by Rev Zwo Nevhutalu
Africa day is commemorated on the 25th of May. This is the day on which Africans in Africa and in the diaspora gather to reflect on the state of the African continent, pledge unity and celebrate its liberation from the colonial past.
The African Union (AU) Anthem is a clear call to all Africans to stand together and defend liberty and unity. It is a song for Africa Day whose message needs to be embraced by Africans wherever they may be. It is a call for Unity and Action.
It would be apt for us to reflect on the whole national anthem in order for us to get the full message of Africa Day
Let us all unite and celebrate together
The victories won for our liberation
Let us dedicate ourselves to rise together
To defend our liberty and unity
O sons and daughters of Africa
Flesh of the sun and flesh of the Sky
Let us make Africa the tree of life
Let us unite and sing together
To uphold the bonds that frame our destiny
Let us dedicate ourselves to fight together
Let us unite and toil together
To give the best we have for Africa
The cradle of mankind and fount of culture
Our pride and hope at break of dawn
Africa is a continent full of contradictions. Its beauty and wealth is unsurpassed in the whole world, yet it is a continent characterized by poverty, high burden of disease, and the shortest life expectancy of any continent. There are so many things that are going wrong in the continent which must be changed for the better.
It is against this background that the African Union came up with the theme of Africa Day 2019 as: Healthy lifestyle prolongs Life
This theme of Africa day 2019 resonates well with the message of Jesus Christ in John 10:10
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness”
At the AU commemoration of Africa Day Ambassador Thomas Kwesi Quartey had this to say on the theme of Africa Day: “The African Union is committed to lay a strong foundation for achieving Agenda 2063, an ambitious target of an African population that is healthy, well nourished, and enjoying a life expectancy of above 75 years”
This clearly resonates with the words: “I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness”
There are many reasons advanced as to why the life expectancy of the people in Africa is so low. However many contend, rightfully so, that it is partly because of the work of the people that Jesus talks about in John 10:10 — those who came to Africa in the past to Steal, Kill and Destroy. We do know from history that this was precisely the work of Africa’s colonialists.
It is however contended here that even after the wars of liberation were fought and won, many African countries were led by people whose work was to Steal, Kill and Destroy, albeit often in a different skin colour. Africa Day therefore not only sheds the spotlight on the Colonial past, but also on the here and now. Hence the church is well positioned to shout loudly on Africa Day: “I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.”
One of the greatest acts of stealing of the colonialists was to inculcate among Africans the idea that all that which is African is bad and what is good is that which is offered by the colonialists. So this led to the current situation where many Africans have abandoned everything African and in the context of this discussion, the African lifestyle and African diet.
African lifestyle was always characterized by activity — working, walking and running. And so most Africans had slim and agile bodies. Medical science today tells us that this kind of lifestyle is one of the most important pillars of a healthy life. Dr. Yankuba Kassama, director of AU medical services stated during the AU commemoration of Africa Day, that “adopting a healthy lifestyle involves regular physical activity or exercise, healthy eating habits, reducing stress, avoiding tobacco use and alcohol abuse”
The African diet we grew up on in the not too distant past, consisted of fresh vegetables, locusts, termites and other small delicacies as well as lots of fruit (Wild). Meat was consumed some of the time. There were no fizzy drinks when we were thirsty but fresh spring water to quench our thirst.
All these kinds of foods are what makes a healthy diet and Africans have by and large abandoned them in favour of the colonial diet.
It is important as we commemorate Africa Day that we make the African lifestyle and diet fashionable and promote that in our religious gatherings.
The situation of Africans when it comes to a healthy lifestyle is compounded by the infestation of religious sects that day in and day out canvass instant miracles as a solution to the poor health profiles of the African people. These sects are in most instances part of what Jesus in John 10:10 calls, “thieves who have come to steal, kill and destroy”. taking advantage of the vulnerable and gullible, in order to defraud Africans of their meagre hard earned incomes.
The message of John 10:10 calls upon African churches in particular to be caring, pastoral and to promote lifestyles which have evidence to promote health and longevity.
Recently when World TB day was being commemorated on the 24th of March 2019, we saw the active involvement of the faith based sector under the South African National Aids Council showing the way in mobilizing communities to take action to end the biggest killer of South Africans, Tuberculosis. That in many ways was a fitting commemoration of the 2019 theme of Africa Day: “Healthy lifestyle prolongs life”