The significance of Bernard Lonergan's work on bias for the ethnic and religious conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa

Cyril Orji, Marquette University


Africa has often been perceived as a confluence of tension and conflict and the recent upheavals in Sub-Saharan Africa have done little to help this perception. The rising wave of ethnic and religious violence continues to drain the continent of its material and human resources, leading to what Bernard Lonergan describes as a state of "cumulative decline." Muslim-Christian relations in some African countries are currently at their lowest ebb. The world still remembers the Hutu-Tutsi conflict that led to savage massacres in Rwanda and the warlord politics of Somalia of the 1990s. Followers of the three main religions in Africa: African Traditional Religion (ATR), Islam and Christianity, are perceived to be at odds with one another and sometimes take extreme measures in their quest to seek relevance and assert themselves as a dominant religious force. The official introduction of Sharia law (Islamic legal code) in countries like Nigeria and Sudan is perceived to be an instance of the prevailing religious prejudice that has further compounded the problem, giving a religious twist to an already ethnically polarized people. The Sharia law has been met with stiff resistance from Christian groups who consider it a breach of their fundamental human rights and right to religious liberty. The resistance has led to an upsurge in religious violence, further exacerbating the carnage. Scholars have, at various times, examined the cause of ethnic/religious conflicts in Africa but have not been able to bring about a lasting solution. African bishops, theologians, and policy makers are still laboring to find a meaningful and lasting solution to the crisis. The Canadian Jesuit theologian, Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984) offers an analysis of bias that addresses the root cause of conflict in the human person and society, an analysis that can contribute to a deeper understanding of ethnic and religious conflict in Africa. He also offers resources for overcoming them. His work addresses the "oversights," "unreasonableness," and "irresponsibility" inherent in human conflicts that lead to a cumulative decline in both the human person and society. The import of this work lies in the fact that it brings into the African discussion the work of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Bernard Lonergan whose work on "bias" is significant for promoting a "responsible self," which in turn ensures the promotion of the common good and brings about a meaningful social change.

Recommended Citation

Orji, Cyril, "The significance of Bernard Lonergan's work on bias for the ethnic and religious conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa" (2005). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3172500.