THEME: CONCEPTS AND CONTEXTS OF MISSION IN AFRICA TODAY
The context of mission here refers to all the situations, processes, dispositions and activities that characterize the unique locations in which mission goes on. Context connotes not only geographical and historical considerations but also other factors such as the: political, economic, cultural, social and religious ambience of church and society. It also includes models of the world, church, and human person operative in a locality.
To a great extent, the African context also reflects the global context, the world of the 21″ century, which on the one hand, is characterized by a growing culture of terrorism; threats to life and the accompanying sense of insecurity; the power driven culture of war with the resultant mass displacement of peoples; the environmental crisis; the HIV/AIDS pandemic; globalization and its ambiguities, producing intractable levels of poverty even in mega-cities; human mobility and migration together with its interface with mission; unjust economic systems as part of the shadow sides of globalization taking their toll on the poorest of the poor on the face of the earth; the resurgence of slavery and slave trade. On the other hand, there are increasing levels of participation of women in governance and public life in various countries; a growing awareness of the need for gender justice; a call for transformation of prevailing notions of masculinities.
The concrete life situation in Africa is marked by lights and shadows. On the brighter side, Africans have a sense of solidarity, family and community; respect for life and a quest for children, not minding the fact that sometimes one finds that these values have been corrupted or abandoned. Africans have a strong sense of the Sacred, the Creator, and of the spiritual world. They live in a cultural milieu in which the sense of the numinous is palpable and the human hunger and thirst for God knows no bounds. These positive cultural values could otherwise be harnessed to enrich the global church and society as a whole and also to reverse the abject condition with which Africa is often associated.
The emergence of several Africans as world icons is a source of hope for the next generation in the continent. Nelson Mandela remains an inspirational icon for peace-building. Barak Obama as the first African president of the United States of America has turned a new page for the world as did Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as Liberia’s first constitutionally elected female president; unleashing the power of precedence in our world! Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwuala, an Igbo/Nigerian woman renowned for her high level of integrity, is currently the managing director of World Bank. Rwanda’s parliament has the highest percentage of women in the world (56%). [However, statistics relative to life as we know it can sometimes raise other questions such as: What kind of women sometimes get elected or appointed into positions of governance in certain societies? What is their level of critical awareness and ability to challenge the status quo of unjust situations? Could it be that their election or selection is based on dubious criteria such as: those that are not likely to rock the boat; puppets that represent an extension of the power and influence of the dominant group?]
The African context is sometimes characterized as a collective fact of misery, resulting from historical and current injustices; inequality; a general sense of insecurity and risks of possibilities of meeting violence any moment; the increasing poverty of many coupled with the insensitivity of many of the rich and privileged; political tensions and struggles for power without service; wars in some parts and absence of war in other parts, mistaken for peace but is graveyard-peace; ethnic divisions and rivalries for supremacy, sometimes manifesting in ‘God’s own household on earth.’
Related to people’s quest for God are the proliferation and commercialization of church sects; fundamentalist spiritualities some of which pre-date the Council of Trent and Vatican I; untouched by the Vatican Council II renewal, resistant to change and transformation. In some African countries, Nigeria, for instance, the churches are experienced as “riddled with many paradoxes and contradictions.” On one hand, the churches are vibrant and flourishing numerically and from all appearances, have a very lively and nourishing public worship. On the other hand, there is a crop of highly educated laity and religious whose leadership gifts are not called into the service of their Church communities at whatever level – parish, diocesan or national – not in terms of house-keeping or fund-raising roles but real pastoral engagements. Only a tiny few have been called into Church leadership positions. This state of affairs has been described as becoming more and more a Church in which only the clergy matters.
What does ‘mission’ mean for the average African Christian, and for African theologians who focus on mission theory and practice? Where is mission today? Who is a missionary; who is on mission? What are the goals and outcomes of missionary activities in Africa today? Why is it necessary to dedicate a separate journal to the African context? What challenges confront Christian mission in Africa today and how can these be redressed? There is so much crime openly parading our cities and streets; and we seem powerless about it: What is the place of the gospel in our lives and in the continent? Is it possible that we are more concerned with producing paper theology rather than a theology that impacts people’s lives and sets them free from the bondage to money, fame and power? Why does it appear that the more the number of churches there are, the higher the crime rate and the less concerned people are with the welfare of their brothers and sisters in Christ? In light of stringent government policies in some African countries regarding visas and employment opportunities for non-nationals, is geographical boundary-crossing still a necessity for realizing missio ad gentes today? What theories of mission guide leaders and members of mission societies/missionary congregations; and what are the implications for their self-understanding?
Scholarly articles that explore these questions and related issues on Christian witness in Africa are hereby invited for publication in AMC. All articles should carry their titles, full names, institutional affiliation and addresses of the author on the first page only. Manuscript should be typed double-spaced. References should be arranged serially as endnotes. Each article should be between 10 and 16 typed pages. Manuscripts are to be sent by e-mail attachment to the editor at: firstname.lastname@example.org
African Journal for Mission in Context is an on-line peer-reviewed journal published twice a year by members of the Africa Region of IAMS to promote and disseminate research on mission in African contexts.
Rose Uchem MSHR (Nigeria)
Cephas Omenyo (Ghana)
Genevieve James (South Africa)
Felix Enegho (Nigeria)
Christopher Byaruhanga (Uganda)