THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN AFRICA:
SOME OF THE CONTRIBUTIONS IT HAS MADE TO THE AFRICAN PEOPLE
The Catholic Church in Africa as a Family
The Catholic Church in Africa sees itself as the family of those who believe in
God, through Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As such, it is clearly part of the worldwide
Catholic Church and at the same time offers a very particular Catholic presence
to the people of that continent,
who have their own special history and a vast
range of cultures. There has always been, and there still is, in the Church in Africa a dynamic interaction
between the Catholic faith
and the realities lived by the local population. The result is that the Church, both through
its hierarchy and through its faithful,
has impacted almost every aspect of African society.
The Church in Africa as Purveyor of Health Care and Education
Right from early times, the Catholic
missions have served not only as sites for worship, but also as centers for health care and education.
clinics and hospitals --- addressing the many different health care needs, be
they HIV/AIDS, malaria, or childbirth---
are all very much a part of the
Catholic scene in Africa. The same might be
said of day care centers, primary and secondary schools and
of tertiary education. Moreover, today the Church is developing a whole network
of Catholic universities. The media
another channel of education, through which the Church contributes to Africa’s development in our time by operating numerous
radio stations, video production centers and even some local television channels.
The Church in Africa as a Voice for
Justice and Peace
Individual Catholics, as well as
a variety of Catholic movements and organizations, have contributed greatly to
building a vibrant civil society in
around the continent. In some instances Church people and groups
have been instrumental in assuring civic
education (for example, helping to prepare for
elections in South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo among other places).
Similarly the Church at all
levels has often stepped up to meet the challenges of conflict resolution and peace
building in the situations of strife and violence,
which arise all too frequently on the continent of Africa (for example Mozambique, Burundi and Sudan, to mention only a few).
Among other efforts being made
by the Church in Africa are initiatives taken
to address the consequences of globalization.
It is evident to all that Africa’s
vast natural resources have not benefited the majority of its people. Today African Catholics, both clergy and lay people, are actively calling for economic justice,
including corporate social responsibility, the promotion of the dignity of work and the respect of workers’ rights to fair wages and to a healthy work environment.
The church in Africa as a Place of Collaboration and Co-responsibility
What characterizes all of these
efforts and actions by the Church is that they are usually taken in concert,
that is, the clergy and the laity working together as witnesses of their
faith. In fact, developing and emphasizing the role of the laity is no doubt
what has allowed the Church to play such an important part in the history and
progress of the
peoples of Africa. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the
remarkable work done by catechists, lay men and women, who give
of themselves to announce the Gospel
by religious instructions, by personal commitment and by dedicated community service.
Prepared by Fr. Bill Dyer and George Kombe Ngolwe