African theologians, bishops cry out for more expansive synod discussions

Assumption Sr. Veronica Rop of Kenya and Sr. Wilhelmina Uhai, a member of the Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in Tanzania, are seen at the Theological Colloquium on Church, Religion, and Society in Africa at Hekima University College in Nairobi July 17. (NCR photos / Joshua J. McElwee)

A number of prominent theologians and bishops from across the African continent have sharply called for more expansive discussions at this fall's global meeting of Catholic bishops on family issues, saying last year's event focused too heavily on subjects mainly of concern to Europeans and North Americans.

Last year's discussions — which attracted global media coverage scrutinizing bishops' stances on controversial questions like divorce and remarriage and same-sex relationships — left out a multitude of pressing issues facing millions living throughout Africa, the prelates and academics argued at a groundbreaking conference here July 16-18.

In a reflection of the tone of the event, one theologian-participant made a poignant, echoing plea. The global church, she said, must entirely refocus itself to speak for voiceless Africans who are suffering in many ways.

 "How outraged are we? Who is keeping a tab?" Nontando Hadebe cried out to other participants at the gathering, speaking specifically of the kidnapping of some 300 schoolgirls by the Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria in 2014.

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