Elinam Agbo 1-24-2019

“FENGBE, KEH KAMBA BEH. Fengbe, kemu beh. We have nothing but we have God. We have nothing but we have each other.”

Like the voice of the wind, this song pervades the vivid landscape of Wayétu Moore’s debut novel, in which the Liberian-born writer explores the early days of Liberia, in the 1840s, through three characters: Gbessa, June Dey, and Norman Aragon.

In She Would Be King, these three impossible lives (and a country) emerge out of slavery, violence, and exile. Death eludes and “mocks” Gbessa, of the Vai people, who constantly suffers the pain of dying without its relief. Born on a cursed day, Gbessa grows up under house arrest until she is exiled. Alone in the forest, torn from her family and people, she sings, “Fengbe keh kamba beh. Femgbe, kemu beh.” The “we” of this song haunts the reality of Gbessa’s situation, and to offer a glimpse of the big picture, Moore writes: “The words ascended, joining the traveling wind, and sometimes it was as though someone were singing with her.”

And someone was. Across time, language, and distance. Ol’ Ma Famatta sits in the moon, and the slave once known as Charlotte whispers comfort in the wind as if to say loneliness is not forever, as if to promise Gbessa that she is not alone.

Jeania Ree V. Moore 11-20-2018

THE YEAR 2019 marks 400 years since a boat carrying “20 and odd” enslaved Africans landed at Point Comfort in colonial Virginia. To commemorate this and other historic 1619 events, Virginia will host “American Evolution,” a yearlong celebration in which these events have been transmuted into national values. The arrival of enslaved Africans on American shores has become “diversity.”

Yet, last summer a West African immigrant was deported back to Africa to face slavery, in a transatlantic reversal of journeys that underscores the persistence of immorality in this involuntary passage.

On Aug. 22, Seyni Diagne, a 64-year-old immigrant battling kidney cancer and hepatitis B, was deported from Dulles International Airport in Virginia to his home country of Mauritania after 17 years in the U.S. There he faces enslavement through forced labor. Mauritania has one of the highest rates of slavery in the world, impacting more than 40,000 black Mauritanians.

The day following Diagne’s deportation was the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. The Commonwealth of Virginia chose to mark it by recognizing the first Africans in English North America.

Image via Scott Chacon/Creative Commons

David Himbara, a Rwandan international development advocate based in Canada, called the government’s justification for the closures bogus and said the “real reason … is fear and paranoia.”

Image via Hamberg Media School / RNS

The Academy Award nomination was a cause for celebration throughout the country. President Uhuru Kenyatta tweeted after the 90th Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles on March 4: “You have won our hearts as a nation … Keep telling our stories through your camera and you will win next time.”

Image via Junaidrao / Flickr

A pivotal early scene in the movie engages African cosmology and varieties of African spirituality on many levels. The viewer encounters a vibrant spiritual world from the earliest moments of the film, which draws from the cultural traditions of many real African nations by incorporating customs, clothing, languages, art, architecture, body modification styles, and combat techniques found across the continent.

Charles L. Howard 2-15-2018

It is an awful and awesome time to be Black in America. I hear the voices of those who came before say “it always has been son.” Yet the last few years have been especially psychologically traumatizing and awful. The images of unarmed Black bodies being shot, choked, and killed by police officers looping on television and social media and the lack of justice or accountability around many of those murders have haunted me. The resurgence of (and the unhelpful media attention given to) a racist White nationalism. The introduction of policies and executive orders that seek to dismantle progress that took decades to build. And the ascendance of a bigoted fearful president who rose to political power on lies about our first Black president, lies about other minorities, and by playing to the siege mentality of many White Americans. All of this has been added to the daily micro and macro aggressions we experience and the contorting demanded of us to calm white neighbors, colleagues and classmates. It is exhausting. Maddening. Awful

Image via Fredrick Nzwili / RNS

Even many within the Christian universities said they grew too fast, did not allocate money well — or both.

Chesterfield Samba, GALZ director. Image via RNS.

Shunned by family, scorned in state media and deemed “worse than dogs and pigs” by President Robert Mugabe, gays in Zimbabwe often find their country’s churches just as hostile.

Image via RNS/Fredrick Nzwili

Starting in the suburb of Ruiru, about 19 miles north of Nairobi, the train for the past five years has informally hosted a growing number of self-styled pastors and a makeshift, moving congregation eager to hear the gospel.

At least two coaches turn into “churches” each day, with Christians singing, dancing, and clapping as they prepare for a short sermon during the one-hour journey.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Jim Bourg

Following a report that President Trump is thinking of scrapping the ambassador position assigned to combat global anti-Semitism, a bipartisan group of 167 U.S. House members sent a letter asking him to appoint one soon.

The letter, released on March 13, asks Trump to “maintain and prioritize” the appointment, in a time of rising anti-Semitism.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Siegfried Modola

Clutching a Bible in one hand and a walking stick in the other, Pastor Stephen Lenku Tipatet traverses the plains of Kajiado County, fighting female circumcision and propounding on the Christian gospel.

The region is the homeland of the Maasai, an indigenous community in Southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. The community has resisted modernity and Western influences, and clings to their traditional way of life, including the practice of female genital mutilation, or FGM.

Kishwar Rizvi 1-12-2017

Image via RNS/Smithsonian

Popular films like American Sniper reduce places like Iraq to dusty war zones, devoid of any culture or history. Fears and anxiety manifest themselves in Islamophobic actions such as burning mosques or even attacking people physically.

At the heart of such fear is ignorance. A December 2015 poll found that a majority of Americans (52 percent) do not understand Islam. In this same poll, 36 percent also said that they wanted to know more about the religion. Interestingly, those under 30 years were 46 percent more likely to have a favorable view of Islam.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Umit Bektas

As Pope Francis officially opened this year’s Christmas Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square, he said Jesus was a “migrant” who reminds us of the plight of today’s refugees.

Francis told donors who contributed both the Nativity set and an 82-foot tree that the story of Jesus’ birth echoes the “tragic reality of migrants, on boats, making their way toward Italy,” from the Middle East and Africa today.

Image via RNS/Creative Commons image by Stefano Rellandini

The Vatican has launched a website as part of its efforts to protect children from clerical sexual abuse and promote healing and reconciliation.

It’s the first time that the Vatican has published resources and documents on the issue, and the site is sponsored by the commission set up by Pope Francis to protect minors.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Andres Stapff

If I’ve learned anything since my time in Rome, it’s that people — not just Catholics — are hungering to connect peace with justice. This is why those of us who traveled to Rome just before the election, accompanied by Stockton, Calif., Bishop Stephen Blaire, and Houma-Thibodaux, La., Bishop Shelton Fabre, are preparing for a regional WMPM meeting in Modesto, Calif., in February.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

At a solemn ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica, to elevate 17 new cardinals, Pope Francis, on Nov. 19, delivered a ringing plea to the world, and his own Catholic Church, to reject “the virus of polarization and animosity," and the growing temptation to “demonize” those who are different.

The pontiff’s address came across as a powerful, gospel-based indictment of the populist and nationalist anger roiling countries around the world, displayed most recently by the stunning election of Donald Trump as president of the U.S.

Image via Mike DuBose / UMNS / RNS

The Rev. Jerry Kulah has nothing but gratitude for the United Methodist Church.

In 1833, American Methodists sent their first missionary to his country, Liberia, which was founded for freed American slaves. Melville B. Cox died four months after he arrived in Africa, but the missionary’s legacy lives on in the United Methodist Church’s fastest-growing region, and in his words to his own church back in North Carolina: “Let a thousand fall before Africa be given up.”

Image via Fredrick Nzwili / RNS

Churches in eastern and southern Africa are appealing for humanitarian aid in the region, as 36 million people grapple with the worst drought in decades. Linked to extreme El Nino weather conditions, the drought has hit countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, among others. The conditions have reversed normal weather patterns, upsetting people’s livelihoods.

Image via Fredrick Nzwili/RNS

Led by charismatic preachers and self-proclaimed prophets, African churches are swelling with promises of miracle healings, signs, and wonders. But in recent months, governments across the continent are trying to rein in these churches.

“There is nowhere a human being should be allowed to enslave others.”

This is a statement made by Burundian Catholic Archbishop Simon Ntamwana, referring to the Burundian president who was seeking an extra term in power. The archbishop was implicitly calling the president's actions unjust and unacceptable.

Indeed, the term limit crisis in Africa needs to be considered in the same light as the liberation, decolonization, and democratization movements against slavery and apartheid. Similarly to those struggles in history, today's term limit crisis in Africa is characterized by people struggling against oppression and political injustice.