Sunday, 9 December 2007

John Sentamu - A true African Leader

Dramatic gesture

When the news came on air that the Archbishop of York – John Sentamu – had cut up his dog-collar, what went through my mind was the break away of the San Joaquin diocese from the US Episcopal Church yesterday because of the consecration of one homosexual bishop – Gene Robinson – in 2003.

Homosexuals split the church

Whilst I have my views about churches engaging in social activism there are worthwhile causes where the church should be at the forefront – a split over homosexuality where a majority of selfsame homosexuals have been alienated from the church and find no spiritual succour or guidance from where the expression the love of Christ could have made the church a sanctuary for healing broken people is sad indeed.

Beyond this, there are more problems that should have gained greater priority in the vision and mission of the church like reaching the unreached (with might include homosexuals), poverty alleviation, community regeneration in areas of combating disease, rural development and education – there is almost too much work to be done and never enough hands, minds, people and funds to tackle these “Great Commission” issues.

But these are too difficult as energy is being expended in their obsession with homosexuality – Archbishop Desmond Tutu – and it would appear amongst all the critical issues facing the Church and Christianity today that finds the most activity.

Clergy activism for the good

This morning Archbishop John Sentamu’s actions are better placed as what the church should be involved in, born in Uganda, first appointed a High Court judge by Idi Amin and the persecuted by the despot for being judicially independent – the Archbishop was well acquainted with the tyranny of rotten African leadership and is well aware of his history and roots even though he has settled into the comfort of the English establishment his preaches a gospel that has meaning and relevance to our times.

Zimbabwe once had an Archbishop in Pius Ncube who was one of the few who were untouchable by the grubby hands and machinations of Robert Mugabe’s henchmen; the learned clergyman however lost his vision and vocation by engaging in activities that diminished his integrity, authority and credibility – the state security apparatus produced evidence of the Archbishop engaging in adultery.

This meant the voice in support of the people from the body of the clergy had to come from elsewhere, so this morning on the Andrew Marr Show (the transcript) in answering questions about Robert Mugabe, the Archbishop demonstrated that he wears a dog-collar to identify himself; taking it off, he cut it to bits saying these words.

You know ... you see as an Anglican, this is what I wear to identify myself that I'm a clergyman. Do you know what Mugabe has done? He's taken people's identity and literally if you don't mind, cut it to pieces. This is what he's actually done, to a lot of - and in the end there's nothing. So as far as I'm concerned from now on I'm not going to wear a dog collar until Mugabe's gone.

The new image of Africa

The sooner Mugabe is gone either by geriatric expiration or by a putsch that would allow us bring him to The Hague to face human rights abuse charges, the better.

He was hosted at the Africa-EU Summit in Lisbon, Portugal that Gordon Brown has boycotted and other African leaders had threatened not to attend if Robert Mugabe was not invited – It was nice to hear that Angela Merkel laid into him and stated “The situation of Zimbabwe is damaging the image of the new Africa”.

Dishonest African Leadership

Some African leaders would have us believe that Zimbabwe is not near collapse and Mugabe is not on his way out, they seek to patch a completely broken situation where even the country’s chief statistician cannot determine that rate of inflation in the country anymore because there aren’t enough goods on the shelves to create a viable dataset.

If the reality of the situation in Zimbabwe is being distorted by the media, according to the aspiring mediator in the person of the Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade as he visited Zimbabwe recently; I would suspect part of that is because of the lack of the freedom of the press in Zimbabwe, but more truthfully it is because we are not being seriously honest with each other; the destroyed townships are no mirage; the illegal immigrants and refugees flocking to South Africa are not animals in seasonal migration; the inflation figures that read 4,000% at one time are not plucked out of the air; the battered faces of the opposition leaders were not make-up – see the Q&A. Those, if I may be allowed the use of the word "coincidences" add up to a country with serious, serious problems.

However, this stance represents the great problem with Africa; the fear of seeing true democracy unseat unpopular leaders, the excitement or perverse black-man thing about seeing countries wrestle with their old colonial masters without any particular gain but notoriety leading to ruin and the inability to decisively tackle the matter of transparency, corruption and poor governance because it would mean everyone has to straighten up. It is no wonder that Africa that was well ahead of Asia in the 60s is now a basket-case in the 21st Century.

In the end, the Africa-EU Summit, the first in 7 years was just another reactionary move by Europe very much like the Scramble for Africa, only this time, it is not for the partition of land but access to Africa’s resources. A meeting of equals in word for the economic colonisation of Africa – a success.

So far, it has been the clergymen who have gauged the situation well and not the disgraceful and shameful politicians; we have Archbishop Pius Ncube, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and now Archbishop John Sentamu to thank for being true, truthful and honest about Mugabe and the problems in Zimbabwe and Africa at large.

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