African Activist: Stop Using Western Aid to Force Leftist Values on Our Cultures
Obianuju Ekeocha is a UK-based activist and author from Nigeria who founded Culture of Life Africa. Her organization defends African culture from Western governments and charities intent on pushing a ‘progressive’ agenda on African families. In her zeal to defend natural marriage and unborn life, Ekeocha has confronted various powerful figures, from Melinda Gates and President Barack Obama to U.N. Delegates and even the Catholic Church’s recent Synod on the Family.
Most of us in the West know very little about African culture, and yet many of us unwittingly support the very “charities” and foreign aid policies that Ekeocha believes are harmful to African people. To get Ekeocha’s take, I contacted her for an interview, which was conducted via email September 5.
Stephen Herreid: What got you started? Why did you found Culture of Life Africa, and how did you become a world-traveling advocate of the Gospel of Life?
Obianuju Ekeocha: I was born and raised in a small town in Nigeria. And I had the great blessing of assimilating, from my family and society, basic principles and values of faith, family, love, life, dignity and discipline.
I was taught that sex was sacred and best reserved for marriage, that marriage was the foundation of family, and that family was supposed to be the center of love and support. I understood that human life was precious from the womb and so every abortion was a serious attack against human life.
I knew, even as a young girl going through the less-than-perfect educational system in Nigeria, that my empowerment was dependent on my continued access to education rather than my access to contraception (and abortion).
By the time I moved to Europe in my mid-twenties for my masters degree, I realized that even though there was much to admire in the Western culture that I had moved into, there was a part of this culture that I could not accept or embrace because it was the direct opposite of the values I had learnt from my youth.
For years I held my thoughts, opinions and convictions to myself, but in 2012, when I heard that Melinda Gates was launching a multibilliondollar contraception and population control project targeted towards the 69 poorest countries in the world (most of which were African countries), I saw this as a bold move on her part to impose her worldview upon the poorest of the world. She was pushing to shift the views of millions of people on family, motherhood, marriage and sex.
This was cultural imperialism and I couldn’t reconcile with it or be silent about it.
So I wrote an Open Letter which was providentially made public by Teresa Tomeo — a renowned Catholic show host on EWTN. The letter eventually went viral as it was published by one of the Vatican websites as well as many other websites around the world in different languages.
This was how I started writing and commenting in various media outlets. Then, in need of my own platform, I founded an organization called Culture of Life Africa.
Herreid: You often refer to “African values.” Tell us about the African culture you wish to preserve. How is it a “culture of life?”
Ekeocha: I don’t think that these values I speak often of are exclusively “African values.” Rather, I believe they are universal human values shared by people of different cultures, nationalities, tribes and races. There was a time when these same values were lived and championed across the Western world. However, with the rise of certain loud, powerful and influential interest groups — like the second-wave feminists, LGBT activists, abortion rights activists — their impact on laws, medical practice, politics, education and entertainment has brought about such drastic changes in the social, cultural and moral landscape of the West that these values have been effaced.
These groups have brought into the mainstream of Western civilization a culture of casual sex, legalized abortion, which has led to the killing of millions of unborn babies, distortion in the understanding of human sexuality, and a redefinition of marriage.
These are all irreconcilable, unacceptable and untenable positions for millions of people from other parts of the world (especially from Africa). With the rapid moral and cultural decline in the west, many Africans realize that they must stand firm by what they know to be true, good and beautiful.
This is how we have now ended up in a battle of ideologies to defend the sanctity of human life, the dignity of human sexuality, the truth about the complementarity of male and female, and the importance of the family built upon marriage.
Herreid: During the pontificate of Benedict XVI, critics accused him of meddling with African countries, citing his condemning the use of contraceptives and abortion as solutions to disease and poverty. What is your take on these solutions?
Ekeocha: It is unfortunate that amidst an HIV epidemic that has claimed tens of millions of lives in Africa, the Western-led international community would continue to insist on the “condom solution,” which has failed in every African country where it’s been tried.
What has demonstrably worked in Africa is a robust behavioral-change campaign that promotes abstinence (for the single) and fidelity (for the married).
Uganda used this public health strategy and the world saw the most remarkable reduction ever recorded since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic as the infection rate dropped by 70 percent. In contrast to this, in some of the countries with the most extensive condom distribution networks, the rate of HIV infection remains high.
Some prominent researchers in the field of AIDS prevention have come forward to support the Pope’s position. Professor Edward Green, Medical Anthropologist, formerly Director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, has spoken and written several papers on this subject.
On the issue of contraception as a necessary part in ending poverty in Africa, I’ll say this is preposterous.
I know many women in Africa who don’t have children (due to infertility) and yet they are still poor, I know women who have large families and yet they are not poor. In other words, I don’t know any woman who has escaped the clutches of poverty because of her access to contraception, but I know many African women who have climbed to the pinnacle of their professions because of the level and quality of education they got.
To bring real development to Africa, we don’t need a deconstruction of our cultural heritage and beliefs, what we need is access to education and also a full dose of respect by the Western world.
Herreid: Some on the Christian Left — including progressive Catholic, Anglican and other prelates — accuse orthodox Christians of “forcing” their Judeo-Christian values on the “LGBT” community in Africa. But you have pointed out that many African nations are home to a vibrant Christian community. Is the progressive sexual agenda of some Western governments actually more foreign to African nations than Christian sexual ethics?
Ekeocha: The worldview of the African Christian is formed by both Scripture and cultural beliefs. As an African Christian, I struggle and strive to live by the Gospel teachings, but I also make great efforts to remember and respect my cultural heritage.
One of the reasons why the Gospel and Christian Faith were accepted by so many people in my grandparents’ generation was that the Gospel values (preached to them by Western missionaries) resonated with what they already knew to be true — that there was a creator who made heaven and earth, that life itself is a precious gift from this creator, that every human life derives its full meaning and satisfaction only when it’s put in service of this creator and the community.
This was what my grandparents accepted wholeheartedly, but in addition to these basic truths, the moral values from the scriptures resonated with their own understanding of life, family, human sexuality, marriage, motherhood, fatherhood, etc.
Sex between two people of the same sex is seen as disordered by all the tribes and ethnic groups in my country as well as those of all the other African countries I’ve been to — Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Benin, Uganda … I have never come across any African tribe that accepts or is even “neutral” on this matter. And this is not an influence of Christianity; it is from our ancestors.
Many of the LGBT groups in Africa are closely linked to (and most likely funded by) wealthy Western LGBT rights groups. But in truth these western LGBT activists are using their African counterparts to push for change, redefinitions and a complete deconstruction of sexuality and marriage as we know it.
The African view on homosexuality is so deep-seated because it predates the heralds of the Gospel and so an overwhelming majority of people will never bend or bow to this rainbow ideology.
Herreid: Many charities advertise themselves as big supporters of the poor in Africa, and political candidates similarly tout their own proposals for improving the lot of African nations. But sometimes we’re not as careful as we should be about examining the effects of our charitable giving or our political endorsements and votes. If you could give one piece of advice to Western charitable givers, voters and lobbyists, what would that be?
Ekeocha: Africa is a continent that has suffered and continues to suffer many adversities. So it is such a natural human response to try to help.We are a choice destination for humanitarian aid, we are the colorful but broken background for the HD photo shoots of beautiful celebrities, we are the obvious examples of hunger and poverty.
However, the best way to fortify and build up the basic infrastructures in various African nations is to listen to the voice of the African people before launching massive projects carefully mapped out by social engineers and strategists based in New York and London.
It is morally incoherent to spend billions of dollars providing contraceptives to women who are desperately asking for clean water. It is unconscionable to spend large sums of money to push (and lobby) for the legalization of abortion in countries where millions of children lack access to education. Africans wake up everyday to face the inadequacies in their communities, so they know exactly what they need in order to stand strong and truly independent.
Most Africans reject the liberal ideologies from the West, but because the Western leaders are in control of the purse strings, we watch silently as Western government agencies try to reconstruct our communities, schools and hospitals according to their own blueprint.
My advice to charitable givers, voters and lobbyists is to bear in mind that our lives are built upon our own beliefs, views and values. Do not edit our ways. Do not eclipse our thoughts. Do not efface our heritage.