Has God left Africa?

Sat, 1 Sep 2007 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Why will Ghana’s Health Minister, Mr. Courage Quashigah, ask “Has God left Africa?” Despite its complexity and its implications in divinity, theology and African cosmology, the question practically borders on the historical and the material. If we accept that God is a referee in human’s endeavours, having given humankind the intelligence to use to live a prosperous life, then either African cosmology or Western theology or divinity will not answer Mr. Quashigah’s question that God has left Africa. Why has God left Africa? Where the question does arises from? It is in attempting to answer these questions that we precede to the historical and the material - still God is not left out, still God is the arbitrator.

Mr. Quashigah is part of the emerging Ghanaian thinkers who envision a Ghana which progress is driven simultaneously by its cultural values and the global neo-liberal ones. Africans and their cosmology didn’t supposed that “God has left Africa,” but rather the colonialists and their notion of “God.” And apart from the damages of the slave trade, colonialism and the clutches of neo-colonialism, helpless Africans, Mr. Quashigah argues, are now under the barrage of number of Western films which the lead characters, who might have spoken to their “God,” constantly affirm that “God had left Africa long ago,” “God already left Africa” and “This God-forsaken place.” This makes Africa either bad or evil in the face of the colonialists’ “God,” that’s why their “God” has forsaken Africa. In this sense, the problem “Has God left Africa” is a colonialists’ one and not African. And both as a material and a metaphysical issue, the supposition “God has left Africa” is a problem for the colonialists’ theology and divinity to deal with.

Western theologians have struggled for long with theodicy – the problem of good God and the reality of evil. This is seen more in Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologiae,” that confesses the existence of evil is the best case against the existence of God. Theologians see this as unconvincing in the struggle to understand evil. Emmanuel Kingsley Larbi, a renowned Ghanaian theology scholar, argues that African cosmology with its Supreme Being and the basic idea of Deity is metaphysically not all that different from that of the Western world, and may explain why Christianity boomed quickly in Africa than elsewhere in the world. Like Western theology, African cosmology says that “the forces of evil are always at work against human beings in order to prevent them from enjoying abundant life.” This explains the African value of cosmological balance between the metaphysical and the physical. In African cosmology, as Zambia Roman Catholic Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo explains, material progress comes from this balance.

In this case, to explain what underlies “God has left Africa” may be more of material power, for historical reasons, than the metaphysical, given that it may be fruitless to attempt to understand whether “God has left Africa”. It is this state of theological struggles and immanence in divinity that inform Quashigah’s assertion of the colonialists and Hollywood saying God has left Africa – making Africa riddled with not only material predicaments, despite being blessed with immense material resources, but also metaphysical perplexity. The inference is that if God has left Africa, is it because Africa has either offended God or God does not like Africa - and why would God do that? Again, it is fruitless struggle to understand that. Perhaps God has not left Africa but might have “retracted himself,” as the American thinker and Nazi Holocaust survivor Mr. Elie Wiesel would say, in the matter of Africa. How should Africa handle this? Mr. Quashigah, according to Ghana News Agency (Aug. 23), argues that African Christians have to “counter this subtle strategy of Satan,” of “God has left Africa,” through positive messages like “God was still in Africa and had given Africans the greatest wealth in this world.” This should be done, Mr. Quashigah suggests, largely through “research and gathering intelligence on the activities of Satan…You need to strategize and plan.”

Simplistic but interesting. But that “God has left Africa” is not only a metaphysical conundrum but also material puzzle. A more objective level of “God has left Africa” has more to do with the material state of Africa – never-ending poverty, the poorest continent in the world, as the ranks of African states ranked on the United Nations Human Development Index (2006), which data measures global human well-being such as living a long and healthy life, being educated, and having a decent standard of living indicates. However, most Africans will tell you that most of their material predicaments are due to colonialism and its appendages that ripped them off, subjected them to unfair international trade system, stirred civil wars, imposed their development paradigms on them without considering their traditional cultural values, and helped their elites to loot Africa’s wealth. Pretty sad!!! Pretty unspiritual!!! Where was God when all these damages, if not evil, were happening to apparently helpless Africa and why did Africa sat down to go through all these? Perhaps, it is this material state of Africa that demonstrates that “God has left Africa,” and the West might have helped God, may be their “God,” to leave Africa dry and “empty.” Despite this uncomfortable material state, Africans will tell you that they are the most religious and spiritual, that they are the most forgiving, and that means God is fully in Africa than anywhere else. This might have helped neutralize Africans material troubles.

But the central issue is not that Africans are more religious than anybody else but rather Africans’ ability to tap God’s abundant gift given them for prosperity – still, through balancing the metaphysical with the physical. Primate S.K. Adofo, Spiritual Head of Ghana’s Brotherhood Church, sees God not only as giver but also argues that the blame of Satan, or evil forces or “God has left Africa,” as responsible for the stifling of Africa’s progress is not only wrong, “but also unacceptable…the tendency for people to always blame all evil deeds and misfortunes that come their way on Satan or the devil" and that "most of such evils and misfortunes, are created by people themselves and not necessarily by the devil as always alleged.”

God hasn’t left Africa. God is deeply in Africa, as the immense wealth of continent show. If anything at all, it is Africa which has left Africa and God – if we are to go by Africa’s biting poverty and not any complicated metaphysical struggles. It is up to Africa to use God, through His gift of intelligence to Africans, for Africa’s material progress. And as Mr. Quashigah suggests, largely through “research and gathering intelligence on the activities of Satan…You need to strategize and plan.”

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi