To many people the story is well-known. Africa is indeed a place of darkness, a continent riddled with numerous forms of violence: interminable ethnic bloodletting, HIV/AIDS, and other death-dealing diseases not to mention poverty, hunger, and malnutrition; civil wars; refugees or displaced peoples; and genocide. Given all this, one can be excused for wondering whether anything good can come out of Africa. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the constant barrage of bad news about the continent.
Amid such a potentially discouraging profile, however, Seeking Peace in Africa emerges as a refreshing and hope-inspiring collection of essays that attest to the efforts of ordinary Christians to tell a different story, a story about the possibility of a different Africaone which is not a place of darkness but of hope, grace, and peace. The book is not primarily about theory, politics, philosophy, or theology but about testimonies, stories, anecdotes, tales, and parables of community-based peacemaking up and down the continent.
Yet in framing it within the context of narrative, the editors of these essays have offered us a collection that speaks to Africas situation at all levels of theory and experience. Here the ordinary person and the theologian or philosopher are given important resources for thinking concretely about peace and violence in Africa. As far as I know, there really is nothing like this book on the market. It is a first. I have no doubt that it will go a long way in helping church and society reimagine Africans future.
While taking seriously the continued existence of conflict and violence all over the continent, each and every contributor to the volume refuses to succumb to the Afro-pessimism which has become the hallmark of so much public and official commentary on the future of Africa. The realism of the narratives is balanced by stories of redemption. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of these contributionsfor they deal with matters of life and death at both the micro-level of individual experience and at the macro-level of the whole continent.
In both cases, the contributions make clear that there can be no viable future for Africa without the essential elements of reconciliation and forgiveness, justice, and peace as well as healing and hope. In addition to being about hope and the future, this is also a book very much concerned with the present. There is no escapism here. On every page we are confronted by the realities of violence and despair.
One of the distinctive features of the book is that although the editors are Westerners, the majority of the contributors are themselves African. This means that the volume embodies a substantial African voice on matters that are fundamentally African. Strange as it may seem, this is a rare achievement, for Africa is a continent whose voice has been historically suppressed or ignored.
A second distinctive element of the book is that it represents a critical Christian intervention in talk about peace on the continent. Among many other things, this is important because of the massive presence of the Christian church in Africa. Too often the discourse on peace and other public matters has been left to politicians and international organizations like the United Nations, even as the church seems to have nothing to say. This book brings the Christian contribution on peace into the public arena and reminds us that peace should be the concern of all and not just politicians.
I fully commend this book to anyone who seriously wants to learn and understand Christian grassroots peace efforts in Africa.
© 2007 by Cascadia Publishing House