African Theologians Advocate for Adoption of African Values in Synod on Synodality

Participants at the theologians colloquium pose for a photo session at the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar's Africama House in Nairobi on Thursday, 10 March 2022. Credit: ACI Africa

Participants in the ongoing Synod on Synodality symposium of Theologians that was organized by the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) are suggesting that the Synodal process be anchored in African values.

The team of Theologians who were selected to represent various segments of the Church in Africa suggested that as the people of God journey together in the Synodal process, they need to readopt such African values as the care for each other and the environment and other helpful values, which the scholars said seem to have been forgotten.

In a Thursday, March 10 interview with ACI Africa on the sidelines of the event that was organized in collaboration with the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), Sr. Veronica Rop, a lecturer at the Kenya-based Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) said that the Synodal process should be anchored in Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on the environment, Laudato Si’, and in “listening to the wisdom of our ancestors.”

“We need to interrogate our African culture and listen to the wisdom of our ancestors. We need to be guided by the relatedness of the Laudato Si’, which guided Africans,” the Kenyan theologian said, and explained, “Africans always believed that they were each other’s relatives and they lived in solidarity with each other, caring for the unborn, the living and the living-dead. They also cared deeply about the environment. These are the values we need to think about.”

She added, “There is a need to reclaim and share our Africa values of communitarian relationship, hospitality, respect for family and human life especially the young and old and relatedness with all of creation. We need reference to God and to our ancestors.”


The member of the Assumption Sisters of Eldoret (ASE) highlighted the need to revive the culture of barazas (traditional African public meetings) and to allow everyone to have a voice in such meetings.

“We need to sit together in barazas and to discuss our issues. We however need to critique who sits and speaks in such meetings. Voices of those who feel marginalized, those who are actually marginalized, including women, the youth and our mother earth need to be amplified,” Sr. Veronica said.

The three-day colloquium that started on Wednesday, March 9, brought together theologians from across Africa who explored the element of listening to the Synod on Synodality process from an African perspective.

From the Vatican Theological Commission of the Synod, Senegalese-born Sr. Anne Béatrice Faye and Fr. Nicholaus Segeja M’hela from Tanzania also participated in the theological colloquium. Also invited to participate were Sr. Leonida Katunge, an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and Ms. Noluthando Honono, a student at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.

Sr. Béatrice who had participated in the drafting of the Synod on Synodality preparatory document said that her role had been to suggest ways to enrich the document. 

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She expressed enthusiasm that her suggestions had been factored in the drafting of the document, saying, “We proposed that the Synod on Synodality acknowledges ecumenism and the diverse cultures of Africa. We are happy that these factors were largely captured in the document.”

In an interview with ACI Africa on the sidelines of the event, Fr. Segeja who serves as the Director of CUEA’s Gaba campus in the Kenyan town of Eldoret said that the journey of the Synod on Synodality is an opportunity to rethink the diverse African values.

The member of the Clergy of Tanzania’s Catholic Diocese of Mwanza who also serves at the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops underscored the need to isolate helpful African cultures from retrogressive ones.

“Solidity implies illuminating the dark parts of our cultures. We need to critically look at what is happening around us, to promote what is useful and to leave out what is not. The Word of God will guide us in this process. The teachings of the Church and the wisdom of other people will help us in this discernment,” he told ACI Africa March 10.

In her presentation at the colloquium, Ms. Noluthando noted that African values of Ubuntu (sharing and caring) and Ujamaa (brotherhood) “must be seen as essential in communicating the vision of Synodality.”


Ms. Noluthando underlined the need to reexamine the relationship between the Clergy and Laity and to create open spaces in which the two can journey together as the body of Christ.

“We need to create open spaces where elements of the Church are not seen as mystical figures that do not allow everyone access. The Church has to be a home where everyone is welcome, where everyone feels safe,” she said.

Sr. Katunge said that she had researched widely on the listening element of the Synod on Synodality and realized that the particular element is missing in the Church today.

“Pope Francis is telling us to listen keenly to what the Holy Spirit is telling the Church. Unfortunately, we are living in a Church where listening has been forgotten. Many people have been complaining that they have been left on the peripheries,” Sr. Katunge said. 

She added, “We need to listen to the poor, the youth, the women, the widows and widowers. We need to listen to mother nature which has been neglected.”

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“Earth has been terribly abused. The flora and fauna have no one to take them. That is why we are having the crisis of climate change. We need to rethink the gift of creation in which God gave us nature to enjoy. But with all the abuse that is going on, there isn't much to enjoy anymore,” the member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Mombasa (SSJ Mombasa) said. 

According to the Catholic Nun who has been recognized for academic excellence by former Kenyan Chief Justice David Maraga, not listening, especially to the marginalized, denies them justice.

“Justice is a right. It is supposed to come naturally. But people are no longer listening to one another and the justice that is supposed to be inherently rendered is no longer available. This has caused a lot of problems where people that feel aggrieved for lack of justice are taking the law in their hands,” Sr. Katunge said. 

He added, “It is time the Church became the voice of the voiceless, especially those who are denied justice.”

The Kenyan Catholic Nun noted that key among factors suffocating the element of listening to others is egoism.

“It’s about me and myself. As long as I am comfortable, I see no need to listen to others. We don’t easily create spaces for others because we are always in a hurry, not for others, but for ourselves,” she said.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Anthony Makunde, the Secretary General of AMECEA, described the colloquium with theologians that ended on Friday, March 11 as enriching.

“This event has brought theologians together to listen to whatever the Holy Spirit is telling us. With the tools we are getting here, we will be able to discern the direction of the Church in Africa,” Fr. Makunde said during the March 10 interview.

The AMECEA Secretary General added, “It is high time we revisited our understanding of being a Church in Africa. We need to identify areas that need to be improved and to be ready for a conversion of heart in the Synodal journey.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.