John Schuurman's response to Emmanuel Katongole’s The Sacrifice of Africa
Mother Theresa once said, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” According to author Emmanuel Katongole, those who observe Africa from both the outside and within have forgotten that light is possible in Africa. The dominant perception of Africa focuses on its being characteristically riddled with violence, poverty, disease, injury and death. Africa is viewed as a continent that cannot have peace, wealth or health. It is this mindset of hopelessness that led Katongole to write his book, his “political theology”, about the state of the planet's third-world continent and his guideline for its church called The Sacrifice of Africa.
Katongole clearly outlines the state of Africa today and how it fits into the broader world. He identifies Africa's rejection of its own dignity and sacredness as the key to its politics. This mindset comes from Africa's story – its past. Africa is mired in a history of violence and economic failure.
Examples of this pattern are abundant and include the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Joseph Kony's LRA, Nigeria's ongoing conflict between Christians and Muslims, the violence that followed recent elections in Kenya and Egypt, and the population of 22 million Africans with HIV/AIDS. Africa is the most hungry, indebted and illiterate continent on our planet, Katongole observes, noting that half of the world's refugees come out of Africa. These points are not recognized as being about Africa but rather about defining Africa in the minds of its people. Katongole argues that a key reason why Africans have this mindset is because they perceive their history as having begun when the Europeans arrived, as the colonialist Europeans taught them to think. This has led Africans to become a people who have developed a self-hatred based on being people that are no longer satisfied with being Africans, yet never able to become Europeans.
Katongole reminds his audience that Africa is a very Christian continent, though – perhaps the Christian continent, noting that about 60% of the world's Christians live in sub-Sahara Africa. Drawing from the collision of these two worlds, Katongole identifies churches and coffins as the two symbols easiest to associate with Africa.
Katongole laments that as things stand, Africans understand politics to be the only method of changing African society.
John Schuurman is a first year political science student at Redeemer University College. The review was originally written as a paper for an International Relations course at Redeemer.