Africa, whose Christian population grew by 6,708 percent in the 20th century, adding something like 16,000 converts a day, has become a big-time exporter of evangelical zeal.More
If this reality has yet to fully register on the Catholic radar screen, it may be because African Catholicism does not yet have the high-profile interpreters that Latin America enjoyed in the 1970s and 1980s. Figures such as Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez and ex-Franciscan Fr. Leonardo Boff enjoyed massive international success, making Latin American "liberation theology" a household word. So far, there is no similarly prominent African voice.
What's missing, in other words, is a "Gutiérrez of Africa."
One candidate for that role may be Lamin Sanneh, a distinguished Gambian theologian and descendant of the nyanchos, an ancient African royal house, who teaches at the Yale Divinity School. He's also an editor-at-large of The Christian Century.
Sanneh grew up a devout Muslim. His grandfather and uncle were both influential Muslim clerics in West Africa, and he was destined to follow in their footsteps, attending a strict Islamic school where he became well-versed in Arabic and Islamic theology. Yet the more Sanneh studied, the more he became fascinated by the figure of Jesus in the Koran. [Jesus is mentioned roughly 100 times in the Koran, one of the reasons that Christians initially thought of Islam as a Christian heresy rather than a separate religion.]
Meditating on the deep meaning of the Cross, Sanneh came to what he describes as a decisive conclusion: Suffering is not alien to the nature of God, as his Islamic teachers had insisted, but is at the heart of God's compassion.
The precocious young Muslim then decided to convert to Christianity, well before he had ever been to a Christian liturgy or attended a Christian school. His astonished family initially thought he must have fallen in love with a Christian girl or simply wanted to drink booze, underestimating his determination by a country mile. Sanneh began a long journey, with stops in Methodism and Anglicanism before he became a Catholic in the mid-1990s.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Giving Voice to the Global South
~Excerpted from John Allen's column in National Catholic Reporter