African bishops comment on US elections

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While US bishops cannot support candidates for election, but can speak on issues, at least one African prelate currently attending the Synod of Bishops in Rome feels no such scruples according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, said today he would “obviously” vote for Barak Obama if he could cast a ballot on Nov. 4.

Known as a strong advocate for social justice, Onaiyekan said Obama’s pro-choice record wouldn’t stop him from voting for the Democrat.

“The fact that you oppose abortion doesn’t necessarily mean that you are pro-life,” Onaiyekan said in an interview with NCR. “You can be anti-abortion and still be killing people by the millions through war, through poverty, and so on.”

A past president of the African bishops’ conference, Onaiyekan is widely seen as a spokesperson for Catholicism in Africa. During the synod, he was tapped to deliver a continental report on behalf of the African bishops.

Onaiyekan said the election of an African-American president would have positive repercussions for America’s image in the developing world.

“It would mean that for the first time, we would begin to think that the Americans are really serious in the things they say, about freedom, equality, and all that,” he said. “For a long time, we’ve been feeling that you don’t really mean it, that they’re just words.”

Onaiyekan said he’s aware that many American Catholics have reservations about Obama because of his stand on abortion, but he looks at it differently.

“Of course I believe that abortion is wrong, that it’s killing innocent life,” he said. “I also believe, however, that those who are against abortion should be consistent.

“If my choice is between a person who makes room for abortion, but who is really pro-life in terms of justice in the world, peace in the world, I will prefer him to somebody who doesn’t support abortion but who is driving millions of people in the world to death,” Onaiyekan said.

Read it here.

The Rt. Rev. Peter Akinola, Anglican Primate of Nigeria, has a different point of view. From his Primatial Address to the Church of Nigeria:

We salute those who emerged as presidential candidates of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. It was a rigorous, time and energy sapping exercise. But it was participatory as all stakeholders were openly involved in all parts of the vast country. As we wish them well in their electioneering we have our fears and reservations about the dangerous trends we see in American politics.

Ordinarily, it should be our joy that an African American is popularly nominated for the first time in American political history to slug it out with other contenders and going by popular forecasts, he is likely to be heading for the White House. We should however be concerned that this is a politician considered to be a far leftwing liberal for whom all that counts is victory at the polls. He sees abortion as normal and a matter of right for those who do it. So life is not sacrosanct and man can terminate it at will. By the same token homosexuality is okay and so under him, the world is likely to see more liberal and widespread acceptance of same sex marriages.

We urge Senator Obama to prayerfully reconsider some of his ultra liberal dispositions not only for the sake of “God’s own Country” but in the interest of the world. His endorsement of what the scriptures and much of the world condemn will definitely deepen in America the religious and spiritual vacuum which ungodly influences will of course seek to fill by whatever means. And that will have grave consequences for him and his country. As you know, whenever America sneezes, the rest of the world catches cold. In matters of religion, we plead; do not take today’s world for granted.

A stitch in time saves nine.

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George Clifford
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George Clifford

US political leaders routinely comment on foreign elections, too often with as little understanding of the issues and cultural differences as Archbishop Akinola displays (e.g., see following news item, "In God We Trust." Comments by religious leaders about political campaigns does not bother me; indeed, the comments may shed light on the nexus between faith and politics. Or, as in this case, a lack of information and misinformation may obfuscate that intersection. I sometimes wonder if leaders - religious and secular - are too busy, focusing on too many issues, to get their facts straight. Consequently, nations engage in ill-conceived policies such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

George Clifford

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Kevin Montgomery
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Kevin Montgomery

Despite being a strong supporter of Sen. Obama, I still feel a little uneasy about Abp. Onaiyekan's near-endorsement, just as I do about Akinola's, um, how shall I say it diplomatically, "Christian admonition."

It's one thing to comment on events in another country (or especially one's own) and to urge careful discernment and prayer in deciding for whom to vote. That's what church leaders should be doing.

I know customs and epxectations differ from culture to culture, but I still get a little nervous when ordained church leaders, in this country or abroad, support a particular candidate.

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