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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Pope goes to war against Evangelicals…Africa is the prize

The NY Times reported this morning:

Opening a month long meeting in Rome that will be devoted to Africa, where the Roman Catholic Church is growing most rapidly, Pope Benedict XVI warned Sunday that the continent was at risk from materialism, nihilism and religious fundamentalism.

Benedict called Africa “a great spiritual lung” for the Catholic Church, but he added that it was also subject to maladies, including the “spiritual toxic waste” of materialism and nihilism sent by the first world, which he called a new form of colonialism.

That development, he said, led to the “virus” of “religious fundamentalism, mixed with political and economic interests.”

While we focus on our own problems here in the US, and for the most part ignore what happens on the African continent, a massive war is being fought for dominance over “souls”, and I have to wonder if we understand what war is really being waged.

As natural resources, especially minerals, are depleted by the developed world, the African continent remains an as yet untapped source for the future, according to mining developers.

Some of the largest, and richest,  mineral deposits in the world have been found in Africa.  For much of the last half of the 20th century little mineral exploration and development work was done in Africa, except for southern Africa, even though there is significant potential for the discovery of new deposits.  By the mid 1990’s modern exploration started to spread across much of Africa and many new deposits have been discovered and developed and some of the old major deposits are being renovated.

A United Nations study looks at uranium:

Likewise, for uranium, if we consider only the resources at present exploitable, Africa and the United States are the two major locations in the non-socialist world, each with a little more than 30% of total reserves; the remainder is mainly distributed between Canada and Australia. Such unequal distribution is not affected by the inclusion of the higher-cost proved resources which could be exploited at a price higher than US $80 per kilogram.

Fatal Transactions, a network of different European and African NGO’s and research institutes, has just released a major report:

Africa’s Natural Resources in a Global Context which is worth a read.  

Here is the summary:

The report shows that the state of affairs in the resource sectors of most African countries is still to a large extent determined by external factors. Extractive industries in Africa tend to be export-oriented and contribute disappointingly little to local development.

The report is divided into six chapters. The first chapter is dedicated to definitional issues and to the discussion of a number of applications of non-renewable natural resources. The second chapter shows that despite its natural wealth, Africa only plays a marginal role in the global economy, not only in terms of production but also in terms of trade. The third chapter zooms in on Africa’s energy, metallic and non-metallic minerals. It does not only discuss Africa’s production and consumption of these minerals, but it also makes a comparison with other producers and consumers across the globe. Chapter 4 contains a description of the outstanding expansion over the last years in the commodities sector and the mechanisms that explain this exceptional growth. The chapter provides a short assessment of how the financial crisis that arose in the US suddenly harmed the world economy. It also discusses how the global crisis affects the mining sector, specifically in Africa. Chapter 5 tries to answer the question whether we are witnessing a new scramble for Africa’s natural resources. An attempt will be made to portray the actions of some of the main players in Africa at the moment, including the EU, the US, and China. The chapter offers an analysis of some of the special interest groups, their involvement in shaping policy and the influence that the aforementioned countries hold in the mineral sector. Finally, chapter 6 looks at how African governments can develop resource policies that have a positive impact on their national economies.

So what does all this have to do with the Pope?

Well, let’s look at Africa’s largest (and growing) religious block: Islam

The precise number of Muslims in Africa is unknown, as statistics regarding religious demography in Africa are incomplete. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, Islam is the largest religion in Africa, followed by Christianity. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, 45% of the population are Muslims, 40% are Christians and less than 15% are non-religious or follow African traditional religions. Islam in Africa is increasing, as many Bantu speakers embrace Islam especially in central and eastern Africa.

Islamicweb reports:  Muslims in Africa (1996) 426,282,000 (59%)  

As persecution of traditional African religious adherents increases, fueled by Evangelical right wingers and witch-hunters (see all the Sarah Palin youtubes about witch hunting)the Pope will now take on dual a battle for souls, fighting Islam on the one hand, and a slew of Evangelical (and Mormon) missionaries on the other.

“Groups that claim to represent various religious strains are spreading around the African continent,” Benedict said. “They act in the name of God but follow a logic the opposite of divine logic, teaching and practicing not love and the respect of liberty but intolerance and violence.”

Benedict did not specify which groups he meant, but in the past the Catholic Church has spoken out against clashes between Muslims and Christians in western Africa.

Complicating this battle for souls, is the health of the populace.

The right-wing christian (Catholic and Evangelical) posture on condoms is a threat to stopping the spread of HIV in the population.

One issue that might be raised at the synod is the church’s ban on condoms, which have been found to reduce the spread of AIDS.

The pope, who visited Cameroon and Angola in March, said he hoped the church could help facilitate reconciliation, justice and peace on the continent.

The pope also called for “a new evangelism” that takes into account the “rapid social changes” of the current era and “the phenomenon of worldwide globalization.”

In recent years, the Catholic Church has met with fierce competition from evangelical Christian groups also vying to convert Africans from indigenous religions.

As the Western industrial powers continue to deplete non-renewable resources, those areas of the world with as yet untapped reserves remain pawns in the global resource chess game.  

The White Bishop has made his move.  


  1. …that what is going on in Africa is a continuation of the old European colonial wars; though these days more like the ‘inner’ wars of Europe, from the 100 years war to the 30 years war, which used religion and ethnicity as a factor in power grabs for resources.

    As I’ve mentioned many times before, I know Kenya quite well because of my sister in law, and while there are a patchwork of various tribal rivalries, some of them hundreds of years old, these are exacerbated by competition for resources. Whether religion is merely a means to this end, or a spiritual resource in itself, I’ve leave others to decide. But seen in the light of competition between external powers for resources (especially minerals such as Coltan, vital for mobile phones) the schism between  Anglophone or Francophone, Catholic or Evangelical, make much more sense.  

  2. It has been estimated that China’s efforts at filling its own need for raw materials will far outstrip all forms of aid to Africa in the next twenty years.  As we can see in Sudan, China’s emphasis on human rights is, to be kind, not greater in their colonial sphere than it is inside their own borders.

    Amazing diary as always, Denise.

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