AFRICA - To reinvent missionary activity in Africa, respecting local cultures

Thursday, 11 October 2018 mission   evangelization   extraordinary missionary month   culture   indigenous  


Kara (Agenzia Fides) - "The Second Vatican Council, and in particular the Nostra Aetate declaration, saved the missionary activity of the Church, especially in areas such as Africa, putting an end to the old evangelizing practice, built on the principle that Christianity equals civilization and indigenous culture as a synonym of ferocity. The Council opened a new era in the missionary activity of the Church, calling for constructive dialogue between the Christian message and the indigenous cultural truth": says to Agenzia Fides Father Donald Zagore, an Ivorian priest and theologian of the Society for African Missions, in a reflection that, in the missionary month 2018, already looks at the horizon of the Extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019.
"In reality, this dialogue would have remained purely utopian if the missionaries had not cultivated the desire to overcome self referentiality to open themselves to the truth of the other. The true missionary knows that he must refuse to close himself into an ethnocentrism that leads one to believe that one's own ideals are superior to those of the other, and is called to overcome every self-referential attitude", he notes.
"To deal with these problems - he continues - the missionaries have undertaken in-depth studies on African cultures. The dramatic reality on our continent is that the interest in African studies was more felt by foreign missionaries than by Africans themselves. Very few, indeed, were interested in investing seriously in the study of African cultures. Many took it for granted that it was enough to be African and speak the language in the environment in which they work. Yet being African, speaking the local language does not guarantee an effective knowledge of a dynamic and complex social and cultural reality. The few who dedicated themselves in the in-depth study of African culture have faced many problems that have sometimes led to discouragement and abandonment".
Referring to today's situation, the theologian explains: "Today an African baptized person is more aware of being a missionary himself. The Church in Africa is faced with its missionary responsibility. But to avoid repeating past mistakes, we need a solid commitment to the study of the culture that nourishes the missionary space".
"It is fundamental, therefore - wishes Fr. Zagore – to permanently support the study of African cultures by the Africans themselves. This is essential in order to reinvent the missionary activity in Africa, in order to value the good that is found sown in the hearts and minds of men, in the rites and cultures of the African peoples. This heritage must not only be protected, but must be purified, elevated and perfected to the glory of God". (DZ/AP) (Agenzia Fides, 11/10/2018)