MIASMU director Prof. Michael Kirwen speaks to participants at the beginning of the PR session.

By James Chege
Head librarian
Maryknoll Institute for African Studies

First Pastoral Reflection: FGM, Social Media and Celibacy

All MIASMU students and field assistants gathered in the main lecture hall on Feb. 18 for the first pastoral reflection (PR) of the semester. The gathering is aimed at facilitating interactions between students from different courses who may not ordinarily meet, and the sharing of issues covered in the various courses. This is done through presentation of skits on specific themes and discussing them in mixed groups. The  skits were presented by the following classes: Spirituality, Personhood and Psychotherapy in an African Context; African Culture: an Overview; and African Spirituality.

The Spirituality, Personhood and Psychotherapy  class presented a skit where a family was at war amongst themselves over a decision from the father that his daughter should undergo female circumcision (FGM). His wife vehemently opposed the idea to the extent of hiding their daughter. Drama unfolds when village elders are brought into the fray and begin asking for the daughter in question and cannot find her. This kind of conflict, which is now commonplace among societies still practicing this custom, leaves one wondering if FGM will ever end.


Johnstone Shisanya (left) and Victor O’kubasu (right) play the dismayed kinsmen of the young disrespectful man.

In the skit by the African Culture class,  a young man who had come home from his studies in the states is busy communicating on social media with his friends while visiting his parents in their home village. This is interpreted as being very disrespectful as he does not even look at the people trying to communicate with him in the room. Just as he is about to get a scolding, some of his foreign friends drop in uninvited and whisk him away for a night of partying leaving his kinsmen in dismay. This raises the question of whether social media is really social?

In the presentation by the African Spirituality class the subject of celibacy and African culture was tackled. In the skit a young lady was requesting her parents’ blessing to join a religious congregation of nuns. However, her parents, brothers, and sisters would hear none of it citing childlessness as a curse and telling the young lady that she would not even be buried among her people if she chose celibate life. The final verdict from her family was that she should not join religious life, leaving her in a difficult situation perhaps contemplating how she could run away.

These presentations raised many thought-provoking questions and heated debates among the participants, and it gave them a sample of what is being taught in other courses. The next pastoral reflection is scheduled for March 18.

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