Article: Christians Seek West's Atonement

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HARARE (Reuters) – Hands aloft and tears streaming down her cheeks, Alicia Chipoyi prayed in a high-pitched voice for spiritual healing for the wounds caused by years of slavery and colonization of Africa by Europeans.

Chipoyi was one of hundreds of people attending a European-African-American church prayer meeting on atonement and reconciliation for the West’s past role in the exploitation of what has become the world’s poorest continent.

In prayer sessions punctuated by wailing and weeping, song and dance, delegates said the West had to repent before God as the first step to reconciliation with Africa, which blames many of its problems on the legacies of enslavement and imperialism.

“We are not looking to man for help, we are looking to God for our dignity to be restored but first of all the West must confess, repent and atone for their past,”[emphasis mine:DP] Langton Gatsi, the organizer of the meeting, told Reuters on the sidelines of the prayer session.

“Once that happens we can talk of reparations and co-operation and how we can start on an equal footing.”

African leaders including Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe have in the past called for reparations from the West for its part in the slave trade.

Chris Seaton, who leads the Europe-Africa Reconciliation Process, a London-based Christian pressure group that seeks to persuade Europe to admit its past role in colonialism, said more Europeans were now aware of the “dark side of colonialism.”

The West should see Africa as an equal partner in all its dealings with a continent wracked by poverty, civil wars and underdevelopment, he said.

“We are having to explain the dark side of colonialism to our people in Europe. It is a spiritual initiative which comes in a sense, as a (result) of our history,” Seaton told Reuters.

“Some call it indulging on white guilt but our purpose is to acknowledge our past mistakes.”…

I’m sorry to sound cynical on a Friday afternoon, but I have to ruffle some feathers before I leave town. But it’s obvious to me that the West is held liable for a great deal of decisions that came out of sinful intentions and led to unimaginable consequences. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be held accountable, but conversely, are they owed gratitude in the case that what they’ve passed on has been constructive?

I can’t help but wonder if the Far East should thank the West because it has been much kinder to Asia than to Africa. Should Asian Americans call for Korea to thank the West for giving us a gospel of independence and of prosperity? And furthermore, to question exactly what the point of calling an entire hemisphere to repentance is this, what do we expect in recompense and as Christians, would we forgive regardless?

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Comments

  1. josh says:

    You feather ruffler you!

    I think the general idea is to get the “west” to acknowledge, as a starting point, their historic complicity and even responsibility for the current failures in Africa– although Africans themselves bear a good deal of responsibility. A remarkable number of people believe colonialism / imperialism to have been a good thing, or at least a not bad thing and do not see any connection between the actions of western nations in the past and the poverty and problems of southern and eastern nations in the present.

    As for the question of thanking… I don’t know if thanks would be appropriate in the situation you describe. It is like asking one abused child to thank their parent because the abuse heaped on them was not quite as bad as that which was heaped on their brother. And I have a problem with the whole thanking of a nation thing, because it so easily displaces God. God should be thanked for bringing liberation and peace to a country, even if he uses (or allows) another country to the instrument of that. And as for the gospel… I think we should put to rest finally and forever the notion that the “West” or Europeans brought the gospel to the benighted masses.

    I do not mean to suggest some ahistorical reality. Many, many missionaries took the gospel around the world and most of them were White Europeans or Americans (at least historically). What I mean to challenge is any sense of viewing the gospel as a gift given by those missionaries to the people they served. The gospel is indeed a gift, but from God. As one of my Ghanaian brothers observed, “Europeans were converted the same way we were.” If the missionaries had remembered that perhaps they would not have packed quite so much European culture in the gospel suitcase.

    Agrhhh… I never feel as if I express myself well.

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