MacDonald Dzirutwe, Reuters, September 1, 2006
Harare — Hands aloft and tears streaming down her cheeks, Alicia Chipoyi prayed in a high-pitched voice for spiritual healing for the wounds caused by years of slavery and colonisation of Africa by Europeans.
Chipoyi was one of hundreds of people attending a European-African-American church prayer meeting on atonement and reconciliation for the West’s past role in the exploitation of what has become the world’s poorest continent.
In prayer sessions punctuated by wailing and weeping, song and dance, delegates said the West had to repent before God as the first step to reconciliation with Africa, which blames many of its problems on the legacies of enslavement and imperialism.
“We are not looking to man for help, we are looking to God for our dignity to be restored but first of all the West must confess, repent and atone for their past,” Langton Gatsi, the organiser of the meeting, told Reuters on the sidelines of the prayer session.
“Once that happens we can talk of reparations and co-operation and how we can start on an equal footing.”
African leaders including Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe have in the past called for reparations from the West for its part in the slave trade.
Chris Seaton, who leads the Europe-Africa Reconciliation Process, a London-based Christian pressure group that seeks to persuade Europe to admit its past role in colonialism, said more Europeans were now aware of the “dark side of colonialism”.
The West should see Africa as an equal partner in all its dealings with a continent wracked by poverty, civil wars and underdevelopment, he said.
“We are having to explain the dark side of colonialism to our people in Europe. It is a spiritual initiative which comes in a sense, as a (result) of our history,” Seaton told Reuters.
“Some call it indulging on white guilt but our purpose is to acknowledge our past mistakes.”
Seaton said atonement and reconciliation were the first steps towards stronger co-operation between the two continents.
“Some of the intractable problems between Africa and Europe are premised on history. We also want to listen from our counterparts in Africa and make a difference,” Seaton said.