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Professor Jean-Marc Ela has passed away

5 January 2009 at 01:29 | 1622 views

Renowned Camerounian professor and philosopher Jean-Marc Ela(photo) has passed away in Vancouver, Canada. Arrangements are being made to take the body to Cameroun for burial. Here is a Wikipedia entry on the great professor:

Jean-Marc Ela (was born in) Ebolowa in Cameroon 1936. He was a diocesan priest, professor and author of many books on theology, philosophy and the social sciences in Africa. His most famous work, African Cry has been called the "soundest illustration" of the spirit of liberation theology in sub-Saharan Africa. His works are widely cited as exemplary of sub-Saharan Christian African theology for their focus on contextualization and their emphasis on community-centered approaches to theology.

Major Works

African Cry and My Faith as an African, Ela’s two most famous works, serve as an indictments of the Catholic Church for holding to a model of faith that ignores the needs of African people, especially those in poor and rural communities. Through an analysis of selected sacraments, missionary structures, and biblical hermeneutics, Ela identifies ways in which the Catholic tradition subordinates Africans to a position of dependence vis-a-vis White Europeans. He counters these instances of oppression with opportunities for liberation based on the argument that the Gospel advocates for the restoration of dignity to marginalized people.

According to Ela, the only way to restore dignity to African peoples is to allow them to transform Christian traditions into forms that are familiar and useful to Africans. He argues that the Eucharist should be served with local rather than imported products. He believes that African churches should be self-funded. He also believes that biblical interpretation should be guided by a "shade-tree theology", in which small groups of believers can gather together to interpret the Gospel in the light of their own particular circumstances.

Biography

The son of a middle-class family in southern Cameroon, Ela claims that he first began to think of theology as a discipline that should be concerned with the local needs of believers while he was studying philosophy and theology in France at the University of Strasbourg in the 1960s. However, it was during his sixteen-year experience as a missionary working among the Kirdi of northwestern Cameroon that he developed and articulated most of the arguments in African Cry and My Faith as an African.

A vocal critic of both ecclesiastical and political institutions, Ela entered voluntary exile in Quebec after the assassination of fellow Cameroonian priest Englebert Mveng in 1995. Ela resided in Montreal, where he served as a Professor of Sociology at the University of Laval at Montreal.

Since 1995 he lived in exile in Montreal and later Vancouver, Canada, where he died on the 26th of December 2008.

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