THE CATHOLIC CHURCH CAN DO MORE
In this interview [part two] with Fr. Louis Bira, sx, in view of the coming synod of bishops in October, Grace Bella-Kamara, a Student of the University of Makeni (Unimak,) expresses her opinion on gender equality, new born again churches, church leader behaviour…
Fr. Louis Bira sx (LB): You are a female student in a male dominated country. Do you feel discriminated in your university [University of Makeni- UNIMAK, a catholic university] because you are a girl? How can the Catholic Church address the issue of gender inequality?
Grace Bella Kamara (GBK): A wonderful feature that separates Unimak from other universities is its practice of gender parity. Students are awarded based on merit and not gender biasness or favouritism. Despite being a woman, I have excelled and have been awarded in different circumstance on a yardstick of hard work and commitment and not gender. Though I have to acknowledge that there signs of discrimination against women inside the Catholic Church, such as to avoid women in places of decision and government. The Church here seems to me a male dominated institution. This sends a strong message of gender inequality to its members and the world as a whole. It instils the idea of male superiority which nurtures the impossibility of women to assume office of cardinal responsibility in the church and other areas in society.
To combat such inequality is by firstly to enhance inclusion of women into strategic functions in the church. Secondly, sermons must educate members in the church on gender parity and the evils of discrimination against women who will in turn make members serve as ambassadors against this problem. Thank be to God, Pope Francis is moving in this direction!
LB: One of the characteristics of African young Christian people is to move from one church to another. According to you, why do the young people leave the Catholic Church and join the “new born again churches”?
GBK: Born again churches provide a lively and youthful service and other activities that creates platform for expressing and exposing their talent. I have seen evidence that churches with sound and updated musical instruments; which are mostly born again churches, have more youth membership than churches that do not; music and arts capture their hearts. Programs are organized by/for youths like outreaches/evangelism, youth summits, gospel entertainment and more gives a sense of possibilities to young people and they will therefore certainly run to where such platforms are made available. Catholic Churches are still keen in ensuring the strict practice of the traditional accustoms of the church, this is therefore considered by youths as archaic and are mere rituals as opposed to having a personal relationship with God. Also youth believe that born again churches provide urgent solutions to spiritual problems by way of deliverance and prophecies.
LB: Your University is a Christian university. What should the leaders of the University do so as to make it a place of evangelization, a place where young people learn to encounter Jesus Christ?
GBK: The University is doing its best to provide a Jesus filled environment. By not only conducting masses at the opening and closing of every academic year and the inclusion of the gospel as a foundation module (Integral Development of Mankind) for every course, but also supporting Christian organization on Campus like Catholic Community (CATCO), Sierra Leone Evangelical Fellowship of Students (SLEFES) and many other initiatives. Halls and the auditorium of the university have always been readily available for such groups to conduct their programs. The university should therefore further pursuit on the path set by rendering both financial and material support to these Christian organizations for their effectiveness as they are influencers on non Christian students. An office of a University counsellor can be created where Jesus is preached to students facing challenges or who do not know Him as Saviour.
LB: If you were asked to advise catholic bishops, priests and religious sisters and brothers, what would you tell them?
GBK: I first of all praise the work of the Catholic mission for bringing not only the gospel but education/empowerment to lives across our Country Sierra Leone regardless of the religious background. The Catholic Church has done a great job in our country. Still, it can do more. I pray that the Church continues to maintain the moral standards set by their heroes. They should seek on attaining spiritual wealth and promotions rather than earthly….Therefore, Catholic Church leaders should remember that their behaviour can damage or support the credibility of their mission of evangelization. I have heard of moral scandals which are no longer hidden facts. I hope those in office of guiding the Catholic Church here will have the courage and the wisdom to address these issues. Again, economic inequality between leaders and members in churches is another problem and is becoming a cause for concern. The Catholic mission must work to the best of its ability to discourage such from creeping into the church. The Church cannot preach with credibility on issues of justice without questioning matters of injustice in her midst. Efforts must be placed on inculcating means that will enlighten members on how to enrich themselves both physically and spiritually.