines. The tensions and anxieties of a mixed marriage can never be overestimated. To address all these challenges, the Pope emphasize the need for mentor couples and other pastoral agents to support young couples through these difficult early years of marriage. He notes that these young couples need to be encouraged to grow in faith and especially through shared rituals like prayer giving weight to the well-known adage “the family that prays together stays together.”
Another major challenge facing families in Africa is around family planning. Pope Francis affirms the natural method of family planning. As though addressing the African family specifically, the Pope indicates that couples have responsibility to themselves but also to others, to their extended family and to the wider community – both temporal and church. In traditional Africa, children belonged to community for perpetuation of family, clan, tribe, and nation and various systems were in place to buttress this. For example among the Kikuyu of Central Kenya, children are named after parents, brothers and sisters while among the Luo of western Kenya children are named after societal models, both in and outside Kenya. The naming systems serve to emphasize the obligation that individual couples have to the wider family, community, and to humanity in general. However, with breakdown of the extended family within which families shared resources so that nobody lacked, poverty is increasingly becoming a reality that presses families in Africa to limit the number of their families. The difficulties of doing this within the Catholic anti-contraception law pose a major challenge.
We must note also the increasing prevalence and intensity of gender based violence at home.
The New York Times describe wife beating in Africa as an entrenched epidemic. Accessed on December 4, 2016.
S.R. Kimuna, & Y.K. Djamba, 2008. Gender Based Violence: Correlates of Physical and Sexual Wife Abuse in Kenya. Journal of Family Violence July 2008, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 333–342.
Though mentioned in passing, the Holy Father’s refers to intolerable suffering which necessitates separation in certain situations today. This is a most progressive statement especially in the context of the Catholic position on marriage as lifelong commitment. The Pope emphasizes the need for couples to read danger signs and separate for better good and to protect the vulnerable – especially children. The Holy Father is spot on. Incidences of extreme cases of domestic violence are reported on both print and social media daily. Kimuna and Djamba (2008) explored factors associated with physical and sexual wife abuse among 4,876 married women within the 15 to 49 years12. Their findings suggest that 40% of all married women in Kenya experience domestic violence of one kind or the other while 36% of them physical and 13% sexual. Sadly, multivariate analysis showed that being a Christian significantly increased risk of physical and sexual abuse. The Gender Violence Recovery Center at the Nairobi Women’s Hospital estimate prevalence of domestic violence against women of the same age to be at 45%. More recent findings present a worrying magnitude of gender based violence: The Kenya Domestic Household Survey (KDHS) 2014 reveals that 38 percent of women aged 15-49 reported experience of physical violence and 14 percent reported experience of sexual violence. And men too are victims of domestic violence in Kenya. Maendeleo ya Wanaume Organization, a lobby group championing men’s rights, carried out a survey in 40 selected districts in Kenya in August 2008 and found out that between 1 and 1.5 million men are domestically abused by women daily.13
Benjamin Muindi,. 2009, 1.5m men are victims of domestic violence: report in Sunday Nation of Sunday May 24, 2009. 1.5m men are victims of domestic violence: report in Sunday Nation of Sunday May 24, 2009 Accessed on December 4, 2016.
See: Jackline Mwende hands Accessed on December 4, 2016.
See: I regret going out with my wife Accessed on November 4, 2016.
See: Murang a principal’s wife held after body found in coffee farm Accessed on November 4, 2016.
Despite the 2015 legislation that outlaws domestic violence and provides for restraining orders in cases of marital violence in Kenya, the vice remains unabated. In July 2016, Stephen Ngila made international news when he reportedly cut up the face and hacked off the hands of his wife, Jackline Mwende, with a machete, blaming her for childlessness over their seven-year old marriage.14 Mwende, 27, described herself and her husband as ‘good Christians’. Reports suggest that before the tragic event, Ngila had taken to threatening Mwende but when she reported this to her pastor, the pastor counseled her and urged her to and stay save her marriage since marriage is ‘lifelong’. This incident brought fresh memories of a primary school teacher, Piah Njoki, whose husband, Jackson Kagwai, used jagged edge of a broken beer bottle to gouge out her eyes because she had not borne her husband a son – she only had daughters. At the time of the incident in 1983, Kagwai and Njoki had lived together for 15 years.15 The old Kenyan adage of mama ni kuvumilia (a woman is long suffering) is encouraged even when there are no systems and structures to control domestic violence from escalating to such magnitude – tragically, even by the church as was the case with Mwende, mentioned above suggests. But men too are at risk. As we write this, the news in today’s Daily Nation, the most widely distributed daily in Kenya, is of a woman, Jane Mbuthia, who has been seized by the police because she is suspected to have been involved in the murder of her husband, Solomon Mwangi.16
The words of Pope Francis ring in any reader’s ears: the need to detect danger signals in marriage and the need for the church to read the signs of the times and know when not to encourage couples to remain together. However, the Pope Francis reaffirms, in no uncertain terms, that divorce is evil. He emphasizes the need for married couples to be patient and understanding each other because: “neither spouse can expect the other to be perfect. Each must 8
set aside all illusions and accept the other as he or she actually is: an unfinished product, needing to grow, a work in progress”. (218) Individuals couples therefore should always work to supporting each other; helping each other mature till perfect love is achieved through God’s grace and prayer and reconciliation. He rightly observes the need to protect children who are the most affected by divorce. The Pope challenges parishes to create infrastructures for addressing these pastoral challenges and to accept and embrace the divorced.
Divorce was unknown in traditional African societies. Now, it is increasingly common. A young Kenyan father who has been married for slightly less than five years decried to one of these authors: “I don’t know what is happening. Most of my friends and age mates are facing divorce. I hope that it doesn’t happen to me”. One wonders what is causing the increasing frequency of divorce in the modern setting, something that was uncommon in the African traditional setting. We would like to suggest that the answer to this lies with the lack of preparation for marriage and the inadequate support in acquiring the skills for partnership in marriage and for parenting that was the strength of the traditional African families. This was done through the rites of passage and rituals that ran through the life course of an individual. With the loosening of these bonds and with no adequate alternatives put in place by the church to meet this need, it is not surprising that young families are facing divorce and even life-threatening challenges. Against this background, the church in Africa is grappling with an increasing number of children being abandoned and many turning to the streets for refuge.
On Single Families and on Homosexual Families
The Pope isn’t blind to the reality of single- parent families. This phenomenon is increasingly common in contemporary Africa. As Pope rightly observes, this happens when an individual man or woman fails to take responsibility for their actions. But it is increasingly becoming normal for women and men to choose single parenthood, sometimes because of their frustrations with marriage life. Many young people may be skeptical about marriage following what they have experienced in their family of upbringing or other families close to them. A young 15-year-old indicated to one of these authors that she will not get married but would like to get children. Probing indicated that she has continuously observed her parents’ unhealthy relationship and concluded that getting married is not desirable. The Pope exhorts the church to be sensitive to such situations and to embrace single parents in church by involving them in the work of the church. This is real in Africa where pregnancy outside marriage is condemned and heavily stigmatized. He urges society not to excommunicate and the church to offer pastoral care even to single parents.
On homosexuality, the Pope reaffirms that homosexuality is against God’s plan. But respect and dignity of all must be upheld. Homosexuality is increasingly occurring and becoming acceptable particularly in urban Africa, albeit slowly. The Pope condemns homosexuality in no uncertain terms even as he indicates the need to treat homosexuals with compassion and care.
When the betrotheds take marriage vows: “till death do us part”, little do they appreciate that death will indeed do them part. The Pope puts the fact straight before couples: One of you will die before the other. Therefore, grieving a spouse should not be an unexpected reality. 9
Consequently, the church should be prepared always to offer relevant and effective pastoral care to support grieving spouses. The Holy Father gives comforting message on Christian hope that allows couples to let go of the dead spouses knowing that though they are no longer physically present they are not lost. He cites the Preface of the Liturgy of the Dead thus: “Although the cer-tainty of death saddens us, we are consoled by the promise of future immortality. For the life of those who believe in you, Lord, is not ended but changed… our loved ones are not lost in the shades of nothingness; hope assures us that they are in the good strong hands of God”.17
17 Catechesis (17 June 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 18 June 2015, p. 8.
18 Emily J Choge Kerama, “Ruth” in God’s Justice: The Holy Bible. Grand Rapids Michigan: Zondervan, 2016 pp 323.
19 National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP), Kenya. Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey 2012: Final Report. Nairobi, NASCOP.
20 E. Y. Tenkorang. 2012. Negotiating safer sex among married women in Ghana. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2012 Dec; 41(6):1353-62.
21 M. S., Atteraya, H Kimm and I. H. Song. 2014. Women’s autonomy in negotiating safer sex to prevent HIV: findings from the 2011 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey. AIDS Education and Prevention, 2014 Feb;26(1):1-12
The extended traditional family in Africa was strong in supporting grieving couples. Whenever a person lost his or her spouse, their entire community was obligated to care for the widowed: there were clear-cut practices for their protection and provision. But with the breakdown of these systems widows especially are now facing many forms of injustices. Some atrocious stories are told of what happens to widows suspected of causing the death of their husbands in this era of AIDS – they are told to drink the water used to cleanse the corpse of the husband to prove their innocence.18
Beyond the family pastoral challenges that the Holy Father presents are many others that are pertinent in contemporary Africa. While the Pope refers to family planning, he does not speak about use of condoms which is a thorny issue especially in the context of HIV/AIDS in Africa. In spite of scientific evidence of the positive relationship between condom use and HIV prevention, and in spite of high prevalence of HIV in Africa, condom use remains low especially in marriage relationships. The 2012 Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey for example suggests that married women are more at risk of HIV infection than unmarried women, thanks to ‘mpango wa kando” mentioned earlier in the introduction.19 Yet, generally, married women in Africa are unable to negotiate use of condoms even in high risk HIV infection situations because of unequal gender relations20’21. Against this background, the Pope would be seen to affirm his critics’ opinion that he is not concerned about contraception in general, and more specifically about HIV/AIDS and 10
by extension, not concerned about women in Africa22. Upon return to Rome from his visit to Kenya Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pope Francs was asked by a journalist if the Church should not reconsider its position on condom use in the context of HIV/AIDS. While we appreciate his response that “the problem is bigger”, his dismissive attitude then and, in this context, his silence around the issue in an exhortation addressed to the family seems insensitive to the deadly challenge facing millions of Africans within the family. We wish that Pope Francis at the minimum affirmed Pope Benedict’s position that condom could present a step in the right direction as far as showing concern for the other person is concerned, or better still take time to emphasize why the condom is not necessarily an effective solution to HIV/AIDS. He could have cited scientific evidence to counteract the seemingly theoretical evidence that condom use is positively related HIV/AIDS prevention and control: its inconsistent and incorrect use as well as the challenge of risk compensation23 (assumption that the use of condom eliminates all risks thereby promoting sexual promiscuity). We appreciate the Pope’s cautious way of dealing with so complex an issue. Nevertheless, the Pope could have done well to indicate awareness of isolated situations where condom use may be a necessary evil, for example, among discordant couples where the threat of HIV infection is real.
22 See for example The Guardian. Pope Francis indicates little concern over condom use in fight against Aids Accessed on December 5, 2016.
23 Mary Rezac, Pope Francis was right about condoms and HIV in Catholic News Agency Accessed on December 5, 2016.
24 Anticelibacy sect attracts catholic priests exseminarians in kenya Accessed on March 15, 2013.
With the AIDS scourge and the resultant death of parents, Africa has witnessed the emergence of child-headed households and increasing populations of street families across all major towns, with all the implications of these. Closely associated with this is polygamy which is still prevalent in Africa. In Kenya, the continued recognition of customary marriages which allows for polygamy alongside civil marriages by the Kenya Constitution, keeps the phenomenon popular among some communities. In the context of HIV/AIDS, this too poses major challenges to the family in contemporary Africa.
For more than a thousand years, the Roman Catholic Church has taught that celibacy is required of its clergy. But the vow of celibacy puts many African priests in awkward situations as they seek to perpetuate their lineage as expected by their cultures and, at the same time, be in public Catholic Church ministry. This leads to immense tensions between being African and being Roman Catholic. For some African priests, the solution to these tensions lies in living double lives—of a celibate priest and of an African who values progeny and community living and is, therefore, secretly married. Fr. John Karimi of the Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christ, made up of priests who breakaway from the Catholic Church to get married observes, “Ninety-seven percent of priests live a hypocritical life. They should be allowed to maintain their sex life.”24 Further, Fr. Karimi argues that the anti-celibacy rule is not only unacceptable in Africa but also 11
in all other parts of the world, because sex is a basic human need—sex is indispensable. Consequently, along with Fr. Karimi, many of the priests in the Reformed Catholic Church wonder: why does the Catholic Church insist on such an unnatural practice as celibacy when its entire morality is based on natural law? The Pope remains silent on this. He is also silent about what happens to the children sired by the priests.
Indeed there are many pastoral challenges for the family in Africa; polygamy, youth unemployment, radicalization, corruption, alcoholism and drug abuse, the list is endless. How are these challenges to be prevented, addressed or mitigated when they have happened? Fortunately, the church is not only the most widespread institution in Africa, but it remains credible and influential right from the grassroots level to the national level. The Pope’s suggestion for inter-religious dialogue is appropriate towards multi-religious and multicultural responses as the problem affects families from all cultural and religious backgrounds in Africa.
From an African perspective, the Pope appropriately and accurately presents some of the pastoral challenges of the family in contemporary Africa. One cannot help but admire his passion for the family as he appeals for strategic pastoral plans to address the challenges. Indeed, the Pope is on target when he says that pastoral care including character formation should be offered by the “parish” as the “family of families”. Indeed some African theologians have termed the church as the, “extended family.”25 Certainly, this ‘family of families’ would be resourceful in providing moral formation and mentorship for young in the face of the weakening of the extended family system. But the Pope only touches on this crucial element of the traditional African extended family without expounding on how this may be practically and effectively reconstructed in the context of Christian pastoral care. An observed by Glen H. Stassen & David P. Gushee is relevant even though the two were commenting on the situation in Europe: this pastoral care will not be effective if the mass or church service is only once a week on Sunday morning or as is increasing becoming common in urban areas in Africa, one hour long26.Churches should not be “preaching stations” but places where values are transmitted and character formed.27 The challenge for churches is to stem the tide of secularization that has diminished the growth of the church in the West and is now moving with great speed to Africa. The evidence of this influence is that in Kenya this year the Atheist Association of Kenya was registered. The Association is now petitioning the Kenya parliament to remove the words “O God of all creation” from the National Anthem. With secularization, traditional African values of community and relationships are increasingly being replaced by the values of neoliberal capitalism: individualism, consumerism and materialism.
25 See for example, Domatus Oluwa Chukwu, 2011. The Church as the Extended Family of God: Toward a New Direction for African Ecclesiology. Bloomington: Xlibris.
26 Stassen, Glen H. and David P. Gushee. 2003. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, Downers Grove: Intervarsity. Ibid.
We aver that the most important strategy that the Pope did not refer to but probably holds the key to addressing most of the pastoral challenges of the family in Africa is the need to integrate traditional African values with Christian values. This is critical towards making the parish a 12
‘family of families’ that is relevant and appealing to the African family. The centrality of African values of community and relationships could be emphasized through Christian values. As one of these writers has argued elsewhere, there is no contradiction between African values and Christian values: Indeed, there is unity.28 While traditional rites and rituals through which these values were inculcated have been eroded by modernity, the rites and rituals through which the values were inculcated could be reconstructed, integrated and animated in Christian practices and rites. We will illustrate this in the next session.
28 Eunice Karanja Kamaara, 2014. “No Longer Truly African, but Not Fully Christian: In Search of a New African Spirituality and Religious Synthesis”, in Agbonkhiangemeghe E. Orobator, (editor), Theological Reimagination. Conversations on Church, Religion, and Society in Africa, Nairobi, Paulines Publications, Africa, 2014, pp. 90-91.
29 See: Precious Uwaezuoke Obioha, 2010, Globalization and the future of African culture. Philosophical Papers and Reviews Vol. 2(1), pp. 1-8, April 2010; and also: Paul Kyalo, Reflection on the African Traditional Values of Marriage and Sexuality. International Journal of Academic Research in Progressive Education and Development, April 2012, Vol. 1 (2). pp 211-219.
We appreciate that the global Catholic Church as well as local African churches have given considerable attention to the subject of challenges of family apostolate. More specifically, although Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia did not in address all concerns by families in Africa, he may not be accused of answering questions that African Christian families do not ask. However, there is more to evangelization than talking; more than teaching in seminars and training in workshops, more than commentating in public print and electronic media; and more than preaching from the pulpit. Actions and concrete pastoral solutions lie those that integrate traditional African values with Christian values to address the challenges of family apostolate have not been commensurate to the effort that has been put into words. Yet, we are not lacking in models of a better world. The traditional African family affords us the practicability of non-materialistic communal world view and so does Pope Francis. The time to go social action is now.
Addressing the challenges of the family in Africa: the need for effective and relevant pastoral action for adolescents
Africa is at crossroads. It is at the verge of completely losing its traditional worldview characterized by the values of communalism and relationships associated with respect for the earth and for all creation.29 In place of traditional African communalism within which the African way of life is lived, modernization has led individuals to appropriate values of materialism, individualism and consumerism, values which leave the family in crisis.
It is against this background of a confusing value system, that young adolescents in contemporary Kenya are born and live, with all the pastoral challenges in their families. On the level of lived experience, young people are a neglected lot; their experience is of a confused and confusing system of education which is neither based on the traditional world view nor on any one consistent modern worldview. As part of culture, worldview comprises of acquired knowledge that people use to interpret experience and generate behavior. In the absence of a systematic process of educating people on responsible living, people will generate knowledge from the environment that they interact most with and choose what they consider appropriate for 13
specific situations. In this regard, young people experience from the adult population in their families, a worldview that favors materialism and individualism at the expense of healthy relationships, a value to be pursued even at the expense of human life: Focus is on independence rather than mutual dependence; on individualism and consumerism as opposed to sharing; on ownership of created reality including fellow human persons rather than trusteeship and stewardship. This is best illustrated by the perceived objective of formal education: to access formal employment. Courses that train for high paying jobs like law, medicine, and lately computer science and technology attract the best students not out of interest or calling but for the material and monetary value of such jobs. Thus self-fulfillment and self-realization is measured by material acquisition and consumerism at the level of the individual. Hence, success is measured by individual acquisition of such material things as land, cars, houses, clothes, and furniture, among others for individual consumption.
The Kenya Youth Survey report suggest that 47% of all Kenyan youth admire people who have made money by ‘hook or crook’; 50% would have no problem evading taxes or paying a bribe as long as they are not jailed and about 50% say that it doesn’t matter how one makes money.30 The ink on The Kenya Youth Survey Report had barely dried before Well Told Story, released another report on 18th May 2016.31 The study is dubbed #SexMoneyFun because as it suggests, for 14-24 year-old Kenyans, these four are so complicatedly interrelated, “that they deserve to be connected not just into a single concept, but into a single word. And not just any word but a digitally interactive hashtag word at that #SexMoneyFun.” According to #SexMoneyFun, 65% of Kenyan youth consider it okay to have a ‘sponsor’ even when in a relationship and 33% of all youth interviewed indicate that they do have a ‘sponsor’. For the stranger in Jerusalem, the term “sponsor” is colloquialism for sugar mummies and sugar daddies, that is, older and rich (‘happily married’? ) men and women with whom young people have sexual relationships in exchange for financial support. HIV statistics indicate that prevalence is not only highest among young people but also among married people, thanks to ‘sponsors’ and their mpango wa kando.
30 Verah Okeyo and Elizabeth Merab, “Kenyan youth have no qualms about corruption, survey shows”. Daily Nation, January 19 2016. Accessed on May 23, 2016.
31 Jacqueline Kubania, 2016. “What the youth really think about dating and sugar daddies”, <What-the-youth-really-think-about-dating-and-sugar-daddies> Accessed on May 23, 2016.
In their thirst for #SexMoneyFun, young people engage in violent crime, murder included. Print and electronic media report almost on daily basis of hard-core teenage criminals drag netted or shot dead by the police or lynched by mobs. Data from the Kenya prison department suggest that over 50% of all convicted prisoners are under 25 years old. Closely related to this is drug abuse and the continuing radicalization of youths and their subsequent recruitment into terrorist gangs.
Such perverted world view is endorsed by a system of schooling that makes no reference to human service to other persons and to other elements of the created order. Instead, focus is on how much the individual can acquire for the self even at the expense of human life. Such a 14
situation is characterized by corruption, greed, selfishness, irresponsible behavior in all aspects of life, with serious implications on the family. Worse still, the adult population, rather than recognize that they have abdicated their responsibility to young people, constantly condemn the youth as a ‘lost generation’. However, the youth could possibly not have lost themselves since in no human society are youth expected to guide themselves.
Yet, young people, so deeply caught up in this development crisis, can change the future of this continent. Indeed, there is evidence to support our audacity to hope in African youth. Responding to the question of whether the youth of today are a lost generation, Ruth Woodhouse observes:
No, the youth of today are not a lost generation as a whole. You can’t make a gross generalization like that. Yes, there are, sadly many of our youth who are apparently have never been given any values or navigational skills with which to chart their life’s course. There certainly seems to have been an alarming increase in youth that are, at best, wandering aimlessly – or, at worst, lost in an evil, entangling wilderness of fear, depression, rage, depravity and corruption from which they may never find deliverance.
Others may be lost for a time but find their way early or later in adulthood. So, while they may for a time contribute to the high statistics of a generation that some regard as lost, they may help improve the statistics as they mature. Then there are a significant number who are far from lost. I am frequently impressed and heartened by the evidence I see that there are still many young people who are firmly on the right track in life.32
32 Ruth Woodhouse, 2009, “Are the Youth of Today a Lost Generation?” in Are_the_youth_of_today_a_lost_generation.html, Accessed on July 4, 2016.
The philosophy behind the foundation of the ACIP agrees with Woodhouse. Reference to young people as a ‘lost generation’ is not only inaccurate but also manifestation of adult attempt to abdicate their familial responsibility. This labeling of the youth as irresponsible is imperialistic as it has the tendency to promote discrimination, domination, stereotyping, and escapism while spreading hopelessness and doom. One need only analyze messages and conversations among youths in such social networks as Twitter and Facebook to appreciate the creativity and hope in young people.
This two-sided picture of Kenyan youth indicates the competing forces of good and evil within human persons. More importantly, they imply that these forces may be successfully manipulated toward good. We concur with Sir John Templeton, a globally renowned philanthropist, that human beings have the power to master their character through self-control and courage for effective service to the self and to humankind: “When you rule your mind, you rule your world”. The sustainable solution to youth challenges in Kenya lies not in reactionary, interventionist, short-term, and compartmentalized responses but in a proactive, long term, holistic response. 15
In the absence of traditional systems and structures that supported early adolescents to transit into responsible adulthood, we propose a pastoral model that borrows from traditional African values as well as from Christianity to create a system for support for early adolescents to successfully transit into responsible heads of families. In this, we acknowledge, like traditional Africans, that adolescence is the critical point which men and women are made or destroyed to develop a national initiation rite, flexible enough to accommodate our diverse cultures, religions, and localities would be a great investment and foundation for Kenya to sustainably lay its social and economic development.
In the following section, we share the experience of the model of the African Christian Initiation Programme (ACIP) which we propose as a response to Pope Francis call for practical and effective pastoral efforts that support families towards making love fruitful. ACIP seeks to complement pastoral care for families in Africa and help to stem the tide of destruction that is engulfing the continent by facilitating successful transition adolescents to responsible adults. The model integrates traditional African values, rites, and rituals with Christian values.
ACIP’s Integrative Strategy in addressing the pastoral challenges of the family in Africa
Deriving from a concern of youth neglect and yet the confusing contemporary situation within which they grow, some lecturers from the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Moi University initiated the African Christian Initiation Process as part of extension work guided by research. ACIP is guided by the understanding that the youth are not a lost generation but rather the hope for Africa’s future. In recognition that initiation from childhood to adulthood is the specific moment within which men and women are made out of boys and girls, and that intervention at this point therefore largely determines whether the girls and boys will be made into responsible family women and men, ACIP was founded as a community based development project.
The Mission of ACIP: To support young people through a transition process from childhood to adulthood to empower them physically, mentally, and spiritually to successfully become responsible adults.
The specific objectives of ACIP are:
i) Provide a modern initiation rite to support young adolescents to transit into responsible adults in family.
ii) instill confidence and self-esteem to boys and girls as all participants,
iii) provide information and education for life
iv) train participants on life skills: negotiation skills, conflict management, study skills, etc
v) Parents workshops – Like Pope Francis, ACIP recognizes parents as ‘family formatters” and therefore focusing on providing them with knowledge and skills to support their adolescent children into responsible adult family life.
Towards this, ACIP adopts an integrative strategy as follows:
i) It has a multi ethnic and multi-religious dimension – ACIP is an inter-ethnic and inter-religious program that encourages all communities to participate
ii) It is multi-disciplinary – Information, education and training is done from a multi-disciplinary approach. ACIP has 13 modules covering areas of on responsible time management, hygiene and cleanliness habits, relationships, secrets to success, gender issues, and on responsible sexual behavior to avoid unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and sex-related stress, conflict management and peace building, how to avoid drug abuse, and how to avoid negative peer pressure. Professionals from all disciplines – medicine, psychology, sociology, religion, philosophy, public health, the Liberal Arts, etc. teach and train.
iii) It is multi-sectoral – In recognition of the many stakeholders involved in youth formation, ACIP networks with various sectors of society: parents (parents’ workshops), teachers, religious leaders, youth, and professionals among others. Some of the organizations that ACIP partners with are: Moi University, I choose Life, churches around Eldoret, Partners in Prevention, the UG Children’s Forum, Testimony Homes, Family Impact, Strategies for Hope-London, Ministry of Youth and Sports (MOYAS) and AMPATH. It continues to seek for more partners.
iv) It is gender Integrative: In recognition that society is necessarily made up both men and women and that the various genders complement one another, ACIP Integrates boys and girls to learn together in mutual trust and mutual respect for mutual benefit.
v) It is a three-tier education and skills building (negotiation, conflict management, self-esteem and confidence building skills) to support physical, mental and spiritual development of the youths
vi) It has practical modeling – ACIP brings in real professionals, community members and fellow youth (like university students) who are identified as good role models as well as persons rehabilitating from drugs to share from their experience how to avoid such vices.
vii) Adopts a fun filled approach to learning – visits/ excursions to various places and insists on using relaxed learning methodologies and environments
viii) ACIP has structures for learning across generations (the strength of traditional African socialization), peer learning, and practical modeling.
Vision of ACIP: ACIP envisions a national program that supports all young people to transit from childhood to responsible adults characterized by – sexual responsibility, peaceful, coexistence among community’s morality in family and workplace by the year 2030.
ACIP is working towards scaling up of program to national level through Trainer of Trainers workshops. Towards this end, in partnership with Strategies for Hope, ACIP has developed a trainers’ manual, My Life Starting Now, published in 2010. The manual “is designed to help strengthen the capacity of churches, faith-based organizations, community groups, and individuals to respond to the ‘call to care’ for young people especially in early years of adolescence (11-15 years)”33. In the immediate, the ACIP team is engaged in an assessment of the program, ten years after it was founded, to establish what has worked well and what has not worked well, thanks to generous funding Templeton World Charity Foundation Inc. One of the
33 Lucy Steinitz with Eunice Kamaara, My Life Starting Now: Knowledge and skills for young adolescents. Oxford: Strategies for Hope, 2010. Foreword, (page 8). This manual is available and may be used freely as long as the authors are duly acknowledged: My Life Starting Now Manual 17
questions that we have posed to the alumni of the program through anonymous questionnaires as part of the assessment project is:
“To what extent has ACIP influenced you in making your day-to-day choices?
a) To a great extent
b) To a little extent
c) To not extent at all”
None of the alumni interviewed responded “not at all” and over 95 percent said ACIP influences them.
The follow up question is: State one decision that you have made influenced by ACIP? The following responses have been received:
1. ACIP has helped me avoid drug abuse
2. ACIP guides me to be responsible in sexual behavior
3. I choose my friends well to avoid negative peer pressure
4. I studied very hard through high school because of ACIP
5. ACIP taught me how to relate well with people of the opposite sex
6. I am what I am because of ACIP. I don’t touch (sic) drugs and I don’t engage in violence
7. I keep my bod clean as I was told in ACIP
8. ACIP helps me use my leisure time well
9. I can say no to negative peer pressure.
10. I love working. The value of work something I learnt from ACIP
We are still working on the assessment project. We plan to integrate the lessons learnt over the years as we upscale ACIP.
As mentioned above Pope Francis teaching on the challenges of the family in the contemporary world would not have come at a better time in Africa where many challenges are facing the family. The breakdown of the extended family system with its values of community and relationships is rapidly being replaced by the values of neoliberal capitalism: individualism, materialism, and capitalism. This has exposed the family institution to all kinds of evils: gender-based domestic violence; single parent families, homosexuality, HIV/Aids, divorce, and even death leading to orphans, abandoned children, and children –headed households, among others.
In this context, both community and church are challenged to respond to these pastoral challenges. In Amoris Laetitia , Pope Francis leads the way to responding by spelling out the challenges faced through the entire spectrum of life; from upbringing, through courtship, preparation for marriage and early marriage life; challenges of life in marriage including gender based violence, family planning, separation and divorce or challenge of single-parent families to the challenge of death of a spouse. These are issues that are real to the African family.
Nobody would expect the Pope to be exhaustive in his presentation of the pastoral challenges of the family throughout the world in one document. Other issues that challenge the family in Africa that the Pope mentions in passing or does not mention include contraception in general, condom use especially in the context of HIV/AIDS priestly celibacy, polygamy, youth unemployment, radicalization, alcoholism and drug abuse, among others. 18
Decrying the inadequate, inappropriate and ineffective response to these challenges, Pope Francis challenges individual Christians as well as the Church to meticulously plan and implement programs and structures that effectively responds to the challenges. However, in so doing, the Pope does not address the erosion of traditional African values which protected and provided effective responses to family challenges. Indeed, for Africa, the need to reconstruct these traditional values and to integrate them into whatever responses to the challenges can never be overestimated. To illustrate this, the authors share the model of the African Christian Initiation Program (ACIP), a pastoral formation and care program that supports transition of adolescents into responsible adult members of the society. The program draws from traditional African resources of the practice and value of rites of passage to partner with the church to transmit holistic values for the family in Africa.
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