As the General Assembly of the synod on synodality kicks off in Rome, the Pan-African Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN) is well represented. With the timely publication of our new book, Journeying Together for a Synodal Church in Africa, we are proud to have contributed to ensuring our African representatives are well-armed and prepared.
The book provides biblical, theological, and pastoral reflections on this important theme at the heart of Pope Francis’s missionary initiative. This work has attracted the attention of giants in the publishing industry like Orbis Books. They have immediately contracted to publish a second edition next year titled Toward a Synodal Church in Africa, Echoes From An African Christian Palaver. The voice of the African Church at the synod is certainly being amplified through this work. As editor-in-chief and on behalf of my co-editors, I feel privileged and happy to announce this work to the public.
African Christians are proud of the African cultural heritage of the palaver whose practice is so widespread in Africa and known under various designations. It is called Shikome among the Sukuma people of Tanzania, baraza/indaba in South Africa, enkiguena among the Maasai of East Africa, ịbọrị ụka among the Igbo of West Africa, etc. This practice is believed to have the potential to immensely enrich the Church’s mission and Christian practice beyond the boundaries of the African continent. The traditional palaver practice is one of those cultural goods with which Africa is blessed, and consists of reaching broad communal consensus through participatory dialogue.
However, it is more than dialogue, for it is a way of life that became closely identified with Christianity from the earliest missionary times. The Igbo people of Southeast Nigeria designate Christians as ndị ụka (which literary means the palaver people), and the church or liturgical assembly as ụka (palaver). Sunday is translated as ụbọchị ụka, ‘the palaver-day,’ and the church building as ụlọ ụka, ‘house of palaver.’ The palaver practice provides many African communities with the social climate for maintaining justice, peace, and harmony and promoting sound ethical choices for human and cosmic flourishing.
The Catholic family has come together in Rome to help the Pope re-imagine our journey with God together. We aspire that the contributions of PACTPAN will serve as one of the crucial intellectual reference points at this synod. We thank our publishers, the Paulines Africa and Orbis Books, and encourage our members and the reading public to please secure their own copies of this important work.
Ikenna Okafor (Dr. Theol.)