Reviews - What do customers think about Doing Theology and Philosophy in the African Context (Denktraditionen Im Dialog: Studien Zur Befreiung Und Interkilturalitat)?
Doing Theology in an African Context Dec 24, 2004
From June 10th to 16th, 2002, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), in collaboration with the Institute of Missiology Missio (MWI), Aachen, Germany, invited some thirty scholars of theology and philosophy from various Tertiary Institutions in Africa to reflect on the subject "Doing Philosophy and Theology - for Whom? Revisiting Philosophical and Theological Teaching in Tertiary Institutions in Africa". The Consultation took place in Kumasi, Ghana, and was part of an intercontinental research project on the reform of philosophical and theological curricula, initiated by the MWI. The introductory lectures were given by Peter Lwaminda, Marco Moerschbacher and Henry C. Hoeben, s.m.a. Peter Lwaminda, Secretary General of SECAM, looked upon the message of the African Synod (1994) and its impact on a possible change in Tertiary Institutions of Africa. The challenge continues to be that of relevance by finding the way to true Africanness. A thorough and courageous inculturation has to address the precarious situations in which the majority of the African people find themselves today. The programmes, methods and contents of philosophical and theological teaching and research are challenged to address the present situation of Africans. Marco Moerschbacher (MWI) confronted a reading of the magisterial texts Sapientia christiana (1979) and Ex corde ecclesiae (1990) and their understanding of Catholic Institutions of Higher Learning with some emerging methodological paradigms of contextual theology in Africa. Henry C. Hoeben presented a historical overview on Catholic Theological Faculties in Africa, starting from the first attempt in Roma (South Africa) in the 1940s up to the six existing Institutions of today (ICAO, Côte d'Ivoire; CIWA, Nigeria; UCAC, Yaoundé; FCK, Kinshasa; CUEA, Kenya; ICM, Madagascar). He also recalled the history of the Association of Catholic Universities and Higher Institutes of Africa and Madagascar (ACUHIAM, also known under the French sigle of ASUNICAM). He pointed out three main challenges for these Institutions: 1) a renewed emphasis on research, publication and scholarly excellence; 2) the deepening of collaboration within the Catholic Church of Africa beyond boundaries of language, region and ethnicity; 3) the need to join efforts to support and improve the existing Institutions over against new foundations.
The Conference followed a regional pattern. The participants from Southern Africa were Bishop Patrick Kalilombe, M.Afr. (University of Malawi), Madipoane Masenya (UNISA, South Africa) and Luke Mlilo (St. Joseph's Theo- logical Institute, South Africa). Kalilombe put some strategical questions on the project of contextualizing the philosophical and theological curricula. He emphasized the role of the African diocesan bishops and their dependence on Roman instances. - Masenya from the Protestant Open University UNISA mapped out the holistic and outcome-orientated approach in their BTh programme. Following a range of flexible modules, structured in four "tracks" (instead of the seven traditional theological disciplines), UNISA graduates are empowered to assume their responsibilities in both Church and society of their respective context. She suggested that, in continuation of this commitment to a contextual study of theology, burning issues like HIV/AIDS, poverty, unemployment and discrimina-tion against women should be explicitly addressed within the curriculum. - Mlilo gave an evaluation of four Tertiary Institutions in the Southern African region. Even though commitment to Africanization and contextualization is clearly spelled out on the conceptual level, its realization in practice often meets severe obstacles and problems. Stressing the need to overcome European concepts and contents and to strive towards an academic self-determination of the African Tertiary Institutions, M. highlighted some problems of the academic landscape in Africa, such as brain drain, the prevalence of non-African staff members, the individually focused European model of University education, the lack of an institutional co-operation within Africa, the marginalization of Africans due to globalization processes, and the shortage of African resource books. In each of these areas of concern, M. forwards concrete suggestions of "possible steps forward", based on two main convictions: The formation of teaching personnel has to become a top priority of the decision-making instances, and Africanness is to be given a key function in philosophy and theology in order to bridge the gap between these disciplines and African culture as lived out by the people. The contributors from Eastern Africa focused on the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (John Maviiri), Tangaza College (Carmel Powell, FMM) and Hekima College (Eugene Goussikindey, S.J.). Maviiri presented the various study cycles at CUEA. He called for a more holistic understanding of inculturation, including issues such as poverty, disease, marginalization of women, management of Church and state, peace and justice, forms of neocolonization and the effects of globalization to be addressed by the curricula. To strengthen the need of further Africanization he suggests an "African Studies Department" to be linked up with the existing disciplines. - Carmel Powell, FMM, gave an overview on the Institutes and Programmes of the Tangaza College. Stressing the areas of African contextualization and gender balance, she pleaded for training priests, religious and lay people in view of a "collaborative ministry" which is aware of the contribution of women to Church and society and which strives for a "discipleship of equals". - Goussikindey presented an analysis of the shifts in the curricula at Hekima College in the past twenty years. He held that the challenges brought about through the local situations call for a radical revision of the curricula. Especially the relationshipbetween philosophy and theology needs to be reconsidered. In view of today's interdisciplinary dialogues, the human and social sciences are to be given a prominent place in the theological study programmes. The Central African region was presented by Paulin Poucouta (Theology, Université Catholique de l'Afrique Central UCAC, Yaoundé, Cameroon), Albertine Tshibilondi (Philosophy, also UCAC), Léonard Santedi (Theology, Facultés Catholiques de Kinshasa FCK), and Jean-Chrysostome Akenda (Philosophy, also FCK).
Poucouta presented a model curriculum in Theology, aiming at more Africanization. He stressed the key role of creative research and the institutional pre-condition for that research work, such as well equipped libraries and inter-institutional co-operation. - Tshibilondi undertook a critical relecture of the philosophical curriculum against the background of globalization and gender balance. She pleaded for an interdisciplinary outlook of philosophy and detected the concrete ambiguity of the role of the African teachers at Tertiary Institutions in Africa which are part and parcel of a whole system of cultural and economic dependency. The teachers have to critically review the theoretical framework of their own formation. - Santedi suggested three methodological steps to be followed by contextual theology: starting from the contextualization (with the Christian community as the key element), decontextualization (confronting this context with Bible and tradition and other sources of cultural and religious memory) and, finally, recontextualization (addressing the people and their expectations). - Akenda looked at the African situation with its various symptoms of crisis, the kind of graduate to be produced by Tertiary Institutions (pedagogical, moral and cultural values) and the tasks of philosophy as a critical and self-critical reflection on humankind. He spelled out this approach in view of requirements of the various courses taught in the philosophical curriculum. The West African region was represented by Josephat Oguejiofor (Bigard Memorial Seminary, Nigeria), Teresa Okure, SHCJ (Catholic Institute of West Africa), Marie-Madelaine N'Guessan, Xay. (Institut Supérieur de Sciences Pédagogiques et Religieuses, Abidjan) and Nathanaël Yaovi Soédé (Université Catholique de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, Abidjan).
Oguejiofor addressed the specific situation, ambivalence and impediments of philosophical teaching in Africa. The academic marginalization of Africa tends to be reinforced by the lack of co-operation among the various Institutions in Africa and by the impossibility to publish and circulate philosophical works at reasonable costs. His suggestions pointed to joint efforts towards systematic philosophical research (association, journal, conferences, series). - Okure presented the paradigm of inculturation as structural element of the theological teaching at CIWA. Its twofold aim is to create an interface between theological content and life, and to critically discern the cultural underpinnings of both theology and life. Her recommendations aimed at creating a network of philosophers and theologians in Africa in order to disseminate information, exchange lecturers and organise workshops on specific areas of concern. - N'Guessan paid special attention to the dialogue between education and theology. Especially the theological teaching should be done within a clearer framework of aims and methods. - Soédé re-viewed the self-understanding of the Faculties of Philosophy and of Theology at the UCAO-Abidjan. He suggested a methodological reappropriation of the Church's tradition, based on a theology that draws from African anthropology. Cultural boundaries have to be overcome by a mutual appreciation and exchange of African scholars, helped by academic associations and the improvement of the philosophical and theological libraries in the various Institutions.
The Consultation issued some concrete recommendations on the necessary reform of study programmes in theology and philosophy. It also mandated a Committee to present the results and suggestions of the Consultation in form of curricula proposals. At the meeting of this Committee in Accra in June 2003 Luke Mlilo, Josephat Oguejiofor, Nathanaël Soédé, and Marco Moerschbacher were present to work on this task.