|Femi Awodele||Monday, May 2, 2005|
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DIVORCE RATES - AFRICA VS WESTERN COUNTRIES
received a genuine e-mail as a reply to my article on why African Immigrants are divorcing in western countries from someone (not sure of the persons gender), the person wanted to know why Americans or other civilized nations have a higher divorce rate than the African continent.
Many world cultures (Western, Middle-East, African etc.) at one point or another have oppressed the woman (or continue to oppress the woman) as a second class citizen, they could not vote, they cant have an opinion different from the husband's, their role is to simply have kids and make food and to make things worse, they have used either the Bible or other religious books as references for this unpalatable behavior. As a Christian, I believe this is wrong. A man is the head of his home (wife and children) not the "Boss". In Genesis 2: 20, God called the woman a "helper" (NIV) not a doormat. In Acts 2, we see God pour out His Spirit on all flesh (Men and Women having the same gifting of the Holy Spirit). Jesus Christ had more women disciples than the religious sects put together in His days, while these women were never called Apostles (like Peter, Paul etc) they played prominent roles.
Women like Priscilla, Lydia, Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Ephesians 5 is a clarification of what is expected of the man and woman. In verse 21, it says that we should submit to one another (men and women submitting to one another), someone once told me that verse 21 was referring to the church, to which I replied with a question "are women part of the church?" In verse 22, Women are then commanded to submit/honor their husbands. Apostles Peter explained this further in 1 Peter 3: 1-7. In verses 23-29, men are told to love (agape-unconditionally) wife, nourish wife, cherish wife, love her as own body, pray for wife (be a spiritual covering), and leave family and be glued to wife (wives should do same to husband), not hang on to Mom and Dad.
Honoring the husband or loving one's wife does not come with condition. Just as Christ died for us because He loves us, without requiring that we change first. The writer of the book of James in the Bible puts it this way "love covers a multitude of sins"
The above principles were not taught or perhaps ignored to a large extent (obviously there were good marriages in any generation and in our cultures). Women started to fight for equality as they got independence - educationally, financially etc. Women organizations sprung up and took their fight way to the other extreme, and because the Bible was quoted by the men, these women excluded the Bible in their fight (instead of using it) and in the words of one of these women "we became the husbands we never had", in search of freedom, they lusted after each other.
It should not have to take the education or higher income of a woman to treat her nicely. The number one cause of physical abuse to a woman is caused by a husband or a boyfriend. More women die every year from abuse and treats from their husbands or wife, many more are injured by the man who is supposed to protect them (more women are going to jail as well because of domestic abuse, but it nowhere close to the rate of men abusing women). In many states in America, once a domestic abuse case is reported, someone must be arrested, and in most cases the state files charges even if either spouse want to. The situation is compounded by the availability of weapons around the home for recreation or as a hobby and those weapons are often used while someone gets angry. While, laws in western countries protect the woman and encourage her to get out of such relationship, there are no such laws anywhere else (either in Africa or Middle East). When a woman is beating or abused by the husband, some would even say she deserved it, because she questioned her husband.
Marriages are ending on regular bases in western countries because the society is not tolerant to domestic abuse, while in Africa there is still some level of tolerance to a husband beating his wife.
Western countries have a culture of me, myself and I. When things go wrong in a marriage, the only person that counts is me. While an African woman would think about the children and their future as a reason to stay in the "suffering" of marriage, most westerners don't have that concept. There are tons of materials on the effect of divorce on children. In most western countries the women get the kids more often than men, and specifically in America 75% of women who divorce have a reduction in their standard of living which ultimately affects the children. Unfortunately, this has affected the church as well. 33% of the people in church are in their second or more marriage (Barna.org). I honestly believe that African women understand the concept of "covenant marriage" more than western women. However, we need to do a lot of work as African men educating ourselves that we can't beat respect and honor out of our women.
The community concept also helps the reduction of divorce in Africa. Marriage is usually between two families against the concept of just two people in Western countries. When an African is getting married, the two families come together, in some countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Togo - that I'm sure of) families conduct investigation into the family their son/daughter is marrying into. On the traditional wedding day, both families are introduced. When problem occurs in such marriage, elders from both families get involved and one feel obligated to stay in such relationship. An African woman said to me about 3 years ago, "when you have your mother-in-law kneeling for you, apologizing for his son's adultery - what are you supposed to do" When an older person kneels for you in the Yoruba culture, refusing such person's demand is considered an insult. Needless to say this woman's marriage ended in divorce when they moved to America, because he still committed adultery and there was no family around to beg her this time. Western women do not feel obligated to anyone but themselves, and in most cases would have divorced before they even tell any family member.
Most African religion and indeed Christianity frown at divorce (Mathew 19 - except in the case of adultery, in which case both party are to remain single - Mark 10:11-12. Note: if you are re-married after divorce God is faithful to forgive and cleanse you, but there are consequences just like for any other sin we commit).
Africans are definitely more religious than Westerns, people have even referred to Europe as "post God", and the people going to church in Europe are mostly immigrants. The two largest churches in Europe are pastored by Africans (Pastor Sunday Adelaja in Ukraine and Pastor Mathew Ashimolowo in London, England). According to a missionary friend (Dr. Gary Maxey of W.A.T.S.), there were 10 million African Christians in 1900 and by 2000 there are 400 million African Christians, such a growth has never happened in church history. The Catholic Church is growing in Africa and Latin America while shrinking in western countries. The same is the story with Evangelicals (However, I believe there is revival going on since 9/11, right now it's occurring in people and very soon it will start showing up in churches and cities around America - this is my personal vision from my travels).
Africans would rather endure than go against what the Bible says, many marriages in Africa is being "endured" rather than being "enjoyed", it is common place in Nigeria (from my visits) to see couples married for 30, 40 years having separate rooms and not having sex for many years, yet they would not even think of divorce. Westerners don't have that level of tolerance or is it faith? To stay in a marriage that seems to have no future.
While the standard of living in Western countries make it easy to be romantic to your wife or husband, send flowers with credit card, the concept of getting away on vacation, date nights with your wife/husband, and many more (something not common in (Africa), the craze to be like the joneses has taken it away as well. Most people living in cities like London, New York etc spend at least 2 hours traveling to and back from work daily, they have no time for the family, so the marriage is not maintained, even when the means is available. I've seen many marriages end in divorce because the husband or wife has to get a second job, so they can pay for the SUV in the garage. The stress from living pay check to pay check is amazing.
It is also important to note that, while Western countries keep accurate statistics on the rate of divorce, Africans don't, I've visited Nigeria the past 3 years and divorce now seem to be more common especially among the professional women working in the banking industry. With no accurate data we can't say the culture in Africa is not changing for the worse as well.
Bottom-line, the culture and religion of both people (Westerners and Africans) have a big role in the rate of divorce. My mandate from God is to share how we can avoid divorce so we can do what the creator and the institutor of the marriage institution have in mind.
Three times the Bibles said "For this reason a man shall leave his family and be united to his wife and they shall become one.therefore what God has joined together let no man put asunder" Jesus was very clear about this in Mathew 19. Marriage is a good thing and statistics have supported that, "people who have good marriages live a good life". A good marriage is possible in America, England or Nigeria, one only need to humble himself/herself and be obedient to the blueprint of marriage as written all over the Holy Book.
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