July 6, 2006

Bible commentary for Africa tackles HIV

By Rebecca Harrison

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - African scholars have launched the
continent's first bible commentary which tackles issues like
female circumcision, HIV/AIDS and ethnic violence to make the
scriptures more relevant for Africans.

The African Bible Commentary was launched this week in
Kenya and is meant to interpret the bible for Africans by using
local proverbs and tradition and by applying Christian teaching
to contemporary problems on the poorest continent.

"(It is) an explanation of the whole Bible as seen through
the eyes of African scholars who respect the integrity of the
text and use African proverbs, metaphors and stories to make it
speak to African believers," says General Editor Tokunboh
Adeyemo in the book's introduction.

As church-going dwindles in increasingly secular Europe,
Christianity is booming in Africa, where vibrant evangelical
churches frequently draw tens of thousands to all-night prayer

The African Bible Commentary -- the first bible commentary
for Africans by Africans -- includes contributions from some 70
scholars in 25 countries and is published in English and
French, with African language translations in the works.

As well as verse-by-verse explanation of biblical text, the
book includes 70 articles on how Christians should respond to
thorny issues like HIV/AIDS, tribalism, race, homosexuality,
witchcraft and lobola -- or bride money.

Alongside a passage in the book of Genesis which talks
about male circumcision, for example, the commentary condemns
female genital mutilation -- widely practiced in some parts of
Africa -- as a "scourge which dehumanizes women."

The commentary confesses the African church has sinned by
stigmatizing those with HIV/AIDS and urges leaders to "break
its silence" and help tackle the epidemic that has infected
some 26 million Africans.

The commentary is more conservative on homosexuality, which
it says is "a sin... abnormal, unnatural and a perversion,"
reflecting the views of most African Christians.

Questions over how Christians should interpret the bible
are at the root of a row over homosexuality that threatens to
split the worldwide Anglican church, with conservative African
bishops pitted against more liberal primates in North America.

"The younger church in Africa has stayed closer to biblical
ethics and is therefore more conservative than the western
church," Adeyemo told Reuters in a recent interview.