Focus Areas :

IIXh. Theological Education: HIV/AIDS and Other Challenges

A Vision for Mission in the 21st Century: Ways Ahead for Ecumenical Theological Education Theological Education: HIV/AIDS and Other Challenges in the New Millennium

Prof. Musa W. Dube,
HIV/AIDS Theological Consultant
P.O Box 355
Gaborone, Botswana
Keynote address at St Paul's United Theological College, Limuru, 3/6/3

Even long before the scourge of HIV/AIDS, dare I say that creating new theological thinking is long overdue? For so long, many churches in Africa have been living with imported theology, which does not speak to the fears and hopes of the people… "I am here begging for a theology that will help us ask critical questions about our inactivity or wrongdoing; a theology that will help the child, youth, woman and man in the pew and streets to cultivate a dialogue that will lead to life-giving action in the midst of suffering, misery and death… I am begging for a theology that will provoke us to come together, to argue it out when things go wrong, with or without academic theologians. We need a theology that will creatively help us to retell our story of colonization, cultural and religious imperialism, people's resistance and struggle for land and freedom (uhuru, in Swahili) to the point where we say no to injustice, exploitation, globalization and senseless death

Nyambura J. Njoroge, "Come now, let us reason together," Missionalia 29, 2000:254

Introduction: Congratulations!
I wish to congratulate you, the alumni, leaders and members of staff of this institution, on this occasion of the centennial celebration of St Paul's United Theological college. I am sure that historians of this theological institution can inform us that you are not only one of the oldest institutions of the Kenyan church but of the African continent as well. I hope that you will take this occasion to document, not only the history of your institution, but also to compile short biographical histories of your graduates. We need to know the graduates of this institution and what they have done for their churches, societies and the world as a whole. Of course, with a hundred years of theological training this may prove to be a huge task, but not an impossible one. You would probably have to select among your many graduates and to present a picture of your contribution to the life of the Kenyan and the African church, indeed, to the worldwide church. Whoever would compile such a book would do well to show us how the institution revolved in the various historical stages of the African continent and the world as a whole. We would want to find out the function, purposes and achievements of this institution in colonial times, in the struggle for independence, in independent Africa, in neo-colonial times, in the globalization era and now in the HIV/AIDS era. We would seek to understand how the college transformed its contents, its structures and its staff to address each context. Such documentation is quite important as you begin the new millennium and as you reflect on the vision for mission in the 21st century and, as I been made to understand, as you seek to transform your self into an Ecumenical University! One thing I have been told is that when the college was founded its "aim was to respond to issues of Development and social justice in an area of freed-slave settlement." As you rightfully reflect on the "vision for mission in the 21st century, you need to keep this history in view, to fully understand your past, your strengths and weaknesses in order to sharpen this vision. You will indeed need to have an understanding of your world--how it is revolving and how you can best position yourself to serve God's changing world. But in particular, I think it will be absolutely important to remember and uphold the role of being guardians of social justice in your theological education

For my part, the task I have in this celebration and consultation is to highlight the role of theological education by focusing on HIV/AIDS and other challenges in the new millennium. "Theological education has been defined as the task to motivate, equip, and enable the people of God to develop their gifts and give their lives in a meaningful service" (Ortega 1996:282). The easy part of my contribution is that HIV/AIDS automatically includes all other challenges. The difficult part is that HIV/AIDS, as an epidemic that functions within other social epidemics and as an epidemic that affects all aspects of our lives, it includes everything. To speak about the challenges of HIV/AIDS in any thorough way is thus daunting. At the same time, the task might be lightened by the fact that we all know and are aware of the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS-the question is more on how it affects and how it should inform theological education. What my paper shall do is to highlight some of the major aspects of HIV/AIDS and how it challenges theological education

Defining Theology
Since I am by training a biblical scholar and only a theologian by practice, it is important for me to give my own working definition of theology and theological education. This is particularly so because two weeks ago, I was in a workshop, where a professor spoke about HIV/AIDS and theology and people disagreed with his definition. If I give you my working definition, you will at least judge my words within their own framework.

In my understanding, theology is a reflection on the Divine Being within a particular context, people, time and within a certain framework of belief. It is a search for the Divine will and revelation within the lives of a people in their given circumstances. When we define theology from a Christian point of view, we may say it is the interpretation of biblical scriptures for contemporary meaning. It follows that there will/should be many theologies depending on who is reflecting, on their particular contexts, circumstances and their framework of faith in God.

In our age, we have thus seen numerous rise of theologies with various names such as liberation theology, African theology, black theology, women's theology, feminist theology, Asian theology, Contemporary theology, Catholic and Protestant theology (and also many theologies that do not identify themselves) etc. All these different names denote that these are theologies that arise from particular people, reflecting within a particular context, within a certain set of circumstances and terms of belief. For example, when we speak of African theology we are referring to a theology that arises from the Sub-Saharan Africa, one which is linked to the struggle for liberation and independence. This theology regards African cultures and biblical tradition as its most important theological resources. African theology assumes that God has been revealed in African cultures and thus the latter serve as an important base for the propagation of the Gospel of Christ. African theology is concerned about the issues that affect African theology. Asian theology in all its varieties, seeks to address the various social circumstances that confront Asian people-poverty and suffering; to understand Christ among all other religious beliefs, especially where Christians exist as a minority. Latin American theology rises in the geographical area that co-exists with super powers in a situation of dire poverty. Latin American theology is thus a theology of liberation that begins with the assumption that God takes sides with the poor against all the social structures and circumstances that have reduced them to ungodly oppression.

If theology is a contextual and particular reflection, it follows that theology is not neutral or static. It can rise from high or low classes; dominant and oppressed groups, men or women. Theology can assume official and unofficial status. If it also depends on particular terms of reference or framework of belief in God, it follows that theology can be liberating or oppressing, depending on the terms of reference used by a particular group to reflect on their context and their circumstances. Regretfully, theological institutions have often gone with official, dominant, high class theology-a theology that does not help the most marginalized members of our societies to assert what they believe is God's will for them in their particular circumstances. When this happens, the prophetic voice, the voice of social transformation is lost in our theological formation. Theological education becomes another servant of the status quo than the voice of liberation. Gladly, in the last thirty years many marginalized voices have sufficiently protested calling for a theology that rises from the village prayers and songs (Okullu 1974:54; Oduyoye 1983:45-50) or from ordinary readers (West & Dube 1996).

My Theological Framework
But as to whether a particular theology is legitimate or not, I believe this will largely depend on the framework of reference that we hold and the relationships that we believe are sanctioned by God. It will also depend on dialogue with our neighbors. Our framework of reference informs the ethics of our belief in the Divine being and what passes as God's will for creation, humanity and the relationships within. That is, what passes as legitimate or let me say, godly theology, will largely depend on what we believe holds true as God's will for creation as a whole, for humanity, in deed, for all of us in this world. My theological framework is largely informed by the fact that I subscribe very much to the following beliefs; namely, that

  • creation as a whole was created by God and it was created good, hence all life is sacred.
  • all people, regardless of their color, gender, class, race, religion, ethnicity, health status, age, sexual orientation, were
    created in God's image and there are loved by the same, and given human dignity and access to earthy resources.
  • the Divine hand created all things interconnected and in balance.
  • when some people are denied their human dignity, for whatever reason that we may raise on the basis of their differences, God's will is disregarded.
  • when balance, the goodness, the image of God is violated in creation, then evil results.
  • human beings are made in God's image to become co-creators with God, tasked with the role of ensuring that the goodness of the earth, its balance remains to and for all and to God
  • the church is particularly positioned to be guardians of God's will in the world
  • God's revelation continues to be manifested to us through the Holy Spirit and the prophets that rise among us.

Clearly, this framework does not subscribe to perspectives which, for whatever reason, hold that certain groups of people, be it on the basis of their ethnicity, health status, gender, race, age, class, or sexual orientation should be subjugated, oppressed or denied their God-given human dignity. In this framework, salvation is liberation from spiritual, physical, economic, cultural and politically oppressive and exploitative structures and institutions. In this framework, social structures and institutions that sanction oppression and exploitation do not represent God's will, and must be counteracted by those of us who accept our role as co-creators in keeping the earth sacred, good, and balanced.

Theological Education
My theological framework shapes my understanding of theological education and its role. I believe that theological education should be an instrument/servant of God's will for God's world and people. Theology thus wants to shape faith communities to be the voice that speaks God's will and seeks the establishment of God's will for creation as a whole. It follows that theological education does not have a choice but to be socially engaged and socially educated. Theological education should not just be the voice of the voiceless-whereby theology is for trained academic theologians and the clergy--it should empower the powerless to speak for themselves and to insist on their God given human dignity. Theological education must enable the church masses, the laity; to be God's servant and co-creators in the world, by being the stewards of God's will in our communities. This, I believe, is essential for us to recapture as we seek to sharpen our vision for mission in the 21st century and as we search for ways forward for ecumenical theological education. That is, we seek a theological education that seeks to empower all subjects to know God's will, to seek it, to speak it, in our world. Suppose you agree with me on some of these views, in particular my frame of reference, what shape would our theological education take, what is its shape now and how does it need to change?

Unfortunately, I did not have access to the theological program of this institution before hand, to concretely refer to your curriculum. Nonetheless, many times we have turned our theological institutions and their programs into icons of power, prestige, bastion of patriarchy, hierarchy and elitism. We measure the quality of each institution and program according to the amount of official, high class, standard or sometimes church theology that a particular institution can showcase. Thus when we assess institutions for accreditation we look for particular academic standards and require them. For an institution to pass as a strong place of theological education, its library must stock certain Greek philosophers and German scholars, and student reading list and course outlines must reflect the use of particular theological authorities. We expect the lecturers to be graduates of particular universities and departments that have upheld these standards. We tend to expect theological colleges to reproduce certain concretized theologies and perpetuate them. In other words, our standards are not measured on just how much the particular institution, its lecturers and research are socially engaged and how their programs seek to be midwives of God's justice in their context, in the world and for all creation. I am not saying there is something wrong with holding on to very concrete traditional standards in itself. But if we have come to a point where these standards stifle the very heart and role of theological education then we will do well to rethink. We must re-think and review our theological education so that it shapes our faith communities into dynamic prophetic voices that constantly bring our societies and institutions to the light God's justice.

The question of relevant theological education is even more pressing here in Africa, where our theological education is not only threatened by the role of preserving concretized academic theological standards, it is also historically colonized. Many theological programs are transported from the West to Africa through historical relationships of colonial times, training of scholars in the West, through paternalistic sponsorship, through accreditation, sometimes, through unimaginative and African scholars who do not want to take the responsibility of constantly re-viewing and revamping their programs to make them answerable to our contexts and communities. One finds that in many African institutions, the theological formation of their students is based on Western theology-that is, a theology that was meant to deal with pressing issues of the western world, which nonetheless has no immediate, obvious or direct relevance their context. Further, this theology is cast in thought forms and languages that do not immediately communicate to African students. Such formation has unfortunately given rise to a socially divorced theological education-educational consciousness that hardly has anything to say about the presence, activity and will of God in our particular contexts. Such theological formation has unfortunately produced stillborn church leaders and scholars, whose theological voice is non-existent. Their theological voices and vision are dead by the time they march in their graduation robes (West & Dube 1996:7-17). Such faith leaders cannot help the communities that they lead to insist on God's justice to roll in all the valleys of our streets. With such theological education, what hope can we find in our faith communities? Can we expect the African church, for example, to be a church that speaks and acts as God's co-creators in all that so constantly seeks to blur God's image from our various communities? Theological education is, therefore, central to the social formation and understanding the mission of the church in the world, for that, TE must constantly seek to make itself relevant to its contexts.

Many years ago, John Mbiti satirically presented the weakness of African theological education. Mbiti told a story of a newly returned Phd graduate student who was called upon to save his sister from spirit possession. Instead of focusing on the demands of his context, he went to the wonderful theological book of Bultmann, who said such a phenomenon has been demythologized. The graduate student then said the sister must be taken to the hospital-but the nearest hospital was many miles away! He could not help his sister with all his theological education. The theological formation of this student was shown to be impotent (retold by Maluleke 2002:126-127). Even as the new millennium begins, it remains to be seen just how much African theological education has moved to design theological education that sparks God's light amongst all God's people within their various contexts and creation as a whole. Indeed, in her article, "Come, Let us reason together," Nyambura J. Njoroge seems to suggest we have hardly moved. She holds that "many churches have been living on imported theology, which does not speak to the hopes and fears of the people (2001:254). As we reflect on a vision for mission in the 21st century and seek for ways for ecumenical theological education, I believe it is imperative for this institution to revolve its quest around the question of: how can our theological programs become midwives of social justice in our societies, nations and the world, by grooming a church/faith communities that understand act on their role.

I can almost hear the bang of some protesting hearts! Some are saying, "What! Are you saying we should discard established theological standards that have been built over the centuries? What would be the mark of qualitative theological education and formation if we do not put these standards at the center of what passes as quality? Well, this is what we are called to re-imagine in this consultation. For me, it is not the standards that matter, but the impact of our theological education on the social formation of our faith communities. Some may be saying, "how come you graduated from western institutions and you are still a speaking voice? I will tell you my own history of theological training, shortly.

I think it is also clear that if theological education is to assist the social formation of the church and our faith communities in general to become co-creators with God, then it cannot be limited to religious leaders or academic theologians. Rather, theological education must be extended to the laity, to the faith communities. Our theological institutions must make a space for faith communities to be theological subjects (254). Similarly, the lay training institutions and programs should be strengthened to equip faith communities for living out their faith as co-creators with God in the society. Lastly, churches themselves need to lift up their Sunday school theology to be contextually relevant. This really calls us to become faith communities that value theological education as a right for all; as an instrument of social transformation, which enables us to constantly seek the presence of God in our worlds. In my Africa-wide travels, where I train theological educators and faith communities on theological thinking in the HIV/AIDS era, I have heard people either saying,"a theology of HIV/AIDS is really needed." Or they say, "Yes, yes! This is the theological question that I have been having questions about. You tackled it very well." In these expressions, one gets the feeling that when our faith communities have theological questions about issues in their societies, they wait for their religious leaders or some trained theologians to tackle the issue. If they hear these issues tackled in ways that are insufficient or not addressed they keep quite. They do not feel empowered to articulate the relevant theology themselves, even when they harbor legitimate questions in their hearts. They are not or they do not feel theologically empowered to become speaking subjects. It could very well be that they do not find the space and forum for theological reflection and articulation. We as theological educators should not only believe that the laity should be theologically trained, we should also make concrete plans for this implementation.

My Story of Theological Education
Turning to the story of my theological training, I did my first degree in the University of Botswana, where I did a double major in Environmental science and theology. For my second degree, I went to the prestigious University of Durham in the UK and did my masters. For my third degree I went to the prestigious Vanderbilt University in the USA. I was sponsored by the University of Botswana under their staff development program. One thing I found common to both my prestigious universities is that I did not find one course on African religions, African theology, nor did I ever find one textbook written by an African as a required book. I was really struck by this. Even in my first degree in Botswana, I had had to grapple with such famous theological thinkers as Paul Tillich, Rodulf Bultmann, Niebur, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoffer in addition to reading John Mbiti, John Pobee, Desmond Tutu, Itumeleng Mosala, Gustavo Gutierrez (clearly they were all male!)-And also in this order, that is, first world/European theologians first, occupying the whole term, then all Two Thirds World theologians in one term! As a graduate student, I was so surprised how theological institutions of the west could so perfectly ignore us when we could not (in fact, I was so surprised that I could not hear Southern African music on the radio, when in my country I could hear Elton John, Dolly Parton, George Michael, Joe Cooker etc. in the airwaves). While in Durham, St John's College, which is ensconced in a horseshoe bank of a meandering river, one afternoon, I sat beside the river on a bench. The grass and everything was heavenly green. I gave a moment of thought about my studies. In particular, I said to myself, "If my father was to ask me what I am studying, what would I tell him? I found that what I was studying was excellent but was not speakable, in the sense that it was totally another world, one whose relevance could hardly be seen within my own context."

When I got to Vanderbilt, I found the same excellent exclusion of anything African (save in the global biblical hermeneutics class). I spoke to one of my professors and said, "This school is racist and discriminative. Why is that African Religions, theologies and authors are not studied? I said, I think I want to stage a one person demonstration for this is evident racism and call the media to cover it." My professor said to me, "Go ahead and demonstrate. May be you will bring the necessary changes." Then he said to me, "As for biblical studies, if you give me names of African authors, I will be glad to include them in my required and recommended reading list." While the latter seems an amicable response, we have to ask ourselves, what is a wrong with a theological world system where fifty years of African biblical studies, their works are still unknown (or should I say unread) in the Western world, when we have been reading Western theologians since God knows when (Dube 2002d: 61-63). Be that as it may, someone must tell me, "why do African theological programs, institutions and educators feel that we need Western theological works and scholars when they do not feel the same need about us? Why do we keep to their theological standards if it stifles our theological spark?" These questions beg to be answered.

Some of you are probably asking how I survived from being a stillborn graduate to become a speaking voice. Before I share that I must say that I am still trying to resurrect from the valley of dry bones-with great fear and trembling I am still working at my own salvation and I have grave doubts at my success. First, I occupied my theological studies with resistance, suspicion and with constant questioning of what it means that I am an African Motswana woman who is studying the Bible in the West (West & Dube 1996; 1998:119; 1998b:224-243; 2002:41-64). Second, I found ways of learning from the periphery. For my masters, I wrote my dissertation on Mary as Our Ancestor: An African Woman's Search for Identity. I carried an independent research on African biblical hermeneutics and found that several works on Christology hard been done-but from an African male perspective. Jesus had been read as the Greatest Ancestor, Brother-Ancestor, Elder brother, Proto ancestor, Chief, King (Amoah 2000:41-42). Gosh, not only was I alienated by white biblical interpretations, African works were quite male. As an African woman, I was doubly alienated. Thus I made attempts to construct an African feminist Christology on Mary as our Ancestor. For my Phd in Vanderbilt, I asked for two independent studies, one on postcolonial theories and another on the portrait of African women in the African novel. In the end, I combined these two to write a dissertation on Towards Postcolonial Feminist Interpretation of the Bible. Indeed, many of us who studied in the West can tell their own stories on how they had to learn from the periphery or had to come back and re-educate themselves. Yet not all of us are lucky enough to design independent studies that help them to refocus on their backgrounds, nor do all of us have sufficient spaces and time to reconstruct our theological thinking once we return. But even those who have the time and space, why should African students spend the bulk of their graduate education learning theological discourse and theories that are alien to their contexts and only get self-taught when they seek to be relevant for their context? This kills a great part of our theological imagination, especially that most African scholars once in the field they are really overworked.

Further, two questions need to be asked, "If we have institutions such as yours, hundred years old, why do we still have to send our students overseas so they can come back theologically muted? Why are we not providing theological education ourselves? And when we provide education here, why do we have to provide foreign theological education? Why do we have our programs accredited from outside? Lastly, this does not completely exonerate Western theological institutions. If the Western institutions realize that the center of Christianity is shifting towards the south; if they realize that our world is becoming more pluralist everyday and if they care to provide ecumenical theological education-why is that African religions, theologies and authors indeed Two Third World theologies, hardly feature in their programs?" In short, not only us here in the African continent need to reassess our theological education, a worldwide rethinking is needed. We all need to ask: how much do our theological programs serve to equip our graduates, the communities of faith they serve and the society to be guardians of God's goodness on earth? With that let me return to the question of HIV/AIDS and its challenge to theological education.

The Context of HIV/AIDS & Theological Education
In this day of HIV/AIDS, we are in certain context that produces particular circumstances. Since theology is a reflection on God's activity and will for creation in all circumstances, it follows that there is already a theology of HIV/AIDS. The moment we ask what is God saying to us through HIV/AIDS? What is God's will concerning this disease? Does God love us? Does God care, and where is God's healing in this HIV/AIDS era then a theology of HIV/AIDS has began. We have began to reflect on a particular context and to seek for God's will for God's own people in their particular circumstances of HIV/AIDS.

The statistics of HIV/AIDS infection are staggering: 40 million have been infected; 22million have died in twenty-two years and 14million children have been orphaned (UNAIDS 2001:1; UNAIDS 2002:8). And still as we speak people get infected on each day, many are on home-based care others are being buried. The statistics hide the truth. They do not tell us how many billions of people, who are HIV/AIDS negative or sero-status blind are gripped by HIV/AIDS stigma, which manifests itself as fear, hopelessness, lack of belief in the future, indifference towards the suffering and the act of isolating and rejecting those who are HIV/AIDS + . Many more billions are infected by fear of HIV/AIDS, stigma and hopelessness.

As a new epidemic HIV/AIDS produces a particular context on three fronts:

  • First, the fact that HIV/AIDS is a global catastrophe means that it calls for the response of all of us, wherever we are. HIV/AIDS is not, as some have come to mistakenly think, an African disease. It is a global epidemic, tragedy and crisis. In that sense, it offers us a chance to develop and strengthen our ecumenical theology and response.
  • HIV/AIDS is an epidemic within other social epidemics of poverty, gender inequalities, violence the abuse of children, racism, ethnic conflicts, wars, international injustice, HIVAIDS stigma and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Given that HIV/AIDS functions within other social epidemics, it is the most marginalized members of the world who are more vulnerable to infection and lack of quality care. The worst part about HIV/AIDS is that it makes the marginalized to become more marginalized. The poor become poorer, children become more disempowered, widows become dispossessed and thrown out of their homes etc.
  • Third, HIV/AIDS affects all aspects of our lives: the spiritual, mental, political, cultural, social, economical and psychological areas. It affects everything and everyone. It questions the very fabric of our existence and calls for rethinking and research on what we have always taken for granted-and theological education is not an exception.

These three aspects speak for themselves in so far as providing theological education which is socially engaged and which seeks to enable religious leaders and communities of faith to be co-creators with God in keeping all creation within God's intention and will. It goes without saying that if HIV/AIDS is a global catastrophe, then globally theological institutions should have by now integrated HIV/AIDS in their programs. It is twenty-two years now since this epidemic has invaded our world, how many of our theological programs have responded to this global context by developing courses such as Reading the Bible in HIV/AIDS era; Doing Theology in a the HIV/AIDS Context; Christian Mission and HIV/AIDS? Ethics and HIV/AIDS; African Religions and HIV/AIDS; Islam and HIV/AIDS; Human Sexuality and HIV/AIDS, Liberation Theology in the HIV/AIDS era, African Theology and HIV/AIDS, or the Church and HIV/AIDS. Theological Institutions should have HIV/AIDS policy for their students, staff and programs. It would be interesting to carry out a worldwide assessment of theological institutions to assess how they have programmatically responded to HIV/AIDS. This would be telling in so far as measuring the relevance of our theological education to our contexts and time is concerned.

Second, the fact that HIV/AIDS is an epidemic within other social epidemics is quite a critical issue on how we formulate our theological content and intention of our theological education. If HIV/AIDS works with poverty, gender inequalities, violence against women, civil wars, national corruption, international injustice, child abuse, human rights violations, HIV/AIDS stigma, racism, war, ethnic conflict/or cleansing and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, we can only be theological answerable if; first, we have an understanding of this epidemic-if we can identify and name these social epidemics and when we are able to critically assess their origin, causes and how they can be stemmed. Our theological education will be able to stand up to the challenge if, it gives students and communities of faith concrete tools for social analysis. And third, our theological program, will have to have a framework of reference that enables our students to reflect on, "What is God will; concerning these social evils?" Unless our theological education brings our students and our faith communities to see these social evils as violating God's will and creation; unless it underlines that all life is sacred; unless we underline that healing is God's will for all, unless it expressly says it has zero tolerance for HIV/AIDS stigma then how can they become theological leaders and faith communities who seek to be co-creators with God in keeping the earth and everything in it good in the HIV/AIS era? Theological education, which is informed by the above and seeks to address the above must be social formation-it must be a vision for mission that underlines that all life is sacred and practically works for the realization of the same.

Indeed, initial theological response to HIV/AIDS has demonstrated theological poverty in many ways. First, there was silence and indifference. Then there was an association of HIV/AIDS with immorality and God's punishment upon the sinful. When the churches finally decided to be actively involved, they insisted on abstinence and faithfulness as the answer to the fight against HIV/AIDS. The condom became, and still is, outlawed for supposedly encouraging promiscuity. While A & B, seems/ed ideal, the truth is that, this perspective overlooks that HIV/AIDS is an epidemic within other social epidemics. While it would seem that every individual could prevent HIV/AIDS by applying A or B, unjust social circumstances and institutions make individuals unable to apply these ideals. An effective fight against HIV/AIDS must, therefore, not only focus on the individual, but must equally address the social injustices that fuel HIV/AIDS for individual's choices are determined by their social location and the institutions that they co-exist with. For example, both poverty and gender inequalities render A and B strategies ineffective. Many poor, unemployed and unmarried mothers or evicted and dispossessed widows, who nonetheless have children to feed, have to choose between dying of starvation in two weeks or to engage in sex work and die ten year later of HIV/AIDS (NCA 2000: 12-13). While I will agree that the condom, like A & B, is not hundred percent safe, I found the churches unwillingness to admit that it is another usable tool troubling. One could well say that while the world said ABC, faith communities were saying ABD, ie abstain, be faithful or die. Here I gleaned a theological perspective that dangerously subjugated the imperative to preserve life to sexual purity. Christian faith communities were overlooking a central theological base; namely, that all life is sacred. To me, this reflected a dire theological poverty and immaturity. As I have argued elsewhere,

In our fight against HIV/AIDS, we must develop a well-grounded theology of respect for life. Our prophetic theology must be grounded and propelled by a theology of respect for life. It must be based on the conviction that God does not wish anyone to be infected by HIV/AIDS-regardless of whether that person was failing to abstain or to be faithful. We need, therefore, to continue saying, abstain, be faithful, but whenever you have sex, condomise (Dube 2001: 46).

I believe theological education has a great task to address here-namely, that HIV/AIDS is not only an issue of individual immorality, but rather, it is also very much a disease of social injustice. The two must be seen and tackled together. Theological education needs to assist in bringing our faith leaders and communities to realize that our mission in the HIV/AIDS era is to develop and implement a prophetic theology of life in the fight against HIV/AIDS-one that is able to address the individual and the social circumstances around her/him.

Further, it is at least fifty years since human rights were passed and many other charters and declarations that challenge us to have a better respect for life-for Women's rights, Children's rights, environment, culture were passed. The world in itself is trying to respect life. Most of our theological programs still need to reflect on this international context of seeking to respect life and to build on it. Here we will do well to heed the voice of sister Teresa Okure, who insists that a biblical interpreter refers to "anybody who reads the biblical text in order to discover life (1995:55) and that "any interpretation that fails to do this… becomes suspect and should be regarded as in authentic," since it would have failed to "be in tune with universal intention of God to liberate, save, give and sustain life"(57). We need a life-centered theology in the HIV/AIDS era for our communities and for our world. I think that the fact that the response of faith communities has harped on individual responsibility or lack of responsibility to the exclusion of evil/unjust social structures and institutions had been quiet telling. Namely, faith leaders do not have skills of social analysis and how social structures and institutions affect individual's decisions. I think that this is both a statement and challenge to our theological education to raise faith leaders and communities that are prophetic-those who are able to see social injustice and to challenge, it underlines that we cannot afford to offer theological education that does no seek social justice.

Turning to a theology of gender justice, it is at least forty years since modern feminist theology began. Yet many of our theological programs treat it as a novelty--they leave it to a few women in the staff or completely ignore it. Many times even the women in the theological institutions when they struggle to bring gender studies they are ridiculed marginalized and sometimes threatened. In the HIV/AIDS training workshops that I hold for theological educators, I always give a paper on Gender and HIV/AIDS. In the workshops some heads of departments have openly said, "stop this gender nonsense." In some evaluations some people wrote this was an excellent workshop, but you almost spoiled it with your gender nonsense." This resistance from theological leaders and educators means that our students who become religious/faith leaders graduate with no understanding of what gender inequalities are; how they work with the cultural, social, economic, political and spiritual institutions of our worlds to promote the spread of HIV/AIDS.

In this HIV/AIDS era, however, gender inequalities are second to poverty in being a major driving force behind the spread of HIV/AIDS (UNDP 2000:21). Many economically, culturally, politically, and religiously powerless women find that neither abstaining, nor being faithful or having a condom/femidom can shield them from HIV/AIDS infection. Many men who know about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, still either refuse to give up the culture of multiple partners, to share power with their women partners; they refuse to condomise for in so doing they would have betrayed their identity of manhood, which encourages one to be brave and take risks. At the end of the day no one wins-only HIV/AIDS wins. Any theological responsible education, which wants to contribute to the struggle against HIV/AIDS and which subscribes to the theological economy that says we are all made in God's image must address gender inequalities and provide theological education which helps us to establish gender justice. Courses on gender and theology; gender and HIV/AIDS; gender, the Bible and HIV/AIDS; gender and African religions must be part of the core courses that are compulsory. Gender must also be mainstreamed across all subjects, for we are always gendered men and women and all forms of knowledge must acknowledge this in their research, writing and teaching-failure to do this is failure to prepare our students for leadership in the society. Worse, failure to do this is to become guardians of social evils-and failure to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS.

When it comes to issues of children, perhaps this is one area where most our theological programs are glaringly lacking (Maluleke & Nadar 2002; Dube 2002e:31-42). Being some of the most powerless members of our societies, children hardly have a visible theological voice. Our institutions have not yet fully found a way of allowing them to speak and be heard. HIV/AIDS has once more highlighted the plight of children as powerless citizens our world communities. Children face a uncertain future as their parents die, as they get dispossessed by neighbors and relatives, as they get stigmatized at school and at home and as they get subjected to child labor. Sexual child abuse has increased as children are raped by relatives and strangers. Given the myth of virgins can cleanse one of HIV/AIDS. Rape has escalated. Orphans are increasing. Be That as it may, most of our governments have not yet responded by putting into place legal instruments that will protect children. Our theological education needs to develop theological perspectives that allows our faith communities to become guardians of children's rights, allow children to speak and be heard as well as strengthen the parenthood role (Dube 2002e:31-33).

Here in Africa, most of us are doing theology in corrupt nations and under repressive leadership, where populations are condemned to exploitation and poverty (Manus 2002:16-18). As HIV/AIDS research and documentation indicates that poverty is the number one sponsor of HIV/AIDS. How much has our theological education done to equip its students and the communities of faith to be prophetic voices in the society? What can our theological education do? We need to concern ourselves with the question of, what can theological education do to equip faith communities with a prophetic theology of life against national corruption and poverty. National corruption is not only limited to Two-Thirds World countries, it also applies to First World countries. Indeed the poverty of the former is linked to unjust international trade policies-which have locked many of our countries into huge debts and perpetual poverty. In this HIV/AIDS era we know that, poverty is the number one sponsor of the epidemic. This, plus the reluctance to let Two Third Worlds countries produce affordable HIV/AIDS drugs, has seen many die unnecessarily of HIV/AIDS. What should be the perspective of theological education and training concerning the resources of the earth and access to them? If we believe that the earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord, then I believe, our theological education should empower our faith leaders and communities to be prophetic and to programmatically undertake to fight poverty, national and international injustice.

On top of all these social evils, unfortunately, HIV/AIDS has brewed a second epidemic, a more deadly one, the HIV/AIDS stigma. Fear of an incurable disease, fear of death after a long suffering, misunderstanding about HIV/AIDS transmission, the association of HIV/AIDS with sexuality and misinterpretation of the causes of HIV/AIDS, indifference to suffering have all contributed to the second and even more deadly disease-the HIV/AIDS stigma. It is deadly because it hinders prevention of HIV/AIDS and the provision of quality care. It is deadly because every human being is a social being, when rejected the social, psychological, spiritual health of a person is also affected, thus leading people to die long before the virus could kill them. It is more deadly because people who are HIV/AIDS stigma positive are more in numbers that those HIV+, thus making it unlivable for the latter. Our theological education need to help our students and communities of faith to develop a theology of compassion-compassion as the capacity to suffer with, to enter the pain of the other, but not just to be in solidarity with the suffering, but to translate our compassion into the energy we need to transform their conditions. Those of us who are in the Christian faith need to recapture the compassion of Christ, who asked the believers to see his face in the face of all who suffer (Dube 2002a:536-540).

Before I turn to other challenges, the fact that HIV/AIDS is an epidemic within other social epidemics, underlines that for our theological programs to enable our students to be effective leaders in the society, they must be given tools that enable them to understand the society and all social evils. Second, our theological programs must underline that social evils, together with HIV/AIDS violate God's creation and hence our mission in the 21st century is that we will speak out and search for new models of a better world. Instead of engaging in theological theories and content that are divorced from our social context, we will need theological programs that are largely informed by a framework that holds that God's salvation is the liberation of all humankind and creation as well as one that holds that faith communities shall be trained to play the role of being midwives of God's will on earth.

Other Challenges

Other challenges that confront us as theological educators of Africa and elsewhere are globalization, increasing violence in the form of civil wars, ethnic conflicts, religious differences, wars of terror, violence against children and increasing violence against women. Globalization has been defined as the "compression of the world" (Robertson 2000:53-54); "the creation of a single market-- international, financial or capital market" (Lind 1995:31) "the absorption of all countries and systems into one" (Tolluch 1998:101) or the process whereby the "search for more profits became the search for cheap labor" (Pheko 2000:90). The problem with globalization has been graphically described for us by Asian Theological conference, who hold that in globalization

Money with a capital M was promoted as the storehouse of value, rather than a medium for exchange…Every relationship in which people were involved and stayed outside the purview of the markets, such as education, health care and religious practices were also brought into the reality of market. Market now has control over the social, economic, political and cultural relationships of the people. All other social forces, including the state, which regulated people's needs, have ceased to operate…therefore, people are turned into labor or prostitutes, nature as land or raw materials or golf parks and culture as souvenirs…in tourist market. Moreover, the organizing philosophy of the market ecclesia… is social exclusion: Those who have no commoditable money or commoditable commodities (including skills) were excluded from the market and left as expendables, (2000: 218-219).

In short, while globalization seeks for trade liberalization, "which would allow goods and services and money to move easily across the borders" (Pheko 2000:90) and while it is noted for massive profits, it is nonetheless noted for profiting a few individuals, while its policies and impact exclude and exploit the majority. In the age of HIV/AIDS, globalization--which increases mobility, separates families, creates job insecurities, increases poverty, and weakens social services--cannot help but spread the infection rate and deny people any quality care. In the economy of God's will for creation, the impact of globalization on people and the environment is highly problematic and needs our theological attention. Again, we must ask ourselves how many of us have meaningfully began to dialogue with globalization as an issue that must inform our theological education (Ukpong 2002:9-40; Dube 2002d:46-63).

Turning to violence, of late we have become so aware of our world becoming even more violent or using violence to address their problems. What immediately comes to our minds is 9/11, the subsequent so-called war on terrorism, Palestine-Israel unending conflict, and the ethnic and civil wars of Africa. In these past weeks we have seen a string of bombings. I even had to avoid using BA to come to this consultation, fearing a possible terrorist bombing. Those of us who are here will remember the horror of Rwanda-Burundi Genocide and how Christians participated in such crimes against humanity and God. I think that it is really a theological indictment for all of us who are involved in Christian theological education as social formation. Current reports from Rwanda-Burundi indicate that more Christians are turning to Islam, having lost confidence in the relevance of the Christian faith in their well-being, if Christians could participate in such crimes. In deed, given the number of civil wars that characterize the African continent, we run a danger of accepting violence as part of our lives.

But may be these are the most evident symptoms of a violent world. Underlying we have violence against women and children which happens in the streets and in the homes. Women and children are beaten and raped and we do not feel safe to walk freely without looking behind our backs. Is this God's will for us? Are there other ways of living with our differences rather than turning to violence? In their Special Issue on Over coming Violence against women and children, Tinyiko S. Maluleke and Sarojini Nadar hold that, violence is "a deadly covenant cultivated and reinforced in attitudes, teachings, practices and rituals that tear human societies apart…Above all, this is a covenant of silence-silence about violence, especially against violence against women" (2002:7). Maluleke and Nadar continue to say,

In our experience, women victims of violence in society are up against a social covenant with violence against them. For example, in cases of domestic abuse the battle is not only against the abuser, but also against a host of other conspirators, people who have entered into a covenant of violence with the abuser himself. Such participants in the unwritten covenant with violence and silence often include pastors, church elders, siblings and parents. Their participation in the covenant often manifests in the advice and counsel they give to the woman victim: telling her that it is her fault that she is beaten; advising her that 'the Bible says' that she must be submissive; telling her that marriage is like that"(2002:7).

Living as they do in violent contexts, African theologians are grappling with violence both at national and at continental levels. In her article, "Come let us reason together," Nyambura Njoroge writes that "Kenya has increasingly become a violent nation" and continues to say, "this has become so bad to be almost a civil war," and that "most of the people in Kenya are indifferent, apathetic, complacent, disillusioned, hopeless and in despair. Violence and poverty have deeply destroyed people's self-confidence and dignity" (234). Njoroge thus calls for "a spirituality and ethic of resistance, of not giving up and of transformation" (255). As she explains, "This ethic and spirituality drive people to confront leadership crises and the structural sins of imperialism, globalization, patriarchy, hierarchy, sexism, and other social sins that leads the majority of people into a life of misery, agony and suffering (255). Similarly, in his article, "Mission and Social Formation: Searching for an Alternative to King Leopold's Ghost, Emmanuel Katangole examines the colonial roots of violence on the psyche of African people. Here Katangole echoes Mercy A. Oduyoye, who holds that, "throughout many locations in the Third World, the violence and exploitation of colonialism was, undertaken in many cases with the complicity of the church" (20002:235). Katangole's question is: "Can Christianity save Africans from the politics of dispossession, violence and powerlessness?" (2002:139). Katangole calls for social imagination, holding that

The call to discipleship is not just a call to believe certain things about God, Christ and the World, which beliefs might have social implications. It is a call for Christians to be socially formed in a distinctive way. But this formation is not an extra to what it means to be Christians. It is the core of the call to discipleship. For without being so socially formed, Christians would not even know what it means to have the convictions they have, let alone to claim those convictions as true (141).

One thing for sure, in the HIV/AIDS era, violence hampers prevention and the provision of quality care. Safer sex cannot be negotiated in homes where wives are subjected to physical violence. Abstinence does not work in war zones, where rape is used as a weapon between the warring powers. Faithfulness becomes a myth, when families are uprooted and separated by war, poverty and globalization. Indeed, funds that could be used for serving and saving lives are diverted to war; health and educational services of well-being are neglected. Women and children who live under violent circumstances cannot be saved from HIV/AIDS by abstaining, nor can they insist on condomizing. In this Decade to Overcome Violence, our theological education needs to integrate in their program ways and means of solving or living with or celebrating our differences without resorting to violence. In particular, we need theological programs that will stand in solidarity will all the marginalized groups, particularly women and children.

I want to conclude by congratulating you again for your hundred years of theological education, and even more importantly for taking this time to assess yourself in search for offering theological education that is both ecumenical and one that enables religious communities to live out their mission in the world. We happen to be reflecting at this particular context, the context of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is an epidemic within other social evils. The advantages of responding to this epidemic theologically is that it calls us to address all other social evils, thereby forcing us to offer theological education that is socially engaged and one that seeks the salvation of God as liberation for creation and humanity as a whole. For this task, I am sure that we are all doing well to start by revisiting our vision for mission as we seek for ways of moving forward with ecumenical theological education. This is a fitting role for an institution that began in area of freed slaves with the aim of meeting development and social justice needs. I wish you another fruitful 100 years of theological education as you struggle to be co-creators with God.

List of References
Amoah, Elizabeth, "Christologies, African," pp.41-42. Fabella Virginia & R.S. Sugirtharajah, eds. Dictionary of Third World Theologies. New York: Orbis, 2000.

Dube, M. W. Mary as Our Ancestor: An African Search for Identity. A dissertation submitted for Master of Arts Studies, Durham, University, 1990.

"Savior of the World but Not of This World: A postcolonial Reading of Spatial Construction in John," pp.118-135. In R.S. Sugirtharajah, ed. The Postcolonial Bible. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998a.

"Go therefore and Make Disciples of All Nations," (Matt 28:19a): A Postcolonial Perspective on Biblical Criticism and Pedagogy," pp.224-247. In F.F. Fernando Segovia & Mary Ann Tolbert, eds., Teaching the Bible : The Discourses and Politics of Biblical Pedagogy. New York: Orbis Press, 1998b.

"Preaching to the Converted: Unsettling the Christian Church." In Ministerial Formation 93, 2001:38-50.

"Theological Challenges: Proclaiming the Fullness of Life in the HIV/AIDS and Global Economic Era." In International Review of Mission, Vol. XCI No. 363, 2002a:535-550.

"Rereading the Bible: Biblical Hermeneutics and Social Justice," pp. 57-68. In Emmanuel Katangole ed. African Theology Today. Scranton: University of Scranton Press, 2002b.

"Healing Where There is No Healing: Reading the Miracles of Healing in an AIDS Context, " pp.121-133. In Gary Phillips & Nicole Wilkinson Duran eds. Reading Communities Reading Scripture: Essays in Honor of Daniel Patte. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2002c.

"Villagizing, Globalizing and Biblical Studies, " pp. 41-63. In Justin Ukpong etl. Reading the Bible in the Global Village: Cape Town Atlanta; SBL, 2002d.

"Fighting and Crying With God: Children and HIV/AIDS in Botswana," Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 114, 2002e: 31-42.

Dube M.W. & T.S. Maluleke, "HIV/AIDS as the New Site of Struggle: Theological, Biblical & Religious Perspectives." In Missionalia 29, 2001:119-124.

Katangole, Emmanuel, "Mission and Social Formation: Searching for an Alternative to King Leopold's Ghost." In Emmanuel Katangole ed. African Theology Today. Scranton: Univeristy of Scranton Press, 2002.

Lind, Christopher., Something is Wrong Somewhere: Globalization, Community and the Moral Economy of the Farm Crisis. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 1995.

Maluleke, T.S. "Half a Century of African Theologies: Elements of Emerging Agenda for the 21st century," In Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, 99: 4-20.

"The Challenge of HIV/AIDS for Theological Education in Africa: Towards an HIV/AIDS Sensitive Curriculum." In Missionalia 29: 2001: 125-143.

"Christianity in a Distressed Africa: A Time to Own and Own Up." Missionalia 26/3:324-340.

Maluleke T.S & Sarojini Nadar eds. Special Issue: Overcoming Violence Against Women and Children: Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 112, September 2002.

Njoroge, Nyambura. "Come Let us Reason Together." In Missionalia 29, 2001:232-257.

Norwegian Church Aid, The Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Understanding The Issues. Oslo: Norwegian Church Aid, 2000.

Oduyoye, Mercy Amba. Hearing and Knowing: Theological Reflections on Christianity in Africa. New York: Orbis Press, 1986.

"Violence," pp.235-236. In Fabella Virginia & R.S. Sugirtharajah, eds. Dictionary of Third World Theologies. New York: Orbis, 2000.

Okullu, Henry. Church and Politics in East Africa. Nairobi: Uzima Press, 1974.

Okure, Teresa. "Reading From This Place: Some Prospects and Problems," PP.52-69. In Fernando Segovia and Mary Ann Tolbert eds., Reading From This Place Volume 2. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995.

Ortega, Ofelia. "Theological Education," pp. In 282-283. In Letty Russell & Shannon J. Clarkson eds. Dictionary of Feminist Theologies. Lousville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996

Pheko, Mohau. Privatization, Trade Liberation and Women's Socio-economic Rights: Exploring Policy Alternatives, pp.89-102. In Yassine Fall ed., Africa: Gender, Globalization and Resistance. New York: AAword, 2000.

Robertson, Roland. "Globalization and the Future of Traditional Religion," pp.53-68. In Stackhouse Max L. & Peter Paris eds. God and Globalization Volume 1: Religion and Powers of Common Life. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International 2000.

Tolloch, Peter., "Globalization: Blessing or Curse? Buzz-word or Swear-word," pp.99-106. In Julion de Santa Ana ed. Sustainability and Globalization. Geneva: WCC Publications, 1995.

Ukpong, Justin. "Reading the Bible in a Global Village: Issues and Challenges From African Readings," pp. 9-40. In Justin Ukpong etl., Reading the Bible in the Global Village: Cape Town Atlanta; SBL, 2002.

West, Gerald and Musa W. Dube, eds. Semeia 73: "Reading With" Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996.

[ Back ]

Home | Profile | Membership | Library | Focus Areas
Contact | Links | Newsletter | News

Website Hosted by : Versatile Designs
Home Profile Membership Library Library Focus Areas Contact Links Newsletter