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News for Middle of August 2006

Dear Friends,

Ascetic Africa?

There is no ascetic tradition in Africa, said the speaker at a recent conference. I swallowed. "How could it be developed" I asked? "It can't be" I was told.

Asceticism arises from the belief that denying oneself worldly pleasure is of spiritual advantage. In extreme form, it is practiced by some monks and hermits. In everyday form, it means (for example) that we go to church on Sundays when we could have been working to make money.

Some Eastern religions practice asceticism the most ardently. It also has a long Christian tradition. St. Anthony of Egypt went to live out his faith in the desert in reaction to the 'consumerist' Christianity of his day.

Not having any ascetic orientation means that all that one does is always with a view to the financial, prestigious and material advantage of oneself and one's family. And yes, this includes going to church!

This is hard to understand from the 'West'. Probably because secularism does not recognise that spiritual activity can give any material gain. Not so in Africa - where people pray and worship in order to acquire cars, money, health, jobs or even qualifications.

Death News

My long term (since 1998) friend, teaching-colleague (in YTC) and student (at KIST) David Asembo passed away after a short illness on 9th August. Pray for the family and funeral arrangements on the 21st August.

Travel Plans

I have made plans to make a trip to the East Coast of Tanzania, starting 21st August (after the funeral), planning to return on the 31st in time for KIST opening the following week. My main objectives are:

  1. To explore African expressions of Islam and its interaction with the church, in preparation for my teaching next term.
  2. To visit some old friends, Ben and Sally Amos, who are doing medical work in Tanga in Tanzania.

Best wishes,