In her latest TED Talk, Ndidi Nwuneli founder of LEAP Africa, calls Africans who believe in God and those who do not to unite towards driving the needed social change in the continent.
“By claiming we have no power over past, present or future, we give too much authority to the wicked, who steal funds and ask God for forgiveness,” she said, arguing that while she believes in the divinity and omnipotence of God, she does not believe God should bear the responsibility of securing Africa’s future.
Recalling an experience with a 9-year old, Nwuneli said:
As a Sunday school teacher myself,my faith was challenged by a young nine-year-oldwho asked a series of questions.He asked,“Ms. Ndidi, does God hate Africans?”To which I quickly retorted, “Of course not.God loves all his children equally.”
Then he asked, “So why do so many young African children die?”I stumbled and mumbled as I responded.“There are many reasons why young African children die. Most of them are man-made, and we cannot blame God.”
What needs to be done? Nwuneli says:
The first is that we need to change our mindsets. Both as people of faith and of those who are not religious, their perceptions of those of us who are people of faith. Now, for people of faith and those of us who are religious, we often say, “If God wills, I’ll do this; inshallah, I’ll do that — by God’s grace, I’ll do this.” Now there are many things, I believe, that we can control — some we cannot. I believe that God is all-powerful, but he’s not a micromanager.
He has sent us here as his change agents, and we must stop making excuses and using him. That means that if you’re a teacher, go to school and give your students the best. If you’re a public-sector official, release the funds meant for that school or public health-care center instead of stealing it for your personal purposes.
Now the second step is that we have to utilize our resources and assetsfor social impact.In England,1,900 churches have been shut down since 1969, due to shrinking congregations,while in Africa, every single day,a church or mosque is being built.
I live in the Lekki area of Lagos,and in my community, there are at least 50 really nice churches,but there’s no adult literacy center,no homeless shelter and very few public schools and hospitals.Many of these spaces could be utilized for social change.Imagine if every single church in Lekki opened its doors to the homeless at night,gave them a sleeping bag, a warm meal and a voucher in the morning to learn a vocational course, offered by the unemployed youth who attend that church. That would demonstrate what we preach and what we speak about as people of faith, and what led me to Christianity in the first place.
Faith-based organisations have a large influence on Africans, and instead of antagonising them, Ndidi believes those who do not believe in God, should collaborate with them on issues of maternal mortality, healthcare and education to achieve incredible results.