In refusing to see our true colours, we become blind to the hurt we cause others. That’s how colonialism begins.
She had finally entered university. My friend was embarking on a seven-year program of study towards becoming a doctor. Somehow, the family of this young Congolese woman managed to scrape together funds to keep her in school day by day. Earning the title of doctor would be more than a personal achievement: it would be a step forward for the entire family. Each examination, each fresh demand for money was a new stress to my friend and her family.
In the midst of this, a professor asked my friend for sex. He, a Catholic priest, threatened to fail her if she didn’t comply. Fail an entire year! How would her family find money for her to repeat it? How would she bear the shame of failure? Neither she nor her father nor pastor could confront a teacher in a public position. Yet how could she, who had committed to following Christ, agree?
This situation is too common in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). When the Honourable Minister Bibeau, Canada’s Minister of International Development, returned from a visit to the DRC, she told CTV News that, “One of the reasons adolescent girls stop going to school is because of early pregnancy.” Evidently, Minister Bibeau and I are both troubled by what we have seen in that great African nation. We both desire change. But when Minister Bibeau speaks on behalf of the nation of Canada, she offers a solution that disregards the values and ethics of Congolese culture and religion.
As the previous article in this series stated, our current government has rerouted foreign aid into funding family planning services and abortion in developing nations (“Canadian colonialism dressed up as aid,” August 28). Fifty percent of the new budget targets sub-Saharan countries such as the DRC where abortion is illegal and contrary to the majority culture and beliefs. Because of this, Africans from various nations have called Canada’s attitude arrogant and colonialist.
Listen and be honest
Where do we stand on this issue as Canadian Christians? In Canada, the law restricting abortion was struck down in 1988, yet thousands in our nation march annually in protest. It is still a raw issue. Our ears ring with our own rhetoric. What does that sound like to other people?
Yesterday I phoned a young Congolese woman. I told her about the $100 million budget devoted to Canada’s new sexual and reproductive rights program in the DRC. Her response was horror. Her heart is for her peers, the young women of Congo. She knows the challenges they face because she has faced them too. “How can another country import an evil we don’t even want?” she asked me. “I pray that abortion never becomes legal in our country.”
She had ideas for how to use aid money to better help her struggling peers. There is more than one road towards ending poverty. Unfortunately, our government is not considering other options.
The church’s path
But even if our government has shut its ears, we as Christians can choose another path. Catholic theologian Jean Vanier says that we are afraid to “look at the shadow side in ourselves, the evil in our own hearts and culture.” In refusing to see our true colours, we become blind to the hurt we cause others. That’s how colonialism begins. Ugandan author Emmanuel Katongole claims that Europe’s ideals of “civilization” and “humanitarian” concern for the “poor African” blinded them to the truth of the brutal exploitation of Africa. Katongole begs to be heard: “A new future in Africa requires much more than strategies and skills to solve the problems of nation-state politics. It requires a different story that assumes the sacred value and dignity of Africa and Africans.”
I am Canadian. Since the age of three, I have lived in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In each place I saw broken lives and harmful customs. I also saw the grace of God and beauty in humanity. My earnest wish and prayer is that the global Church would truly be the Body of Christ. I hunger for the day that Canada will listen to the Democratic Republic of Congo, to learn from them of the sacredness of life, the hope that decades of suffering cannot kill and the power of Christ against the works of Satan.
In the Christian belief, each man and woman is made in the image of God. Thus, each human culture bears two faces: the beautiful image of God, and the sinful image of man. Our joyful duty as the Church is to call humans of every culture into the full image of God by appealing to the living Word of the transcendent Creator.
We are not superior in any way to any African culture, nor are they superior to us. We each exist because of the authority of God; we all are shamed by human sins. The love of life found in many African cultures images God. In some ways, the West has embraced a culture of death. We must be honest. We must listen to those we want to help. We must accept complexity. We must be helped in our own turn.
In a BBC interview with Nigerian activist Obianuju Ekeocha, a British anchorwoman stated that contraception is a human right.
“Says who?!” Ekeocha cried out.
Says who? is an important question to ask ourselves. Are contraception and abortion human rights because Canada says so? That would be colonialism. Has God said so? Then it brings a fuller humanity. The question we face is: have we aligned with forces of colonialism to bring destruction, or with forces of heaven to bring life?
Read Related Story:
Canadian colonialism dressed up as aid