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The African Synod: The Participation of Women in Reconciliation Justice and Peace

The Second African Synod rightly deliberated on the theme Reconciliation, Justice, and Peace since our entire Continent is in dire need of peace. Given the importance of the Synod to the Church in Africa, one could expect that the all people of God are involved in its preparation and implication. However, this seems not to be the case. Women are among the many laity who know little about these synods. Many of them faithfully attend Church, Small Christian Communities prayer meetings, seminars and workshops, but hear little about the African Synods. This leaves the majority of women with little involvement before, during or after each African Synod.1

It has been observed that the values of communion and participation so valued in African communities can serve as principles upon which reconciliation, justice and peace can be built.2 These values include involvement of women at various activities of the Church that include the Synods. Benedict XVI in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Africae Manus, on Africa’s commitment, urges the Church in Africa to carry out a thorough discernment in order to identify those aspects of African culture which are incompatible with Christianity and those that promote the Gospel values.3 One of the African traditional values that we encounter in the incarnation of Gospel values is the participation of women in reconciliation, justice and peace. According to African Traditional beliefs and practices and particularly in matters relating to life, women are viewed as the ones who understand the sacredness of human life more than other members of the community. The reason being, a woman is the one’s who carries life in her womb, brings it forth, nurtures it, and defends it when it is threatened.4

As such, African women are reserved a special role of stopping a war or cleansing warriors after war. They are accorded this honour because they are protectors and defenders of life and since they do not take part in battlefields nor are they contaminated by the sin associated with war. Taking away human life whether accidentally or deliberately is considered a sin that requires cleansing and purification of the offender, the clan and sometimes the entire community. During these ceremonies, women play a significant role by way of specific rituals, gestures and special prayers. Their role is taken seriously such that it is considered a taboo for men to continue with war after women’s intervention.5 This clearly shows that by their specific feminine gifts, women in the Church in Africa rightly seek participation in African Synods so as to continue to foster reconciliation, justice and peace.6 After all, African tradition agrees with the teaching of the Church that a woman is treasured as a God-given gift in crucial matters touching life. No wonder, most names attributed to God in the African Traditional Religion are feminine. Indeed, Benedict XVI reminds the Church in Africa that God has made women channels for life7 – something that we need to have in mind in our service to reconciliation, justice and peace.

Moreover, it is a fact that by their specific talents and unique gifts African women have made an immense contribution to the family, society and to the Church. However, when it comes to their involvement in the African Synod, women fade into the background and their contributions receive little recognition. Denying women this special role, a role that is acknowledged by the Traditional African society, is tantamount to denying them justice. But, seeking their contribution does not only promote their dignity but it is for the common good as well. Their participation in the synods would allow them as disciples of Jesus Christ to live out their commitment to making the reign of God, of peace a reality in Africa. Yes, one area that the Church in Africa stands to benefit from the African practice of reconciliation, justice, and peace is the involvement of women in the African Synod.8

1 David, Kaulem in E, Orobator Agbonkhianmeghe, ed., Reconciliation, Justice, and Peace: The Second African Synods, Nairobi, Acton Publishers, 2011, 144.
2 E, Agbonkhianmeghe  Orobator,  ed., Reconciliation, Justice, and Peace: The Second African Synods, Nairobi, Acton Publishers, 2011,  33.
3 Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Africae Munus, Nairobi, Paulines Publications Africa, 2011, 36.
4 Interview with Dr. Susan Chebet, The Role of  Women in Restoring Peace among the Kalenjin Community, Eldoret, Moi University, December, December, 2011.
5 Interview with Dr. Susan Chebet,  December, 2011.
6 Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Africae Munus, 59.
7 Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Africae Munus, 59.
8 Orobator, 9.

Kiplagat, B. (1998). “Is Mediation Alien to Africa?” In Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution 1.3 (August ).