Bishop Dennis Harold DE JONG 
(Bishop of Ndola, Zambia)

The African Christian family is the fundamental unit of the Church and its source of dynamism, joy and hope. However, it is beset with innumerable problems - traditional and modern polygamy, customary marriage without sacrament, false concepts of marriage, divorce and female headed homes, ritual cleansing rites and dispossession of widows, refugees and migration, political and social problems, the AIDS epidemic and intolerable child mortality. However, there are signs of hope - support and solidarity of the small Christian community, marriage encounter and renewal of family and couple relationships, marriage preparation in stages as a catechumenate for couples and as a way of inculturating marriage.

Rapid social change has brought increased stress to both the extended and nuclear families throughout Africa. This social change has often benefited men at the expense of women. This has contributed to the emergence of "the apartheid gender" in which the status of women has become inferior to that of men. The alarming increase in the number of female headed households poses new challenges to our family apostolate. We also need to take more positive action to improve the lot of children, four million of whom die each year as a result of hunger-related preventable diseases. We also need to address the problems of the rapidly increasing number of AIDS orphans throughout the continent.

Original text: English


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