Saturday, January 3, 2015

Humanum: Theresa Okafor Offers Commentary

To read an introduction to the Humanum conference, click here. To read about Pope Francis' opening address at Humanum, click here. To read about Russell Moore's talk, click here. To read about Rick Warren's talk, click here.

Humanum organizers posted videos not only of conference speakers, but of observers as well. Among the observers was Thereas Okafor, director of the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage in Lagos, Nigeria and World Congress of Families regional director in Africa. Okafor received the World Congress of Families' 2014 Natural Family Woman of the Year Award for her "outstanding contributions to promoting a greater understanding of the centrality of the "natural family"", according to a press release. Not surprisingly, Okafor has a history of anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ statements, as demonstrated in a 2012 interview with Europeinfos.

Throughout the short video, I was struck by how Okafor's rhetoric resembled that of her western counterparts. At the beginning of the video, she described marriage and family as institutions that must be protected, as they are supposedly coming under attack.
"The family is a reality that cannot be denied. It's a social reality, it's biological, it's metaphysical, it's something we cannot deny, and the family is what determines the sustainability of society. And so, in Africa, we seek to protect the family against those who seek to fragment it."
Okafor praised "the western religion" for its contributions to Africa.
"Think African families stand to give back what we received from the West. Obviously, the western religion came to Africa, bringing lots of values, lots of principles of fraternity, of harmony, of complementarity between the man and the woman."
I was puzzled that Okafor referred to Christianity as a western religion, since Christianity emerged in the near east and spread to northern Africa early in its history. Perhaps Okafor meant western interpretations of Christianity that have been spreading across the continent.

Like her American counterparts, Okafor frowned upon the alleged relegation of children's upbringing to schools and the state. Was this a jab at secular schools?
"Marriage needs to be protected. Marriage needs to be preserved, and also, the upbringing of children is not something that needs to be relegated to the state or to the schools. It's something that should take place in the family."
Okafor's video commentary is a reminder that such rhetoric is not limited to the U.S. Religious Right activists speak in similar terms across the world, no doubt because of Religious Right networking.

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