Why the future of the world’s largest religion is female – and African

Why the future of the world’s largest religion is female – and African

Nigerian women greet each other at St. Charles Catholic Church in Ngurore, Nigeria, on Feb. 17, 2019. AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
Gina Zurlo, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

At the start of 2019, Bill and Melinda Gates released a list of facts that had surprised them the previous year. Number four on their list: “Data can be sexist.”

“There are huge gaps in the global data about women and girls,” they explained.

My interest was piqued – not only as a demographer, but as a woman and mother of girls.

I research women in global Christianity and am frequently asked what percentage of the religion is female. The short answer is 52%. But the long answer is more complicated – women make up a much more substantial part of Christianity than that number makes it seem.

The goal of my research is to put the spotlight on Christian women’s contributions to church and society and fill in gaps in our data. Headlines about religion may be focused on the words and actions of Western male leaders, but the reality of the worldwide church is quite different. More and more Christians live outside Europe and North America, especially in Africa – and women are central to that story.

Measuring faith

Social scientists have shown for decades that women are more religious than men by a variety of measures – everything from frequency of private prayer to worship service attendance. Christianity, the world’s largest religion, is no exception. Data from the Pew Research Center show that, compared to Christian men, Christian women are more likely to attend weekly church services (53% versus 46%), pray daily (61% versus 51%), and say religion is important in their lives (68% versus 61%).

It’s not a new trend. In the Gospels, women were the last at the foot of Jesus’s cross, the first at his tomb. Research has shown they were critical to the growth of the early church, being more likely to convert to Christianity than men, and most of the early Christian communities were majority female. Throughout history, women were exemplars of the faith as mystics and martyrs, royal women converting their husbands and supporting convents, and founders of denominations and churches that are now all over the world. Women make up the majority of Christians today.

What researchers don’t have is comprehensive data on women’s activities in churches, their influence, their leadership or their service. Nor are there comprehensive analyses of Christians’ attitudes around the world about women’s and men’s roles in churches.

“Women, according to an old saying in the Black church, are the backbone of the church,” notes religion and gender scholar Ann Braude. “The double meaning of this saying is that while the churches would collapse without women, their place is in the background,” behind male leaders.

But there’s not much actual data, and without good data, it’s harder to make good decisions.

Two women wearing head coverings pray inside a church.
Christian women pray during a Christmas Mass in Our Lady of Fatima Church in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2021. AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

At the center of the story

My current research is illustrating that women are the majority of the church nearly everywhere in the world, and that its future is poised to be shaped by African women, in particular.

Christianity continues its demographic shift to the global south. In 1900, 18% of the world’s Christians lived in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania, according to my research. Today that figure is 67%, and by 2050, it is projected to be 77%. Africa is home to 27% of the world’s Christians, the largest share in the world, and by 2050, that figure will likely be 39%. For comparison, the United States and Canada were home to just 11% of all Christians in the world in 2020 and will likely drop to 8% by 2050. Furthermore, the median age of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa is just 19.

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One of the most common refrains about the church in Africa is that it is majority female. “The church in Africa has a feminine face and owes much of its tremendous growth to the agency of women,” writes Kenyan theologian Philomena Mwaura.

Or as a Nigerian Anglican bishop recently told me, “If anyone tells you a church in Nigeria is majority male, he’s lying.”

It’s clear that women have been a crucial part of Christianity’s seismic shift south. For example, consider Catholic sisters, who outnumber priests and religious brothers in Africa – and on every continent, in fact. Mothers’ Union, an Anglican nonprofit that aims to support marriages and families, has 30 branches in Africa, including at least 60,000 members in Nigeria alone. In Congo, women have advocated for peacebuilding, including through groups like the National Federation of Protestant Women. Next door, in the Republic of the Congo, Catholic sisters were at the forefront of providing shelter, education and aid in postwar recovery efforts.

Yet here, too, more precise data about African women’s contributions and religious identities is lacking. And beyond quantitative data, African women’s narratives have often been ignored, to the detriment of public understanding. As African theologians Mercy Amba Oduyoye and Rachel Angogo Kanyoro have stated, “African women theologians have come to realize that as long as men and foreign researchers remain the authorities on culture, rituals, and religion, African women will continue to be spoken of as if they were dead.”

Far from dead, African women live at the center of the story – and will continue to do so as healers, evangelists, mothers and the heartbeat of their churches.

The Conversation

Gina Zurlo, Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Small oil producers like Ghana, Guyana and Suriname could gain as buyers shun Russian crude

Small oil producers like Ghana, Guyana and Suriname could gain as buyers shun Russian crude

A woman sells drinks on a street in Georgetown in Guyana, one of South America’s poorest countries, March 1, 2020. Luis Acosta/AFP via Getty Images
Jennapher Lunde Seefeldt, Augustana University

As the U.S. and Europe cut back purchases of Russian oil, and energy traders shun it for fear of sanctions, the search is on for other sources. Attention has focused on Iran and Venezuela, both of which are led by governments that the U.S. sought until recently to isolate. But emerging and less-developed producers could also play roles.

Among the world’s many oil-producing countries, a few are positioned to jump the list and become increasingly active. They include the West African nation of Ghana (No. 33), along with Guyana (No. 42) and Suriname (No. 69), two small adjoining countries on the north Atlantic coast of South America. All three nations have become oil producers within the past 12 years, working with large companies like ExxonMobil, Tullow Ltd, Chevron, Apache, Total and Royal Dutch Shell.

I study factors that influence levels of democracy and social justice within nations, especially as they relate to natural resources and economic structures. As I see it, these newer producers are in a unique position compared to other oil-exporting nations, such as Nigeria and Ecuador.

In too many cases, developing nations opening their economies to oil production have been expected to accept the terms companies demand, with little room for negotiation and continued exploitation of host communities. In contrast, Guyana, Suriname and Ghana are better situated to obtain favorable terms.

Social scientists coined the term “resource curse” to describe countries that are rich in natural resources such as oil, but have poor economic growth or development. One challenge for these nations is negotiating equitable deals with foreign investors.

Striking better deals

As world markets grapple with the current oil price shock, niche producers are in especially favorable positions to secure advantageous contracts and more favorable terms from international energy companies. For example, oil companies typically pay host countries royalties on their revenues that average about 16%. To date, Guyana and Suriname have accepted fees of less than 6.5% in an effort to attract investors. Under current conditions, they may be able to ask for more during new contract negotiations.

Oil production started in Guyana in late 2019, and currently the country produces over 340,000 barrels per day. Guyana learned from its first block contract with ExxonMobil to demand more “local content” – a key condition in oil negotiations that refers to hiring local workers and using locally made goods and equipment. Natural resources minister Vickram Bharrat has called that agreement, made by a previous administration, “one of the worst ever between a government and an oil company,” and Guyanese officials say they will seek more-favorable terms in future agreements.

Suriname’s new offshore oil discoveries offer potential. Small operations are currently producing about 20,000 barrels per day, and major projects are expected to start by 2025.

Suriname is demanding increased insurance from oil companies in the event of an oil spill, along with prepared emergency cleanup procedures. These processes are continually reviewed and criticized, keeping companies on their toes.

Ghana started oil development in 2007 and now produces about 163,000 barrels per day. However, ExxonMobil pulled out of the country in 2021, reportedly to focus on higher-value projects elsewhere, and depressed demand during the COVID-19 pandemic cut into Ghana’s oil exports.

Men on an offshore oil platform in coveralls and helmets, smiling
Ghanaian President John Atta Mills turns a valve to symbolically open oil production in the Jubilee field off Ghana’s west coast, Dec. 15, 2010. Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images)

Now, Ghana’s national oil company, Ghana National Petroleum Corp., is taking a larger role, buying shares in oil fields from companies like Occidental Petroleum. Greater state involvement is raising uncertainty about how much access Ghana will offer to foreign oil companies. Some, including Tullow Oil and Aker Energy, are producing there now, but Tullow’s shares have plummeted in recent years, and there has been speculation that it may leave Ghana.

Managing oil income

Nations and states that produce oil or other natural resources often put their royalties into sovereign wealth funds instead of simply adding them to general treasury funds. A sovereign wealth fund is essentially a rainy day pot that the government can use in times of economic stress to continue funding major priorities, such as infrastructure projects and social programs.

Some of these funds, notably in Norway and Alaska, have produced significant benefits for residents. However, some experts argue that they aren’t necessarily well suited for developing nations.

According to this view, the success of these funds depends on many hard-to-control variables, such as whether the country has a diversified economy, its level of corruption and global events like commodity price collapses. And managing the funds requires significant technical skills.

Ghana created an Oil Heritage Fund in 2011, and Guyana and Suriname are in the process of doing so. All three may need assistance to manage these funds effectively and maximize benefits for their citizens.

Transparency and peer support

Recognizing that it can be challenging for developing countries to negotiate with major corporate investors, a number of nongovernmental organizations have become active in this sector. One that’s particularly relevant to oil production is the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which seeks to publicize information about extraction practices, contracts, taxing and spending processes, and more. This benefits the public by tracking where revenue goes and promoting accountability.

The New Producers Group works to help countries manage resources effectively through peer-to-peer relationships and knowledge exchange. Emerging producers can learn from other nations’ experiences and collaborate with other governments on issues that affect them all. For example, the organization has held several events recently, analyzing what the global transition away from fossil fuels means for emerging oil producers, and how these countries can manage the transition while working to end poverty.

As members of both organizations, Ghana, Guyana and Suriname have access to tools that many early producers did not. All three countries have participated in multilateral meetings and exchanges with peers and shared information with local citizens.

Keeping the public informed helps to hold government officials and corporations accountable and promotes public involvement. Citizens and civil society watchdogs criticized ExxonMobil’s first contract in Guyana for not including citizen feedback and being created behind closed doors.

Public involvement and transparency also reduce the potential for corruption, a common problem in resource-rich nations. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index measures perceived levels of public sector corruption in nations worldwide. On a scale with 100 as the worst score, Guyana and Suriname scored 39 and Ghana scored 43, so all three states have significant room for improvement.

As the world slowly transitions away from fossil fuels, emerging producers are acutely aware of the need to seize the moment for development’s sake, but also seek to meet climate change pledges. Guyana and Suriname may have an asset in the fight against climate change: dense forests that can absorb large quantities of carbon, helping to offset emissions.

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Guyana has unveiled a Low Carbon Development Strategy for 2030 and has partnered with Norway to generate carbon credits for protecting its forests. I see partnerships like these as ways to advance environmental goals alongside the social and economic development that these nations desperately need.The Conversation

Jennapher Lunde Seefeldt, Assistant Professor of Government and International Affairs, Augustana University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The world united to pray to save the boy in the well. Why not children who die in war?

The world united to pray to save the boy in the well. Why not children who die in war?

(RNS) — Over the past week, much of the world was gripped by the heartbreaking story of Rayan, a 5-year-old boy who had plunged 104 feet into a well in Morocco. For five days thousands of people went to Tamorot in northern Morocco to help and pray, while around the world hundreds of millions followed closely. On Saturday evening (Feb. 5), hopes rose as he was pulled out of the deep shaft, but the jubilation was short-lived as the news broke within minutes that he had passed away.

Images of Rayan, his grieving mother and the heroic rescue effort united much of the world around what practically no one could find disagreeable: the hope that an innocent child caught in devastating circumstances could be reunited in health and safety with his worried parents.

For many of us as Rayan departed this world, we still pray for that reunion in the next life, and are moved to contribute to his grieving family in any way that we can.

For readers of Scripture, Rayan’s time in the well brought to mind the story of Joseph, the son of Jacob (peace be upon them), in the Quran, similar to that of the Bible. In the Quran, however, Joseph’s time in the well is a focal point of an entire chapter that offers comfort to those facing a trial.

Rayan, certainly, was not thrown into the Moroccan well by envious brothers, as Joseph was. Poor infrastructure seems to have been the main reason for his death, and the fact that no one was to blame made it easy to gather everyone in sympathy.

But I can’t help but wonder while watching this unfold how differently the story of Rayan would be told, or if it would be told at all, had he been a child stuck in a crater caused by an airstrike from a military drone. Or if he was a refugee who had slipped to his death in a camp.

Figures are not for a blameless child to die due to unnecessary war. Some 1,600 children died or were maimed in Afghanistan every year for two decades, according to Save the Children, which also estimates that 25 children die or are injured each day in conflicts around the world.

Cruelty to a child is one of the few things that can still elicit a pure human reaction from most of us. It’s why the mother of Emmett Till wanted to leave the casket open after her son’s brutal murder. In her own words, “I wanted the world to see what they did to my boy.” By doing so, she sparked the civil rights movement.

It’s why the image of baby Alan Kurdi, a Syrian refugee who washed ashore at a Turkish resort, shocked the world in a way that statistics never could. It’s why the image of over 60 Palestinian children on the cover of The New York Times did more to humanize the plight of the Palestinian people than almost all the coverage of the bombardment of Gaza combined. And it’s why the image of young Jakelin Caal, who died trying to cross the border into the United States, shook so many of us to our core.

We despise the unjust death of children, but when children die in war we feel complicit in that injustice, either through our participation in harmful policies or silence about the consequences. Many of the powers directly responsible for children’s deaths are aware of our disgust and will try to thwart coverage or sympathy that may lead to direct challenges of their use of force.

We’re told to sympathize with the child who resembles Joseph. It’s far harder for us to see ourselves as the brothers who threw him into the well.

While the brothers of Joseph were driven by envy, we’re driven by greed or apathy. The reason doesn’t matter to the child. Our repentance is to do what we can for that child, and the other children who need our help.

Rayan was a beautiful, innocent child who brought out the best of his countrymen, and the purest of sentiments from around the world. How do we then reckon with the harm of so many unholy wars and man-made tragedies in which so many beautiful children die in ugly ways? What is the work we need to do so that they may live in dignity and calm?

(The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: father of South Africa’s ‘rainbow nation’

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: father of South Africa’s ‘rainbow nation’

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: father of South Africa’s ‘rainbow nation’

Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Epa/Ian Langsdon
P. Pratap Kumar, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu has died at the age of 90.

Archbishop Tutu earned the respect and love of millions of South Africans and the world. He carved out a permanent place in their hearts and minds, becoming known affectionately as “The Arch”.

When South Africans woke up on the morning of 7 April, 2017 to protest against then President Jacob Zuma’s removal of the respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Archbishop Tutu left his Hermanus retirement home to join the protests. He was 86 years old at the time, and his health was frail. But protest was in his blood. In his view, no government was legitimate unless it represented all its people well.

There was still that sharpness in his words when he said that

We will pray for the downfall of a government that misrepresents us.

These words echoed his stance of ethical and moral integrity as well as human dignity. It is on these principles that he had fought valiantly against the system of apartheid and became, as the Desmond Tutu Foundation rightly affirms,

an outspoken defender of human rights and campaigner for the oppressed.

But Archbishop Tutu didn’t stop his fight for human rights once apartheid came to a formal end in 1994. He continued to speak critically against politicians who abused their power. He also added his weight to various causes, including HIV/AIDS, poverty, racism, homophobia and transphobia.

His fight for human rights wasn’t limited to South Africa. Through his peace foundation, which he formed in 2015, he extended his vision for a peaceful world “in which everyone values human dignity and our interconnectedness”.

Archbishop Tutu with the Dalai Lama at the Tibetan Children’s Village school in Dharamsala, in 2015. EFE-EPA/Sanjay Baid

He also became relentless in his support for the Dalai Lama, whom he considered his best friend. He condemned the South African government for refusing the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader a visa to deliver the “Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture” in 2011.

Early years

Archbishop Tutu came from humble beginnings. Born on 7 October, 1931 in Klerksdorp, in the North West Province of South Africa where his father, Zachariah was a headmaster of a high school. His mother, Aletha Matlare, was a domestic worker.

One of the most influential figures in his early years was Father Trevor Huddleston, a fierce campaigner against apartheid. Their friendship led to the young Tutu being introduced into the Anglican Church.

After completing his education he had a brief stint teaching English and History at Madibane High School in Soweto; and then at Krugersdorp High School , west of Johannesburg; where his father was a headmaster. It was here that he met his future wife, Nomalizo Leah Shenxane.

It is interesting that he agreed to a Roman Catholic wedding ceremony, although he was Anglican. This ecumenical act at the very early stage in his life gives us a hint of his commitment to ecumenical work in later years.

He quit teaching in the wake of the introduction of the inferior “Bantu education” for black people in 1953. Under the Bantu Education Act, 1953, the education of the native African population was limited to producing an unskilled work force.

In 1955 Tutu entered the service of the church as a sub-deacon. He got married the same year. He enrolled for theological education in 1958 and, after completing his studies, was ordained as a deacon of Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg in 1960, and became its first black dean in 1975.

In 1962 he went to London to pursue further theological education with funding from the World Council of Churches. He earned a Master of Theology degree, and after serving in various parishes in London, returned to South Africa in 1966 to teach at the Federal Theological Seminary at Alice, Eastern Cape.

One of the lesser known facts is that he had special interest in the study of Islam. He had wanted to pursue this in his doctoral studies, but this was not to be.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and his wife Tutu at the Youth Health Festival in Cape Town in 2016. EFE-EPA/Nic Bothma

The activities he was involved in in the early 1970s were to lay the foundation for his political struggle against apartheid. These included teaching in Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland and, thereafter, a posting to London as the Associate Director for Africa at the Theological Education Fund, and his exposure to Black Theology. He also visited many African countries in the early 1970s.

He eventually returned to Johannesburg as the dean of Johannesburg and the rector of St. Mary’s Anglican Parish in 1976.

Political activism

It was at St Mary’s that Tutu first confronted the then apartheid Prime Minister John Vorster, writing him a letter in 1976 decrying the deplorable state in which black people had to live.

On 16 June Soweto went up in flames, when black high school pupils protested against the forced use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, and were mowed down by apartheid police.

Bishop Tutu was thrust deeper and deeper into the struggle. He delivered one of his most passionate and fiery orations following the death in detention of the black consciousness leader, Steve Biko in 1977.

His role as the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, and later as the rector of St. Augustine’s Church in Orlando West in Soweto, saw him become an ardent critic of the most egregious aspects of apartheid. This included the forced removals of black people from urban areas deemed to be white areas.

A target

With his growing political activism in the 1980s, the Arch became a target of the apartheid government’s full scale victimisation and faced death threats as well as bomb scares. In March 1980 his passport was revoked. After much international outcry and intervention, he was given a “limited travel document” two years later to travel overseas.

His work was recognised globally, and he was awarded Nobel Prize for Peace in 1984 for being a unifying leader in the campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa.

He went on to receive more distinguished awards. He became the Bishop of Johannesburg in 1984, and the Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986. In the following four years leading up to the release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years in prison, the Arch had his work cut out for him. This involved campaigning for international pressure to be brought on the apartheid through sanctions.

Archbishop Tutu received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President Obama in 2009. EFE-EPA/Shawn Thew

Democracy years

After 1994, he headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Its primary goal was to afford those who committed human rights abuses – for or against apartheid – the opportunity to come clean, offer legal amnesty to deserving ones, and to enable the perpetrators to make amends to their victims.

Two greatest moments in his personal life took his theological outlook beyond the confines of the Church. One was when his daughter Mpho declared she was gay and the church refused her same sex marriage. The Arch proclaimed

If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn’t worship that God.

The second was when he declared his preference for assisted death.

South Africa is blessed to have had such a brave and courageous man as The Arch, who truly symbolised the idea of the country as a “rainbow nation” . South Africa will feel the loss of the moral direction of this brave soldier of God for generations to come. Hamba kahle (go well) Arch.The Conversation

P. Pratap Kumar, Emeritus Professor, School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, University of KwaZulu-Natal

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

African faith leaders combat misleading theologies that promise cures for COVID-19

African faith leaders combat misleading theologies that promise cures for COVID-19

Participants at the 3rd Symposium on Misleading Theologies sit in a session on Nov. 22, 2021, in Nairobi, Kenya. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) — When some African church pastors ordered their followers to eat grass or gulp petrol or even drink poison-laced water, their congregations have obeyed the instructions, thinking the practices would bring them closer to God.

Many other pastors take their wellness advice a notch higher, claiming to heal conditions such as disability and barrenness and diseases such as HIV and AIDS, and, more recently, coronavirus. It’s not unheard of for pastors to hold their congregations spellbound as they promise to bring the dead back to life.

In recent years the All Africa Conference of Churches, an umbrella group for several Protestant denominations on the continent, has moved to combat theological claims that harm Christians, holding a series of symposiums to educate clergy and unify their churches against faith healing and other practices.

“All these pronunciations, fake testimonies and things like these are really destructive. They are not life-giving, but life frustrating,” said the Rev. Fidon Mwombeki, a Tanzanian Lutheran pastor who is the general secretary of the AACC.

Based in Nairobi, the AACC is the continent’s largest association of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox and Indigenous churches and has a presence in 42 countries. It brings together churches, national councils of churches, theological and lay training institutions and other Christian organizations.

Since 2019, the group has organized three symposiums in which theologians, clerics and lay Christians have met to explore the subject of misinformation. Some of the themes tackled in the prior conferences include power and authority, wealth and poverty, government regulation of religious organizations, and health and healing.

“If we don’t pay attention, (misleading theologies) will undermine human dignity and put the lives of people at stake. You see in some churches the minister sending people out to eat grass. This is unacceptable,” said the Rev. Bosela Eale of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, AACC’s director of theology, interfaith relations and leadership, at the most recent Nov. 22-24 symposium, held in Nairobi.

Participants at the 3rd Symposium on Misleading Theologies in Nairobi, Kenya, hold group discussions on Nov. 22, 2021. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

The theologians are warning against dangerous teachings and practices, such as: the prosperity gospel; sexual abuses in demonic exorcism and blessing for fertility; the use of toxic substances and liquids in religious rites; and demanding huge sums of money for prayers and pastoral services, among others.

Religious observers say many of the worst abuses of theology come in faith healing.

The Rev. Simangaliso Kumalo, an associate professor of religion and governance at the University of KwaZulu-Natal-Pietermaritzburg, warns that the popular belief that Jesus cures every sickness poses challenges for managing epidemics, pointing to Pentecostal churches that have, he said, spiritualized COVID-19.

“For them, the corona is not a mere virus,” Kumalo told the conference. Pastors preach that, “because members of Pentecostal churches are children of God, the virus would not infect them, or if it does, they would be healed by Jesus, the physician.”

He highlighted conspiracy theories that say viruses such as COVID-19 are God’s punishment to disobedient humanity.

Monica Nambaba, an official at the Africa Christian Health Associations Platform, said spurious teachings about health have hurt Africans in the past. “Some people with conditions such as HIV have died after religious leaders told them to stop medication after attending healing prayers,” she said.

Pastors should instead be conscious of their power to sway people’s attitudes about health measures. “If the religious leaders can use their platforms to correct this, it will go a long way in helping the communities,” Nambaba said.

According to Veronica Ngum Ndi, a disability and development professional from Cameroon, people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to faith healing attempts. Telling a person with a permanent disability that God will one day allow them to walk again is destructive, she said, and commanding them to drop their crutches because they have been cured, as some pastors do, can only worsen their problems. “Some have been injured badly in the process,” said Ndi.

At the same time, some of the church leaders and theologians at the symposium advocated for a reconsideration of African traditional healing practices, many of which have been suppressed or lost in the continent’s missionary era.

“We are referring to those aspects that make traditional healing practices beneficial. These aspects must be recovered because they are not incompatible with the gospel,” said the Rev. Herve Djilo Kuate, a pastor in the Evangelical Church of Cameroon.

 

Israel to allow 3,000 Ethiopian Jews to immigrate

Israel to allow 3,000 Ethiopian Jews to immigrate

Jerusalem Temple Mount

Jerusalem skyline photo credit Allen Reynolds

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s government on Sunday approved the immigration of several thousand Jews from war-torn Ethiopia, some of whom have waited for decades to join their relatives in Israel.

The decision took a step toward resolving an issue that has long complicated the government’s relations with the country’s Ethiopian community.

Some 140,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel. Community leaders estimate that roughly 6,000 others remain behind in Ethiopia.

Although the families are of Jewish descent and many are practicing Jews, Israel does not consider them Jewish under religious law. Instead, they have been fighting to enter the country under a family-unification program that requires special government approval.

Community activists have accused the government of dragging its feet in implementing a 2015 decision to bring all remaining Ethiopians of Jewish lineage to Israel within five years.

Under Sunday’s decision, an estimated 3,000 people will be eligible to move to Israel. They include parents, children and siblings of relatives already in Israel, as well as orphans whose parents were in Israel when they died.

“Today we are correcting an ongoing injustice,” said Pnina Tamano Shata, the country’s minister for immigration and herself an Ethiopian immigrant. She said the program was a response to people who have waited “too many years to come to Israel with their families” and to resolve a “painful issue.”

In a joint statement with Israel’s interior minister, she said the decision came in part as a response to the precarious security situation in Ethiopia, where tens of thousands of people have been killed over the past year in fighting between the government and Tigray forces.

It was not immediately clear when the airlift would begin. The government appointed a special project coordinator to oversee the effort.

Kasaw Shiferaw, chairman of the group Activists for the Immigration of Ethiopian Jews, welcomed Sunday’s decision but said there was still a long way to go.

“On one hand, this decision makes me happy. Three thousand people are realizing a dream and uniting with their families,” he said.

“But it’s not a final resolution. Thousands are still waiting in camps, some for more than 25 years. We expect the government to bring all of them,” he said.