Africa rise, take up your pallet and walk is the phrase that punctuated the second synod for Africa. It’s about awakening and encouraging Africa not to waste time mourning its past but rather work for better future.
Rise and walk, end of synod
At the end of the African Synod II the reaction of the participants was like, “were our hearts not burning?” There was a feeling not just of relief for having finally reached the end but there was also a remarkable sense of satisfaction for the job done. They didn’t hesitate to describe it as a “new Pentecost.” Pentecost? Really? Was it because they were still in Rome enjoying the fraternity, good ambiance, buoyed up by the idealism of the proposals while still far from the reality of their dioceses? Pentecost, was it what they experienced there and then or as hoped fruit after applying those propositions? Was it not therefore too early to speak of Pentecost?
Anyway, whatever the case, we cannot take away from them the joy and the satisfaction they experienced. It was a marvel in Rome. Yet the bishops had no intention of building tents in Rome. They were determined to come down the mountain to their churches. And so what they experienced was only a foretaste. The real Pentecost would come when the fire of the spirit with which they descended would burn and transform into itself the hopes and pains of their flock in Africa.
Africa that walks, true measure of synod
Hence, the true measure of the Pentecost is when the entire African Church welcomes the fruit of the Synod and begins living it. The descent of the spirit happened at a certain morning but the transformation is on-going in the church. So, what the Synod participants proclaimed as Pentecost was but just the beginning of such magnanimously long and huge work that demands more than a good feeling. It calls for a persevering effort to keep walking even when the weather is unfavourable.
This transforming power of the spirit will take effect with a change of mentality. Africa has suffered great wounds in history, slave trade, colonialism, injustice at international trade, the on-going wars fanned often multinationals that profit from such human misery. Yet, Africa is not a passive victim.
The injustice and oppression is not just something from without to which Africa is forced to submit. Many are Africans who are oppressors of their own people. They earn their bread by making victims their own people. In order to move forward for a change the African society needs a very serious introspection.
Accusing finger is not a solution
A change for development in Africa will not come by crying over what others have done against her. In fact, every individual country has a story to tell of the oppression it has endured. Some western countries flourishing though they may be today have known wars, dictatorial and repressive regimes, not for decades, but for centuries of years. Nevertheless, they have moved forward without having to disown their true, sad history. Africa can do the same. It’s not perpetual sulking that will develop Africa.
In the interventions of Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum, and of his auxiliary bishop Daniel Marco Kur Adwok, we have what it takes to transform the mentality of the African society in general and the church in particular. They observed that the most important thing for us Africans is not to surrender to the ills we suffered in the past. Our focus should rather be to stand up with full force to re-construct our society. It’s a project which demands us to believe in ourselves first.
Donc, rise and walk!
This is kairos. At the pool of Bethesda, the paralysed man had Jesus just in front of him, that is, the opportune time for recovering his well being. But this man nearly squandered it all in accusing others. “Do you want to be well again?” Jesus asked him. “Sir,” replied the sick man, “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; and while I am still on the way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said, “Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk around” (Jn 5:6-8).
Are we not squandering our kairos? Undeniably, we have a history to tell, a sad one surely. It’s part of our heritage. However, the solution to our situation today lies not in accusing others but rather in our determination to rise above our history. We need to rise and walk. Africa has a job to work for better future.