By Jean AMEGBLE, Sj
“There was a time when I was not a Christian. In the beginning, I was born in African religion and later converted to Christianity” say Fr. Orobator, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar presenting his book Religion and Faith in Africa: Confessions of an animist during the book launch event organized in the auditorium of Hekima College.
On Thursday, September 27, at the auditorium of Hekima University College was presented two books that are dealing with some issues of our times. Among the distinguish guest were present the rector of Hekima Jesuit Community, Fr. Deogratias Rwezaura, Sj, the principal of Hekima College, Fr. John Okoria, SJ, and Prof Philomena Mwaura, Professor of African Christianity and religious studies at Kenyatta University (Nairobi, Kenya). The first book presented depicts the personal experience of Rev. Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, SJ,
president of JCAM and president of Hekima College. According to Fr. Orobator, this book draws all his strength from his personal religious experience. He says in that sense: “I want to tell my story. There is a lot of stories in this book. I think that my way of doing theology is not going from concepts and try to distill some implications, but to withdraw from my own experience. Theology has to speak to real life.” His religious experience is the common frame of the book. The second book treats of the needs and faith challenges of the Kenyan catholic youth of small christian communities.
A controversial book
According to the own words of Fr. Orobator, SJ, his book of about the Confession of an Animist is controversial because it tries to reconcile African Religions and Christianism. The book gives not only a positive look on African religion but also argues that Christianism in Africa needs animism to flourish and develop. For Fr. Orobator, SJ, “By the time I converted to Christianity, I was already immersed in African religions. I knew how to pray to a God, how to worship many gods, how to relate to several deities and beings. When Christianity and Islam came, they were claiming to have a God superior to our deities. Christianism taught me a disdain of fetishism and animism. There was already a tension there.” Fr Orobator, SJ in this book tries to reconcile African religions and Christianism/ Islam. Through his narratives, he shows that “animism is not a bad thing at all. Everything engages itself in a religious encounter. That engagement calls us to a deep expression of respect and reverence for every reality we encounter whether it is animate or inanimate.” Rather than criticizing and characterizing African religions of diabolic and demoniac like first missionaries, Fr. Orobator argues that African Religions are “prophetic praxis”: “Christianity cannot displace African religion, Islam cannot. They build from it. When we think about the fruit of Christianism and Islam, it is a fruit that is nourished by deep roots in African religions.”
According to Prof. Philomena Mwaura, Professor of African Christianity and religious studies, this book is a “groundbreaking book”. From the title to the content, she was pleased and stroked by the way Fr. Orobator, SJ engages the dialogue between Christianism and African Religions: “I was fascinated by his religious experience.” For Prof. Mwaura, this book touches the role of women in African religions, the need to provide more solutions to the leadership in the African Church. The book also raises the issue of ecology and the sustainability of Christianism in Africa. She encourages all the participants to read the book, which provides a positive look on the relation between African religions and Christianism.
God’s Quad: Small Faith Communities on Campus and Beyond
The second book presented was written by several authors among whom are some young Kenyan Catholics. They share about their faith experience in small christian communities. In their book published by Orbis Books, they provide some good insights for the next synod of bishops in Rome on “youth, faith and vocational discernment from 3rd to 28 October, 2018. According to the authors, young people can deepen their faith through the creation of their own peer faith-sharing group without priests and religious. Online Christian communities are also important in order to influence the new generations and help them to be more involved in the Church.
The book event was a real success this September 27, 2018 at the auditorium of Hekima College. The books presented were Religion and Faith in Africa, Confessions of an animist by Fr. Orobator, SJ and God’s Quad by Kevin Aherin, Christopher Malano (editors). After the exchange of questions and answers about the two books, the professors and students of Hekima, the distinguished guests were invited to share some light refreshments.