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Fr. Leons N. Maziku



Africa is a continent of wide varieties and
diversity of situation of both church and
society. One common situation without
doubt is that Africa is full of problems. In a
world controlled by rich and powerful
nations, Africa has practically become an
irrelevant appendix, often forgotten and
neglected by all. The Church is part of this
society in distress. These were the words
of Cardinal Hyacinthe Thiandsum, the
Archbishop of Dakar Senegal, during the
opening speech at the Special Assembly for
Africa of the Synod of Bishops in Rome,
April 1994.

The problems of Africa are historical
problems. Ignorance of history,
racial prejudice and bias had
weakened the efforts and the
struggles of Africans in explaining
and liberating their once classical
civilization like the Egyptian
Civilization, the Mali and Songhai
Empires and the formidable
Mwananuitapa Empire of Zimbabwe.

The writer is an African priest, scholar of
the Augustinian Sisters of Our Lady of
Consolation at the University of Regina
Carmeli, Malolos, Bulacan. In his efforts
of thanking the OSA Sisters, he is writing
a brief background of North African
History, the birth place of Saint
Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo.

There is a movement of changes globally and
Africa is not an exception from the Evolution.
This turning point of African History reached
climax due to two factors.
1. The Independence of Namibia ending the colonial
occupation in Africa since the Berlin Conference of
1884-85 which divided Africa into European Major
powers by then namely, the British, the French, the
Germans, and the Portuguese.

2. The end of Apartheid in South Africa, a
peculiar country in the civilization of
mankind, for having social, political and
economic services offered according to the
racial aspects.
2.1 The white, the first class
2.2 The coloured, second class
2.3 The black, third class
These two factors were resurrection, the
Passover of Africa and African people
towards a journey in the desert to the
promised land of freedom, peace and

The history of Africa which is now being
re-written and reshaped with African
flesh, covers the struggles for their
liberation and this history is not familiar
to the majority outside Africa. The
reasons are very clear. There is an
Africa the Dark Continent, full of
violence, malnutrition, famine and
drought which have been imprinted in
the minds of people for centuries.

The ready-made African History is
crumbling into pieces giving way to
Africa as the product of African struggles
towards liberation. I, personally, admit
there is a long way to go, but Africa is
already on the move. Sad to say, Africa
has no CNN, CBS, ABC to tell the world
in a voice loud and clear, We are on the

Renato Constantino once said, An
individual has no history apart from
society, and society is the historical
product of people. Meaning to say, you
cannot know the real Saint Augustine,
unless you know his society. In this
case, the African society of the fourth
and fifth Century of Roman North Africa.

The Society which shaped, moulded and
gave St. Augustine his identity as an
African has not been given due research
and study due to racial prejudice. For
history, though it is commonly defined
as the History of Man, it is not the man
the individual, but man the collective,
that is, the associated man. Without
society, there can be no history. There
are no societies without men.

T h e H i s t o r y o f A f r i c a a n d A f r i c a n
Spirituality is based in the light of the
Second Vatican Council which had opened
the doors for dialogue with other faiths and
cultures. The African who was printed for
centuries in the minds and books of so
many scholars was inspired by the theology
and spirituality of believing that
Christianity alone had the truth, and that the
Church was the unique path to eternal
salvation. In other words, outside the
church, there was no hope for salvation.

Once Professor Hans Kng said,
NOT that everything that is true,
good and beautiful can only be
found in the Church. A decent life
and salvation can be found also in
other groups outside the Church,
since God is greater than the

The first effort in re-examining the
History of Africa is to know that Africans
are a
mixture of different races
composed of different complexion,
culture, languages and religions. This is
one of the most important characteristic
features of Africa, which has a significant
bearing on economic and political affairs
because of the variety of races, not only
in the Continent as a whole but also in
individual countries.

They constitute the largest racial group.
They occupy most of the continent
south of the Sahara. They are dark
skinned. The Negroes can be roughly
divided into two great groups.
1. A Southern Eastern group
2. A Northern Western group speaking a
variety of languages

West African

Majority and most of the time, when
people refer to Africans, they refer
to Negroes. This is a big family.
They are different. Most of them are
tall, brown, broad nose and curly
hair. The smaller tribe which can
break from here are Zulu from
South Africa and Bantu from East
of Africa. Most of the Negroes were
taken into tribe in America. Those
of Michael Jordan and the rest of
them belong to this race.


They survive in the remote and arid

lands of Southern Africa. They have
thin lips and hair tightly spiraled to
form tufts. If anyone of you have
watched the movie The Gods Must
Be Crazy, those are Bushanoids.
They are short, light yellow in color,
broad nose and kinky hair.

They are confined mainly to the
Equatorial forests of the Zaire Basin.
Hunters, trappers and collectors, they
are dark skinned, shy people with an
average of only about 142 cm. (4 ft. & 8
inches). They are short, medium brown
in color, broad nose and kinky hair. Most
of them are living in at the Central part of
Africa in Zaire, Angola, Congo and

They are pale-skinned people who
have entered Africa from time to
time over thousands of years.
Among the earliest arrivals were the
Berber speaking people of North
Africa. They are tall, slender, light
complexioned, long haired. St.
Augustine belonged here. Thats
why I dont look like St. Augustine
even though we both come from
Africa. The major tribes, the major
families are Berbers which is the
tribe of St. Augustine and Bedoins.
Most of them are found along
Sahara Desert, Morocco, Algeria,
Libya and Egypt. They got lighter
complexion and long hair.


Scarcely distinguishable from the
Berbers. The Arabs invaded Egypt and
the rest of North Africa in the seventh
century AD and brought with them
Muslim religion. Originally, traders or
nomadic pastoralists, many of them have
settled down to become sedentary

The majority of the Caucasoids/
Europeans live in the Republic of South
Africa. More than half of them who
mostly speak Afrikaan descended from
Dutch and German settlers at the Cape in
the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, and the remainder largely
descended from British immigrants who
have arrived over 180 years ago.


They came across the Indian Ocean into
Madagascar over a thousand years ago. And
Madagascar has trade links with Indonesia
and Malaysia. Thats why, they look like you.
So you can see how hard it is to ask what is
the language of Africa.


1. AFRO-ASIATIC with 5 coordinate

Semitic in Asia as in ancient Egypt

Berber in Northwestern Algeria
Cashitic in Ethiopia
Chadic in parts of present-day Chad
and Nigeria

3. KHOISAN spoken in Southern Africa

and East Africa

with 2 families:
Niger-Congo Kordofanian in West Africa,
grasslands of Cameroons and Central
Africa Republic

4. NILO-SAHARAN spoken in South

of the Sahara or in the desert of
Northeast of Lake Chad


5. AUSTRONESIAN in Madagascar,
Southeast Asia
AFRIKAANS language of the overseas
European minority in South Africa; also of
the colored people of Cape province.
CREOLES the blend of original alien
languages (English, French, Portuguese) with
African tongues as now the home language
for scattered significant elements of the



The typically African society is based on
kinship, the network of relationship woven
by descent and marriage. The unity of
social organization is the family not just a
man, his wife and their children, but the
extended family embracing three or four
generations and including cousins.

The family as a basic unit differs from
place to place but essentially Africans
are family-oriented. It was the glue that
blended the society and maintained
peace as Chief Awolano of Nigeria once
said. There was peace because the
people lived closely together, and there
was peace because the family was
corporate, integrated and well-regulated.


The traditions which held Africans
together were de-stabilized and eroded
by the slave trade. It was the time when
Africans lost their course of civilization,
development and spirituality because the
unit-family that put them together was
robbed from them and they fell apart. It
was the key which ignited an endless
chain of disasters of colonialism,
exploitation, neo-colonialism and
perpetual poverty.

North Africa


North Africa
North Africa, west of the Nile Delta was occupied
for as long as 6000 years by Pastoralist people
who occupied not only the Magreb but also most
of what is now the Western Sahara.
When the Phoenicians from what is now known
as Lebanon founded Carthage about 800 BC,
they found there were people speaking a
language called TAMAZIGHT. Later on Greek
traders and colonists regarded aboriginal
inhabitants of North-West Africa as Barbarians
and called them Berbers. Though primarily
Pastoralists, they were also cultivators, growing
tree crops and cereals on terraces.

North Africa
Carthage was overwhelmed by Rome in 147 BC
and by Cleopatras Egypt in 32 BC. This was
the beginning of the formal colonial occupation
of North Africa, including Algeria. For the next
five centuries, North Africa, including Egypt,
formed a part of either the Western Roman or the
Eastern Byzantine Empire.
St. Augustine was born in 354 AD during the
Roman occupation in North Africa. It was already
after the Edict of Milan in 312, and Christianity
was the Religion of the Empire. Many of the
townspeople of Roman Egypt and North Africa
were converted to Christianity. Augustine of
Hippo was one of them.


In order to be a good citizen who obeyed the

Emperor, there was forced conversion and
resistance which led to persecution. For Augustine,
the case was different. It was a personal conversion.
The Roman Empire was the pillar which supported
Christianity. When the Empire fell, Christianity had
no support and became vulnerable.
But at the end of the period of several centuries of
European rule in North Africa, there came suddenly
and dramatically the Arabs who invaded Northern
Africa in the seventh century AD. The invasion
drove a wedge into the falling Christian Empire. The
Berbers, as they have always done, resisted the new
invaders and succeeded in retaining the ancient
tribal structure by retiring to the mountains.

North Africa
Apart from the collapse of the Roman Empire,
Christianity in North Africa had no deep roots
because of persecution and forced conversion.
It had been weakened by theological disputes,
Donatism and Pelagianism which created
confusion and chaos. Within a century, the
majority of the population had adopted Islam,
and the Arabic language and customs.
The Berbers felt more comfortable with Muslim
Arabs than Christian Romans because of its
similarity with their culture, language and
race. Christianity was the religion of a colonial
Master who brought freedom.


North Africa
Islam brought relief through the following
Monotheism: By solving the Arius
Nestorius Problematic Heresy
Salama submission to God alone
brings peace: Not Grace or good works:
Pelagian Heresy
Umara-ful Islam fitted squarely with the
Berbers culture of Al Jamaa
Islam had a room for Polygamy


History is irrelevant and boring if it is
chronology of events, names of heroes which
took place long time ago and had
connection with the present. The History of
North Africa is only relevant if it becomes a
unifying thread of the present problems of
Africa and the Church of the Poor. We
therefore need to re-examine our History, our
Theology, Spirituality and pastoral activities to
discern where and
how Christians went

1. Inculturation
Christianity in North Africa died because it had no
deep roots in African culture which was regarded
as inferior compared to European.
I am afraid the Missionaries are repeating the
same mistake.
Bishop Kenneth Cragg had said it rightly, Our
first task in approaching another people,
another culture, another religion is to take off
our shoes, for the place we are approaching is
Holy. Else, we may find ourselves treading on
peoples dream. More seriously still we may
not forget that God was there before our



I do not have better words than those of the
former President of the United Republic of
Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere: I am
suggesting that unless we participate actively
against the social structures and economic
organization which condemn man to poverty,
humiliations and degradation, then the Church
will be irrelevant to Man and Christian religion
will degenerate into a set of superstitions
accepted by the fearful.


History of Salvation is the History of oppressed
slaves who struggled to free themselves from
the yoke of oppression, and from foreign idols.
Unless the Church, its members and its
organization express Gods love for man by
involvement and leadership in constructive
protest against the present conditions of man,
then it will become identified with injustice and
persecution. If this happens, it will die and
humanly speaking, deserves to die because it
will serve no purpose comprehensible to modern



The African who had produced St. Augustine are
tooth and nail struggling to reclaim their lost glory
and dignity. In solidarity with the Church of the
Poor, we are revisiting the past to see what went
wrong, when and why. In recognition of the
Mission and Vision of the Augustinian Sisters of
Our Lady of Consolation, there is a uniting thread
of struggles of people not only in the Third World
Countries but globally to build the Church as the
community of believers in the model of the
Jerusalem Community where they, remained
faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, to the
brotherhood, to the breaking of the bread and to
the Prayers. Acts 2:42.



In Christ,
Fr. Leons N. Maziku
Nkosi Sikeleli Africa
Mungu Ibariki Africa
God Bless Africa!