Resource Team for Africa Proposes Synodality as Way to Heal Africa’s Deep-seated Wounds

Fr. Anthony Makunde speaking during a Synodality Resources Team workshop in Nairobi. Credit: ACI Africa

Synodality, an invitation for the people of God to journey together irrespective of their differences, which the International Theological Commission defined as “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God” can facilitate the healing of Africa’s deep wounds, member of the resource team that is working to deepen synodal engagements have said.

In their two-day workshop that was held in Nairobi, the Synodality Resource Team (SRT) of Catholic Theologians, members of the Clergy, women and men Religious, and Laity acknowledged that Africa has been deeply exploited in the past, and the exploitation continues to impoverish the continent.

Other causes of the wounds, they said, have resulted from religious-based wars that are motivated by extremism, tribalism, and opposing ideologies.

Speaking to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the SRT workshop that concluded Thursday, March 16, the Secretary General of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) recalled the August 1985 gesture of Pope John Paul II when he sought forgiveness on behalf of the Church for the immense suffering that Africans had been made to endure, especially the involvement of white Christians during the slave trade.

Fr. Anthony Makunde said, “During the jubilee year, Pope John Paul II made an effort on behalf of the Church to ask for forgiveness from the sons and daughters of the Church in Africa who had been wounded in various ways. He mentioned the wounds of slavery that had been caused by the Church.”


Fr. Makunde added, “A good number of people who practiced the slave trade were Christians, oblivious to the fact that Africans also deserved to be treated with dignity.”

“There has been a lot of exploitation of Africa that has left the continent deeply wounded. There is continued grabbing of African resources that have left the continent impoverished,” the AMECEA Secretary General said. 

“It is unfortunate that many people have now crossed over from DRC (the Democratic Republic of Congo) and are going to start their lives as refugees in other countries,” the Nairobi-based Tanzanian Catholic Priest said, adding that journeying with the people in synodality has also revealed deep-seated wounds in families with couples struggling with infidelity, and children confused about their identities.

The member of the Clergy of Tanzania’s Mbeya Archdiocese also underlined the need to heal the wounds of division that he said are sometimes, unfortunately, driven by tribalism in the Church.

In the Catholic Church in Africa, tribalism was brought to the fore when Dioceses openly rejected Church leaders in countries such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan.

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Speaking to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the March 15-16 workshop, the Principal of the Nairobi-based Jesuits’ Hekima University College noted that Synodality is about walking with the wounded, listening to them, and trying to help them heal.

Fr. Marcel Uwineza said, “We have people who feel that they are not understood, and many have been abused in Church. There are women who feel let down by their spouses, the divorced who need accompaniment, children who have been trafficked, families of young men in West Africa who have drowned in the Atlantic Ocean, trying to cross over to Europe in search of better lives, the unemployed who have turned to drug use to forget their pain.”

“All these are wounded members of the Church who need accompaniment,” Fr. Uwineza added.

The Rwandese member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) recalled that in the worst genocide in his native country, the Church was wounded physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. 

“There was no safe space for anyone. Some 20,000 people were burnt in the church where they had gone to seek refuge,” Fr. Uwineza said of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed.


He added, “There are wounds created by opposing ideological camps even within the Church that have made others feel alienated.”

According to Fr. Makunde, the Secretary General of AMECEA, the Synod on Synodality methodology is the best tool to heal the wounded Church in Africa, adding, “It is an invitation to journey together irrespective of our differences.”

Synodality, he said, “is about acknowledging the values that unite us more than what sometimes divides us.”

As for Fr. Marcel, Synodality is a calling to emulate Jesus who listened to and healed wounded people. 

“Jesus' act of walking with the men on the way to Emmaus should be our guide,” the Principal of Hekima University College said, and added, “The people poured out their hearts to Jesus concerning their frustrations, and how they had lost hope in the death of Jesus, not knowing that he was there walking with them. In doing this, they bared their wounds to Jesus who listened to them and healed their souls.”

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Fr. Marcel continued, “The synod on synodality is an invitation for the people of God to be bridge builders rather than wall erectors. The ‘Sun of God’ has no favorites. It shines on everyone without discrimination.”

During the March 15-16 workshop that was held Africama House, the Headquarters of the Jesuits Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) in Nairobi, SRT members found it regrettable that society today has focused on a few wounds and forgotten about the others.

To Fr. Makunde, “a wound is a wound” and caution should be made not to minimize on one wound while focusing on the other.

“Some wounds have been forgotten. What we speak about the most, and which are equally important, are wounds resulting from sexual abuse,” the Secretary General of AMECEA said, and proposed the use of “the Synod on Synodality to heal the wounded African Church.”

He continued, “Some social wounds have been caused by wars that resulted from people with various agendas. Some are motivated by extremism and religious fundamentalism.”

Equally concerning, the SRT members said, is the fact that Christians have chosen to focus on the bad, forgetting all the good things that happened, especially in the Catholic Church.

“There is a need to celebrate the healers even as we identify the wounds in the Church. We have Priests who have given their all to the service of the people of God, and they need to be celebrated instead of castigating them all because of one rotten tomato. Many times, we tend to focus on one plane crashing and forget about the thousands that land safely every day,” Fr. Marcel said.

Fr. Uwineza’s sentiments were echoed by Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of Cameroon’s Bamenda Archdiocese who said, “The Church has a dark side but also has a good reality. In many African countries, there are hundreds of Priests who are laboring in the bushes and are faithful to the mission.”

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.