Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bible commentary for Africa tackles HIV

Join me in praying that God's word will shine forth in Africa.

Bible commentary for Africa tackles HIV

African scholars have launched the continent's first bible commentary which tackles issues like female circumcision, HIV/AIDS and ethnic violence to make the scriptures more relevant for Africans.

The African Bible Commentary was launched this week in Kenya and is meant to interpret the bible for Africans by using local proverbs and tradition and by applying Christian teaching to contemporary problems on the poorest continent.

"(It is) an explanation of the whole Bible as seen through the eyes of African scholars who respect the integrity of the text and use African proverbs, metaphors and stories to make it speak to African believers," says General Editor Tokunboh Adeyemo in the book's introduction.

As church-going dwindles in increasingly secular Europe, Christianity is booming in Africa, where vibrant evangelical churches frequently draw tens of thousands to all-night prayer vigils.

The African Bible Commentary -- the first bible commentary for Africans by Africans -- includes contributions from some 70 scholars in 25 countries and is published in English and French, with African language translations in the works.

As well as verse-by-verse explanation of biblical text, the book includes 70 articles on how Christians should respond to thorny issues like HIV/AIDS, tribalism, race, homosexuality, witchcraft and lobola -- or bride money.

Alongside a passage in the book of Genesis which talks about male circumcision, for example, the commentary condemns female genital mutilation -- widely practiced in some parts of Africa -- as a "scourge which dehumanizes women".

The commentary confesses the African church has sinned by stigmatizing those with HIV/AIDS and urges leaders to "break its silence" and help tackle the epidemic that has infected some 26 million Africans.

The commentary is more conservative on homosexuality, which it says is "a sin... abnormal, unnatural and a perversion", reflecting the views of most African Christians.

Questions over how Christians should interpret the bible are at the root of a row over homosexuality that threatens to split the worldwide Anglican church, with conservative African bishops pitted against more liberal primates in North America.

"The younger church in Africa has stayed closer to biblical ethics and is therefore more conservative than the western church," Adeyemo told Reuters in a recent interview.