October 16, 2011 | David F. Coppedge

What Is It About Africa?

What’s wrong with Africa? The answer is, of course, nothing – at least not with the continent itself. Africa is a bountiful land of incredible diversity and productive potential, boasting the largest mammals, the great apes, geological diversity, vast panoramas of beauty, and numerous spectacular plants and animals. What comes to mind to many westerners, though, is starvation, drought, disease, war, genocide, and a long history of slavery, exploitation and corruption. For decades the charities have assaulted our emotions with heart-wrenching images of starving children with distended stomachs and flimsy arms, covered in flies and mosquitoes. Is Africa to blame? No; these are mostly human-caused problems, offering hope of solutions. A diverse continent with vastly different political systems, Africa offers striking contrasts of riches and horrors.

Take farming. According to Science Daily, parts of Africa have some of the most nutrient-depleted soils in the world (and this speaking of land south of the Sahara Desert). The BBC News said, “Researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre say poor soil fertility is one of the main obstacles to improving food production in Africa.” Here’s a simple solution: plant trees. The BBC News said that planting the right kind of trees can bring back the soil: “Fertiliser tree systems (FTS) … help boost food security and play a role in ‘climate proofing‘ the region’s arable land”. Can this help forestall some of the desertification that worries scientists?  According to the Science Daily article, some 400,000 farmers are now benefiting from this simple, elegant solution so economical it grows on trees. Readers may remember the amazing Moringa tree, a literal “tree of life” that provides food, fuel, clean water and soil fertilizer (see 3/09/2010).

Take the desert. A BBC News nature feature reported that a rocky, arid part of Niger is a literal Noah’s Ark for migrating wildlife. The photo gallery affirms that this part of Africa is “one of the most inhospitable deserts,” and yet biologists are calling for its protection, because it is a “biodiversity hotspot.” Who would have thought? In America, deserts are no hindrance to booming, thriving cities (Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, and many others). Technologies are available to find and extract clean water, to derive energy, and to improve the standard of living for everyone – when there is the political will, the right principles, the right leadership and ability for the people to oust evil dictators.

But the atrocities continue.  Recent news has called attention to America’s latest effort to help stop the misnamed “Lord’s Resistance Army” led by brutal bad guy Joseph Kony in Uganda, who sends children into villages to massacre everyone and tortures them if they don’t. South Sudan is trying to hold onto a flimsy new sovereignty after 15 years of civll war. Robert Mugabe destroyed once-productive Zimbabwe with his irrational, ego-driven policies. One of the worst sudden genocides happened in Rwanda just 17 years ago. Somalia remains a hotbed of death, piracy and terrorism. This is all recent history in “darkest Africa,” in spite of the fact that the old slave trade is gone, and the old colonial empires are gone. What’s wrong with Africa?

Here’s what’s wrong: the widespread lack of Judeo-Christian values and principles, not just in Africa, but on every continent. Wherever godly people thrive, the land rejoices. Where they do not, the land mourns. Solomon said, “The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice” (Proverbs 13:23). Hosea described how injustice penetrates even the ecology: “There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away” (Hosea 4:1-3). America and Europe are coasting on the fumes of their Christian heritage, but are poised for horrors that have overtaken other nations that rejected God.

You can plant all the Fertilizer Tree Systems you want, and the next Mugabe-like dictator will rip them out and make weapons out of them. You can bring in science and technology, and terrorists will use it destroy their neighbors. You can discover natural resources in abundance, but superstitious people will stick to their unhealthy ways out of fear. You can install clean water systems, but neighboring terrorists will destroy them. You can send everyone to school, and they will learn how to be more sophisticated crooks. You can install thousands of U.N. environmentalists, but poachers will continue to senselessly kill rare rhinos and elephants for their horns and tusks.

That’s why missionary work is still the greatest gift that those living in freedom and plenty can give to any country besieged by poverty and injustice. Churches are mushrooming in parts of Africa. There’s no reason that Africa could not surpass the west in prosperity – even in sending out missionaries to call America back from its apostasy. Think what would happen if a vast majority of Africans really followed what Jesus taught: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” From that world view, from that perspective, flows a cornucopia of food, healing, safety, security, sharing, help, community, prosperity and love.

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  • Christianmandoad says:

    It can’t just be missions in terms of salvation, though. Africa (and the world) needs a holistic worldview, one that addresses the political, social, economic, etc issues that plague the continent.

  • Editor says:

    Good observation.  Salvation renews the mind (Romans 12:1-2).  It begins new thought processes.  It brings in the Holy Spirit, who empowers gifts and talents and begins a good work, to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).  Nevertheless, not all saved ones reach their full potential.  Salvation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a healthy society.  It’s only a start, but like a healthy body, each member has to do its part and grow.  Meanwhile, institutions that borrow from Christian values, including science, which was born out of a Christian worldview, can do a lot of good through compassionate application of accumulated knowledge.  If Zimbabwe could get a fresh start without its evil dictator, and if missions led many to salvation, there is at least the potential, though it might take time, for a harvest of righteousness that would manifest itself in many ways, including the blessing of God.

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