Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dean Martha in Sudan

I've fallen behind in my Africa news, but I was very pleased to see this tidbit (following the Lead) about the Very Reverend Martha Deng Nhial being installed as the Dean of the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Renk, Sudan. Very cool!

Friday, August 15, 2008

China in Sudan

The NY Times has a very succinct summary of the China-Sudan situation: "The brief against China is by and large uncontested (except by China): the Sudan government buys its weapons from China with the foreign currency it makes from selling China its oil. China, meanwhile, protects Sudan from excessive attention in the United Nations Security Council." This is written in a much longer piece discussing the methodology of a group called "Dreams for Darfur," which is strange to read in retrospect because all the plans for making the Sudanese genocide a major issue for this Olympics don't seem to have materialized. I mean, I was looking out for this issue and I can't say I've seen it a whole lot. Is it just me?

I think the inkling of China's connection with Sudan came about only because Steven Spielberg resigned as a creative consultant for the opening ceremonies. I don't think that hurt the opening ceremonies, but it was the thing that got this issue into the news. Aside from that and Joey Cheek, former Olympic speedskater, having his visa revoked before the games started (Cheek is the president of an organization called "Team Darfur"), I haven't seen this issue mentioned very much.

Mostly, I am upset at the International Olympic Committee. I think they have been rather weak and cowardly in their dealings with China and could have done far more to say to the Chinese government, "We made a bargain; we can go somewhere else," and stick to it. But what do I know? I'm sure there's plenty of blame to go around: to NBC, the major advertisers, journalists, the U.S., the U.N., the athletes, all of us who are excited to watch the Olympics...point your finger anywhere, I'm sure you can find someone who's culpable.

My main hope is that the story doesn't disappear in a puff of Olympic success. And my prayer is for the people of Sudan who are the ones primarily affected by the conflict there.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

China in Africa

I hope at some point to post a slightly more knowledgeable entry on China's relationship with Sudan, one of the very touchy issues with the Beijing Olympics. In the meantime, though, I encourage you to read this very interesting article from "The Root" (which I think is affiliated with the Washington Post) that offers an intriguing look at why China is so warmly welcomed by most African nations. A former US ambassador to two African nations, David Shinn, summarizes it thusly: "One, they take greater business risk, and two, they don't attach the political conditions that the West tends to impose."

The article concludes, "If the West wants to push back China's undemocratic influence across Africa, it will have to match China's economic commitments on the continent. There are 900 million African faces waiting to greet the future as it approaches—from east or west."

A complicated situation of which I know only a smidgen. Read the article and tell me what you think.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Pray for Mauritania

One thing I hope to do with this blog is introduce us all (myself included) to the news from Africa.

Mauritania is a former French colony on the west coast of Africa, between Senegal and Mali. It gained independence in 1960 and has since then had bouts of very long, single party rule, interspersed with military coups (in 1978, 1984, 2005).

According to Wikipedia, the first fully democratic election since 1960 (when the French-backed President Moktada Ould Daddah began his 18-year one-party leadership), occurred in March of 2007. "This was the first time that the president had been selected in a multi-candidate election in the country's post-independence history."

All this being a lead-up to the news in Wednesday's NY Times that "A group of senior military officers in Mauritania arrested the country’s president and prime minister on Wednesday in a bloodless coup against the first freely elected government there in more than 20 years."

Hard to say what the motives were. The Times says the National Assembly had been critical of the government's handling of rising food prices and dealing with oil revenue. In the speedily updated Wikipedia article, "A Mauritanian lawmaker, Mohammed Al Mukhtar, announced that 'many of the country's people were supporting the takeover attempt' and the government was 'an authoritarian regime' and that the president had 'marginalized the majority in parliament.'"

As of today, according to the BBC, the ousted president's whereabouts are unclear, the U.S. has suspended $20 million in non-humanitarian aid (i.e. money for miliary purposes and peacekeeper training), and diplomats from the Arab Union and African Union have arrived in Mauritania to discuss the situation with coup leaders.

Again according to the BBC, things are calm on the ground for most people going about their daily business. The reported noted that "some people at the airport were joking about the situation - possibly as it is not regarded as that out of the ordinary given the country's history of coups."

But I can't help but believe an ongoing pattern of military coups is not good for a place. Please keep Mauritania in your prayers.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

On the selection of the Archbishop of Canterbury

You know, one thing that's wonderful about having a blog is that when you put a mistake in print, it will stay in the blogosphere forever, like one of those rogue satellites.

I found this little tidbit today from the London Times:

And, despite Africans' claims that the process was a colonial imposition, they did choose him: although the appointment was formally made by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, the Archbishop's name was put forward by an electoral college made up of Church members. It consulted widely, in a process that took far longer than a papal convocation, and was endorsed by a meeting of all the Anglican primates in the Communion. As Anthony Sadler, the then Archbishops' Secretary for Appointments, wrote to The Times yesterday about the meeting of the primates: “I have never attended a meeting where the presence of the Holy Spirit was so clearly and movingly in evidence.”

Which just goes to show how little I know about the mechanisms of the Anglican Communion.

One thing I do not know: can someone beyond the UK be appointed by the Queen to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury? Even looking at the procedures for the appointment of the ABC on the Church of England's website, it is not clear.

One thing I would like to point out is the way this comment in the Times protests against "Africans' claims that the process was a colonial imposition." But despite his use of the plural, this is Archbishop Orombi's claim, not the continental church's claim as a whole.

I have to say, after looking through the procedures for appointing the Archbishop of Canterbury, I still think Archbishop Orombi has made a reasonable point. It's hard not to think that the C of E and England's government has the upper hand on the ABC's selection when you read, "The Prime Minister, after consultation, appoints a communicant lay member of the Church of England to chair the Crown Appointments Commission, which oversees the selection of a new Archbishop of Canterbury." And et cetera and et cetera and so forth. Still sounds rather imperious to me.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Archbishop Orombi in the London Times

I'm a bit behind the times here (pun really unintended, because it would be a lame pun), but last Friday in the Times, Archbishop Orombi of Uganda published a column as a guest contributor that is worth noting.

He writes, "We believe that our absence at this Lambeth Conference is the only way that our voice will be heard. For more than ten years we have been speaking and have not been heard. So maybe our absence will speak louder than our words." Which reminds me very much of the time that my sister and my mother were] having an argument and my sister's side consisted of the refrain: "You're not listening to me! You're not listening to me!" and finally, "You're not agreeing with me!"

But the Archbishop has a very good point (i.e. I'm agreeing with him) when he says, "Since that meeting [of the primates in 2003, after the election of Bishop Gene Robinson there have been numerous other “betrayals” to the extent that it is now hard to believe that the leadership in the American Church means what it says. They say that they are not authorising blessings of same-sex unions, yet we read newspaper reports of them. Two American bishops have even presided at such services of blessings. Bishops have written diocesan policies on the blessings of same-sex unions. It is simply untrue to say they have not been authorised."

It's driven me crazy, too. There's all sorts of legerdemain in the church about how, "Oh, no, no, we're not authorizing blessings; that's for the national church to decide at General Convention and they never have. We're just proposing rites of same sex blessing" I'm sorry, but that's just sissy talk. It's quite clear that those who are opposed to same sex blessings are opposed to them happening at all. And I can understand why they feel betrayed when the Episcopal Church says they won't authorize same sex blessings and then offers them. It's like the old "I'm not touching you!" torture. Technically, no, but surely we must realize this is pouring salt in the wound.

Why not be up front about it? Why not brave the possibility that we would be kicked out of the club for doing what we think is right? As it is, our behavior makes us look like jerks, and in this article, at least, Orombi is too much of a Christian to say so outright.

The final major point of the Archbishop's article is to state that the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury is a colonial remnant, and he certainly has a point here, too. The only person who can invite people to Lambeth or not is the British government. "Even the pope is elected by his peer," the Archbishop notes. And it is indeed very odd. The Archbishop further says, "The spiritual leadership of a global communion of independent and autonomous provinces should not be reduced to one man appointed by a secular government." And I don't think it is, but he raises an issue that I haven't seen mentioned before.

I think the Archbishop, of course, has every right not to attend Lambeth if he doesn't want. I am very sorry if (and I don't have all the details aside from Bishop Mwamba's comments) he prevented other Ugandan bishops from attending Lambeth against their will. But I do think his statement in the Times is more than just a fit of pique and is worth listening to, even if we don't agree.

Dirt on the shoes

These are the shoes I used for heavy-duty walking in Uganda (though often I wore shoes that were dressier, even when walking on dirt roads--and most of the locals wore flip-flops). I hadn't taken them out since I got back and I had an immediate bout of nostalgia seeing the red dirt on these shoes. Alex would have cleaned all the dirt off them by now, but of course, Alex ran off. And I'm in California where cleaning my shoes is no one's task, including mine.

In the midst of the confusion and sadness over Sally and Joseline, over Lambeth and GAFCon, I have absolutely no temptation to shake the dust of Uganda from my shoes. None at all. I realized yesterday when I was doing some supply work and included an illustration from Uganda in my sermon that there's still more to learn from even that small experience. I'm still working on it, and Uganda is still working on me.
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