The Common Good

Blog Posts By Fredrick Nzwili

Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 9 weeks 5 days ago
An Islamist group has gained ground in the northeastern Libyan city of Benghazi, declaring it an Islamic territory and raising fears that radical Islamist militias may spread in the rest of Africa.The declaration from Libya’s Ansar al-Sharia movement mirrors the rise of the Islamic State in northern Iraq and Syria. The two militant movements share similar goals.The prospect of more fighting and the possible disintegration of Libya, the country where NATO allied forces helped topple strongman Moammar Gadhafi in October 2011, sent chills throughout the nation.“I think this is a risky way to go,” said Sheikh Saliou Mbacke, a Senegalese Muslim leader who is the coordinator of Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa.“It hinges on the failure of the governments, lack of democracy and poor and unequal distribution of resources,” added Saliou.These latest actions reflect the growing influence of Islamists in Africa, where militants are challenging existing governments.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 10 weeks 5 days ago
As Western nations evacuate their citizens from West Africa’s growing Ebola outbreak, some Christian leaders have begun to speak of the virus as a curse from God.On Friday, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola crisis ravaging the region an international health emergency. On the same day, Nigeria became the latest country in West Africa to declare the virus crisis a national emergency, the day after Spain evacuated a priest and a nun from Liberia to Madrid.On Saturday, a Congolese nun died from Ebola in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, the AP reported.The outbreak started in December in Guinea, but was not discovered until March. It has since killed more than 1,000 people in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.“People are having different misconceptions that this is [a curse] from God,” said Bishop Sumoward Harris, now retired from the Lutheran Church in Liberia. “This is depending on how they are interpreting the Bible. But I don’t think God is angry and is issuing a punishment.”In Liberia, more than 100 Christian leaders meeting in early August declared that God was angry and Ebola a plague. 
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 11 weeks 1 day ago
In northern Nigeria, mounting fears of militant female suicide bombers have raised calls to ban the hijab, or the veil that covers the head, chest and, in some cases, the entire body.Last week, four women believed to be members of the Islamic militant group Boko Haram carried out attacks in Kano, a city in northern Nigeria. Men belonging to the group have taken to wearing the hijab, too, according to reports.On July 27, a female suicide bomber detonated a bomb outside a Roman Catholic church in Kano, killing four people and injuring 70. Around the same time, security agencies arrested two girls aged 10 and 18 with explosive belts under their hijabs.“We have this worrying situation where the bombers are turning out to be girls dressed in the hijab,” Roman Catholic Bishop John Niyiring of Kano said.Banning the hijab is crucial to curbing the trend, said Emmanuel Akubor, a historian at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife in western Nigeria.“The best thing for now is to place a temporary ban on hijab, not for religious, but security reasons,” he told News Agency of Nigeria.But Niyiring said he thinks such a ban would be resisted.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 11 weeks 5 days ago
Uganda’s top Anglican leader criticized the constitutional court for striking down the country’s controversial anti-gay law on a technicality, saying the law is still needed to protect children and families from Western-imported homosexuality.A five-judge panel on Friday declared the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014, null and void since it was passed by parliament without the required quorum. Dismissing the law on a technicality maintains the possibility that it could be revived in a different form.The law punishes homosexual acts with life imprisonment. President Yoweri Museveni signed the measure in February, drawing harsh criticism from Western nations and cuts in foreign aid.Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali called the decision a disappointment for the Church of Uganda, religious leaders and many Ugandans.“The ‘court of public opinion’ has clearly indicated its support for the Act, and we urge Parliament to consider voting again on the Bill with the proper quorum in place,” Ntagali said on Monday.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 13 weeks 5 days ago
The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops is facing a lawsuit over the cancellation of a rental contract for a restaurant operated by a Somali Muslim.Al-Yusra Restaurant Ltd. had signed a six-year lease starting in 2013 to operate a restaurant in a section of Waumini House where the bishops’ conference is based. Baakai Maalim, a Somali Muslim, is a director for the company.A lawyer for the bishops said the lease was signed without written consent and knowledge of the bishops.
Posted by Trevor Grundy, Fredrick Nzwili 14 weeks 5 days ago
After 20 years of turmoil and angry debate, on Monday the General Synod of the Church of England said “yes” to women bishops.The first could be named by the end of the year with the appointment of at least three additional women sometime in 2015, say senior church officials.The General Synod is the three-tier governing body of the Church of England and it is made up of bishops, clergy, and laity.At a meeting in York, the General Synod gave final approval to legislation introducing the changes by the required two-thirds majority.Overall 351 members of the 433 Synod voted in favor of the measure.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 15 weeks 4 days ago
On a Sunday at the Presbyterian church in the Bahati neighborhood, a young woman haltingly approaches the pulpit with a walking cane in one hand and a Bible in the other. Somewhere in her pocket is a mobile phone, which she uses to send out at least 400 Bible quotes a day to Christians across the city.The Rev. Dawn Gikandi, 31, is a rarity here — a pastor who is a woman, a theologian, a social media devotee, and a disabled person in a country that stigmatizes people who are physically impaired.In April, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa ordained Gikandi and sent her to her first post, Bahati Martyrs’ Church, where she and another pastor care for more than 4,000 congregants.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 17 weeks 3 days ago
A Sudanese Christian doctor freed from death row on charges of apostasy Monday is not yet free after authorities detained her at a Khartoum airport.Meriam Yahya Ibrahim, 27, was arrested Tuesday after she attempted to leave Sudan using South Sudan emergency papers, including a U.S. visa, according to reports.She was apprehended along with her husband, Daniel Bicensio Wani, an American citizen of South Sudanese origin, and their two children — 20-month-old son Martin and a 1-month-old daughter.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 18 weeks 4 days ago
Christian and Muslim leaders united Tuesday to demand government action after a deadly terror attack in Kenya’s coastal region.On Sunday and Monday, armed gunmen stormed Mpeketoni town and nearby villages, killing more than 60 people — an attack described as the worst since the Nairobi Westgate shopping mall attack in September.The gunmen held the town hostage for more than four hours, burning houses, hotels, and banks, and even attacking the local police station.The Islamic militant group al-Shabaab said it executed the attack as revenge for the Kenyan army’s presence in Somalia, the killing of Muslim scholars in the coastal region and the oppression of Muslims.The government has since said this was not an al-Shabaab attack but was carried out by a gang paid by politicians.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 23 weeks 1 day ago
Sudanese Christians have condemned the sentencing of a Christian woman to death by hanging after she married a Christian man.Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, refused to recant her Christian faith as ordered by the court.A doctor who is eight months pregnant and currently in detention with her 20-month-old son, Ibrahim was charged with adultery last year. Recently, the court added an apostasy charge when she declared her Christian faith in court.“This is very disturbing,” said Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of Khartoum.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 26 weeks 4 days ago
Christians began a three-day prayer and fasting period after Islamist Boko Haram militants kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria and desperate parents joined the search in a remote forest.The girls were abducted last week while at school in the Chibok area of Borno State. Initial reports said about 200 were kidnapped, but government officials lowered the figure to 130. On Monday, school officials said 234 were abducted and 40 girls had managed to escape.“We know no religion [that] prescribes abduction or infliction of pain as a way of devotion,” said the Rev. Titus Pona, an official with the Christian Association of Nigeria. “We are calling on them to sheathe their arms and pursue their case in dialogue with the government.”
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 32 weeks 4 days ago
As the number of Muslims in Bangui, the Central African Republic capital, dwindles to an estimated 900, the head of a global alliance of churches has urged tackling the conflict from a political rather than a religious angle if the Muslim exodus is to be reversed.“It is very unfortunate the Muslims have to flee,” said John Nduna, general secretary of the Geneva-based Action by Churches Together, or ACT International. “It is very sad this is happening.”The alliance is one of the agencies providing humanitarian assistance in the country, where chaos erupted last year after the mainly Muslim rebels toppled the government.The Seleka rebels looted, raped, and killed mainly Christian civilians, prompting the formation of an equally brutal pro-Christian anti-Balaka (anti-machete) militia.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 33 weeks 2 days ago
A call for greater acceptance of gays and lesbians has put African and Western churches on a collision course, as some African clerics liken mounting criticism from the U.S. and Europe to a new wave of colonization by the West.Consider some of the statements at a news conference last week led by Bishop Arthur Gitonga of the Redeemed Church in Kenya:“Homosexuality is equivalent to colonialism and slavery,” said one participant.“We feel it’s like a weapon of mass destruction,” said another.“It is not biblical and cannot bring blessing to Christians,” said a third.Gitonga, a powerful East African Pentecostal church official, is among a group of Kenyan leaders who have launched “Zuia Sodom Kabisa,” Kiswahili for “Stop Sodom Completely.” The campaign seeks 1 million signatures to petition legislation to criminalize homosexual acts in Kenya.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 34 weeks 2 days ago
After months of calm in Zanzibar, two homemade bombs exploded Monday near St. Monica Anglican Cathedral and the Mercury restaurant, a popular hangout for tourists visiting the Indian Ocean archipelago.No one was hurt, but one day earlier, four people were injured in another explosion, targeting an Assemblies of God church.The attacks are blamed on the secessionist Uamsho, a religious group pressing for the full autonomy of the archipelago.  Uamsho, which means “awakening” in Swahili, is also known as the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 35 weeks 2 days ago
Churches in Central African Republic are caring for thousands of Muslims who have been trapped in a cycle of revenge attacks, perpetrated by a pro-Christian militia.Since December, Anti-Balaka militias have been emptying Muslim quarters and avenging earlier attacks by the Seleka, an Islamist militia. The Seleka rampaged through the country in early 2013, terrorizing Christians and ransacking churches, hospitals, and shops.Now that the Muslim president Michel Djotodia has stepped down, Seleka is being forced to withdraw from its strongholds, as the center of power shifts, amid a mass exodus and displacement of Muslims.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 36 weeks 4 days ago
African religious leaders are appealing for an end to violence against Muslims in the Central African Republic as thousands flee to neighboring Chad and Cameroon.In recent weeks, a pro-Christian militia known as anti-Balaka (or anti-machete) has killed and mutilated Muslims as they have tried to leave the capital Bangui by the truckload.Muslims had enjoyed some protection when Michel Djotodia, the country’s first interim Muslim president, was in power. Djotodia resigned under pressure in January and Catherine Samba-Panza was appointed the interim president.
Posted by Trevor Grundy, Fredrick Nzwili 38 weeks 2 days ago
Ahead of his five-day visit to Africa, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issued a statement reminding Anglicans of the commitment the Church of England made eight years ago to the pastoral care and support of everyone, including gays and lesbians.So far, the archbishop’s statement has not convinced African leaders.On Wednesday, Anglican leaders in Africa rejected a proposal by the English College of Bishops for two-year “facilitated conversations” to address the differences over homosexuality within the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 38 weeks 3 days ago
African church leaders are urging parties in the South Sudanese conflict to respect places of worship, after rebels attacked and looted church compounds in the town of Malakal.The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Malakal was looted at gunpoint, forcing priests, and civilians to flee, a regional church leader said.Catholic and Presbyterian churches, a hospital and an orphanage have become safe havens for refugees escaping the fighting in the city.“I came to know myself what it means to be asked for something under the threat of a gun when a group in uniform stopped me on the way from the hospital to the church,” said one Catholic priest, who did not give his name because he fears for his safety. “They blocked me and took my watch and a key.”
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 39 weeks 2 days ago
For Christians living in predominantly Muslim Sudan, travel restrictions are making life more difficult each day, a Roman Catholic cardinal said.Sudanese Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako highlighted the challenges at a Catholic Bishops Conference in Juba, the Republic of South Sudan’s capital. His auxiliary bishop could not attend the Jan. 21-30 meeting because his passport was seized by security agents, along with those of eight priests.“Christians in the two countries are facing difficulties,” Wako told the gathering. “We [bishops] must focus on serious matters and come up with strong messages.”
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 40 weeks 5 days ago
After months of violence in the Central African Republic, signs of hope emerged following Friday’s esignation of interim President Michel Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicholas Tiengaye.But Roman Catholic Archbishop Nestor Desire Nongo-Aziagbia of Bossangoa said that although guns had gone silent, the crisis was far from over.“The shooting has ceased, but the tensions are still there,” Nongo-Aziagbia said Monday. “Resignation is a first step towards solving the crisis.”The resignations at a regional summit in neighboring Chad sparked wild celebrations among Christians in the capital, Bangui. The president was a Muslim.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 41 weeks 1 day ago
Church leaders in Libya remain hopeful that Christians in the mostly Muslim country will be allowed to practice their faith, even as the country appears to be moving towards Shariah law.In December, Libya’s General National Congress voted to make Shariah the source of all legislation and institutions. The vote came amid international concerns over the diminishing Christian populations in North Africa and the Middle East, and increased Islamist influence in countries engulfed by the Arab Spring revolution.Libya has undergone a two-year transition since 2011 when demonstrations toppled Moammar Gadhafi. Before the revolution, Christians were granted religious freedom, but with the change of power, they have been arbitrarily arrested, attacked, killed, and forced by the Islamist groups to convert to Islam.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 45 weeks 3 days ago
Two French soldiers died as a wave of deadly revenge attacks involving rival Christian and Muslim groups has left the Central African Republic in chaos.But a Roman Catholic archbishop said the fighting pitting the two groups is not about religion, but rather politics and power.“The religious leaders warned against this risk” of religious conflict, said Nestor Desire Nongo-Aziagbia of Bossangoa in a telephone interview. “Political leaders have not paid attention to these warnings. They wanted to antagonize the Central African Republic along religious lines in order to remain in power.”
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 46 weeks 1 day ago
Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who died Thursday, had a deep connection with religious institutions.Mandela was educated, first at Clarkebury and then at Healdtown, Methodist boarding schools that provided a Christian liberal arts education.“Both were important influences on his life,” said Presiding Bishop Zipho Siwa of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. “Indeed, after his time at Clarkebury, the young Mandela said his horizons had been broadened.”In Cape Town, retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu said Mandela was mourned by South Africans, Africans, and the international community as a colossus of unimpeachable moral character and integrity.“He preached a gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation,” Tutu wrote in a tribute on Allafrica.com.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 46 weeks 3 days ago
At prayer healing services in some Pentecostal churches, pastors invite people infected with HIV to come forward for a public healing, after which they burn the person’s anti-retroviral medications and declare the person cured.The “cure” is not free, and some people say they shell out their life savings to receive a miracle blessing and quit taking the drugs.“I believe people can be healed of all kinds of sickness, including HIV, through prayers,” said Pastor Joseph Maina of Agmo Prayer Mountain, a Pentecostal church on the outskirts of Nairobi. “We usually guide them. We don’t ask for money, but we ask them to leave some seed money that they please.”But the controversial ceremonies are raising red flags as believers’ conditions worsen, and a debate has opened over whether science or religion should take the lead in the fight against the AIDS epidemic.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 1 year 4 weeks ago
Angélique Namaika, a Roman Catholic nun, rides a bicycle on the rutted roads of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s northeastern province of Orientale, which is plagued by rebel violence.On these same roads, the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Christian rebel group led by Joseph Kony, a self-proclaimed prophet of God, has been killing, abducting, and mutilating women and children.But none of that has deterred Sister Namaika from helping displaced women learn trades, start small businesses, and go to school.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 1 year 6 weeks ago
Excommunicated Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who advocates for married priests within the Roman Catholic Church, said he has not split from Rome though many of the priests he ordained no longer see themselves as part of the church.“We are not a breakaway church,” said Milingo, who married Maria Sung, a Korean acupunturist, in 2001. “Within the Catholic Church married priests existed for a thousand years.”
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 1 year 8 weeks ago
Concerned that the crisis in the worldwide Anglican Communion is deepening, conservative Anglican primates in Africa are organizing a second conference to discuss ways of returning the church to what they describe as biblical faithfulness.The primates held the first conference in Jerusalem in 2008, five years after openly gay New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson was consecrated in the Episcopal Church. The action threw the communion into disarray.At the Jerusalem meeting, the primates called for the creation of an Anglican province in North America to rival the Episcopal Church. Five years later, the primates say the new Anglican province, known as the Anglican Church in North America, is thriving. 
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 1 year 10 weeks ago
Schismatic Roman Catholic priests, who left the church to claim their right to marry, are now asking for an “African pope” to lead them.The priests say they regret their former church is “allergic” to change. They believe priestly celibacy is neither rooted in the teachings of Jesus nor in the work of his apostles, who were married. And they insist celibacy does not work in an African context.Former Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo who married a Korean acupuncturist in a 2001 celebration sponsored by the Unification Church and presided by its late founder, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, serves as “African patriarch” of a number of church groups affiliated with his movement.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 1 year 12 weeks ago
The conviction of Jesus by Pontius Pilate may be the most famous court verdict ever — and perhaps the most consequential, since it led to Christ’s crucifixion and the founding of a global religion.Now a Kenyan lawyer wants to overturn Pilate’s decision, though he wants to keep the faith that flowed from it.“The selective and malicious prosecution (of Jesus) violated his human rights,” said Dola Indidis, a Roman Catholic who is petitioning the International Court of Justice, based at The Hague, to nullify Jesus’ conviction and death sentence.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 1 year 14 weeks ago
Despite a promise by the Sudanese government to grant its minority Christian population religious freedom, church leaders there said they are beset by increased restrictions and hostility in the wake of the South Sudan’s independence.In 2011, South Sudan, a mostly Christian region, split from the predominantly Muslim and Arab north, in a process strongly supported by the international community and churches in the West.The two regions had fought a two-decade long civil war that ended in 2005, following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The pact granted the South Sudanese a referendum after a six-year interim period and independence six months later. In the referendum, the people of South Sudan chose separation.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 1 year 15 weeks ago
Religious leaders in Africa strongly rebuked President Obama’s call to decriminalize homosexuality, suggesting it’s the reason why he received a less-than-warm welcome during a recent trip to the continent.In a news conference in Senegal during his three-nation tour, just as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on same-sex marriage, Obama said African nations must grant equal protection to all people regardless of their sexual orientation.“My basic view is that regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to how the law treats you, how the state treats you … people should be treated equally,” Obama said. “And that’s a principle that I think applies universally.”
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 1 year 46 weeks ago
NAIROBI, Kenya — Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Tuesday urged Uganda to scrap a controversial draft law that would send gays and lesbians to jail and, some say, put them at risk of the death penalty.The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is expected to become law after Parliamentary Speaker Rebecca Kadaga offered it to Ugandans as a "Christmas gift." The bill is believed to exclude the death penalty clause after international pressure forced its removal, but gay rights activists say much of it is still horrendous.“I am opposed to discrimination, that is unfair discrimination, and would that I could persuade legislators in Uganda to drop their draft legislation, because I think it is totally unjust,” Tutu told reporters here on Tuesday at the All Africa Conference of Churches meeting.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 1 year 48 weeks ago
Kenyan church leaders are lining up in opposition to proposed new marriage bills, which they say will weaken marriage by allowing cohabiting couples to register as married.One bill would bring Christian, Hindu, Muslim, civil, and customary marriages under one law, and another would give spouses and children more rights to property. The twin bills were approved by the cabinet on Nov. 9 and are scheduled to be debated by Parliament before Christmas.“It is the worst law we have had as churches in Kenya. It compromises the standards of Christian marriage and divorce. Instead of three grounds for divorce, we now have nine,” said the Rev. Wellington Mutiso, the general secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya.
Posted by Fredrick Nzwili 2 years 25 weeks ago
Kenyan churches are tightening security after a lone attacker exploded a grenade inside an evangelical church in Nairobi on Sunday (April 29), killing one person and injuring 15.Meanwhile, a string of bombings in Nigeria during Sunday morning worship services killed at least four people in Maiduguri and 15 in Kano, with many others injured.The Kenya attacks at the God's House of Miracles International Church occurred days after the U.S. embassy warned of an impending attack by al-Shabab, a militant Islamist group in neighboring Somalia.