Alfred Sebahene - "Corruption Mocking at Justice"
11:06PM Jun 27, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Today is our privilege to be speaking with the reference canon Dr. Alfred Sebahene, the reference canon, Dr. Sebahene had completed a diploma in theology at St. Philip's theological College in Tanzania. He was ordained as a deacon and later as a priest in 1990. From 1995 to 1998. He studied at Oak Hill College in the United Kingdom, successfully completing a BA honors and an MA degree in pastoral and theological studies. When the Reverend canon Dr. Alfred Sebahene returned to Tanzania, he served as the assistant secretary in Ghana, and also the principal of St. Philip's theological College and the coordinator of education and training in Kibera in 2003. Well, he was principal of St. Philip's theological college. He was involved in the establishment of St. John's University, which is the first Anglican Church University in Tanzania. He recently completed his PhD at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, entitled, Corruption Mocking at Justice: A Theological Ethical Perspective on Public Life in Tanzania and Its Implications for the Anglican Church of Tanzania. And we'll be discussing his doctoral dissertation today. Thank you so much for joining us, sir.
Kevin SIMM ahead if you would begin,
I understand that you are in the process of establishing a center for corruption studies and research at St. John's University. Please tell us about your goals and hopes for this new program.
Indeed, we are actually working towards establishing a center for anti corruption studies here at St. John's University of Tanzania. And as you would know, probably very worse and John's universal times and he is a Christian University. This is all managed by the American church of Tanzania. This university is about to be 10 years old. And the establishment of this center is actually aiming at the seeking to serve communities through community engagement initiatives. It was born out of my my interest, my expertise, my passion, to address issues of corruption and injustice, but also it is in line with the vision and mission of fencing Jones, University of Tanzania. So we are we are establishing this center, we are still in the process and we are very much happy the interest is glowing about the idea for the center. And actually the government of Tanzania is very much interested in this project. So we are playing To our part in terms of global and local effect for university and community engagement, to craft sustainable societies and adjust the world, which is more theological.
What type of events are you hoping to host at this new center?
When it is born, we will be inviting people to come. People from all walks of life to to attend seminars or workshops, to learn about the seriousness of the problem of corruption, we will also see quite a number of them have said are in the area and improving communities to understand how problematic the issue of corruption is. So there'll be quite a lot of people practical to be reduced that we will be there today. wish to know It is thought it will be the unique center because it's going to be probably the first in terms of here at the Christian university whereby we are establishing a set up for anti corruption that study, it is still new. They support in so many ways. We need that working collaboration, and social mobilization and all that, in order to see it. Really, actually,
congratulations on the inception of this amazing project. I'm very excited to see that this unfolds.
Reverend cannon, Dr. Alfred Silva hen early in your PhD dissertation, and let me give the title of that one more time corruption, marking at justice, a theological ethical perspective on public life in Tanzania, and its implications for the Anglican Church of Tanzania. Early in your dissertation you set out to define what corruption is how would you define
Yeah, thank you very much for this question. setting out to define. Corruption was an important aspect of my research. Because understanding corruption and injustice, well, would help to set mechanism to address the problem. But also there has been quite a lot of misunderstandings on what actually corruption is all about. So I needed to do a bit of clarification there. And point number three on the definition is that the research was more of a theological endeavor. And therefore, looking at other disciplines, understanding of corruption was important before I could bring in a theological, ethical in all of the problem. So by definition of corruption, first of all, took an initiative really to have a general understanding of, of the problem and its meaning problem, looked at three issues really easily easily defined corruption. Number one is a physical corruption whereby someone is destructing or is spoiling something, you know, this is called moral corruption, corruption, whereby this is the this is the destruction of integrity in the discharge of public duties, but also it is about the provision of anything from original state. So, it was important that I go that way first. And then from there, I built on there looking at the secular aspect, very, very important. So, I looked at the political understanding of corruption whereby This meant that when we talk about political corruption Talking about behavior that deviates from the former duties of public law. But also we looked, I looked at the economical point of view whereby it was understood the corruption in terms of economics to be a behavior in nature of the dynamics of power involved in the economic decision. Then, of course, I talked about a property called a standing philosophical understanding and also the legal aspect of corruption. But from there, then I came to the point of theological ethical definition in which says, you have to bring God on board, called us to be brought at the center stage, and that was looking at humankind, fallen human nature. So this is something to do with a Christian anthropological perspective. Corruption be, you know, going against God Flat, corruption is seen corruption is evil. Corruption is the misuse of public, our public office of public authority for private gain. So you can see it's a huge, huge differential catches a lot of areas from different perspectives, but I had to start understanding secular definition you're looking for
that's that's very helpful. Sir How does one recognize corruption when when we disagree with a practice is taking How do we know that a certain practices corruption
is corruption is corruption, the nature the nature of it? And here we are talking about what is going on now. For example, in my country whereby someone needs to be right for failure, you see and bending the rule, just because something has been given to you. So this is a misuse of power for one big purpose, and that is private key. So that's how we, we understand that the action of production.
Sir, are there practices that would constitute corruption context, but not in another cultural context? We've often heard that bribery operates different what one culture calls bribery operates differently in other cultures. What's your perspective other?
Indeed, indeed, when I was doing my research in that area, I came across all these challenges. And it was very interesting, for example, to discover that, for example, in the West, people tend to misunderstand Africa hospitality, something to do with corruption. You know, for example, in hostile tribes in Africa euro us, we understand that is a philosophy whereby we say you cannot go and visit a king m dependency. So, you have to take something with you to the king, a very normal practice is a great idea, this is about supporting the leadership and actually when you bring a gift to the king that means you are sustaining or supporting other people who will come to the king, but sometimes that be can be used as as corruption. So the door is being opened there for corruption practice. In Africa, for example, we don't understand very well when the western person you know, giving a tip in a hotel, you know, for that for us, that is corruption, why why give a tip. So there are quite a lot of misunderstandings in bacteria, but either African context, gifts are for strengthening our sense of community friendship and relationship. Only that nowadays, people can see that opportunity. Hmm.
Are there other practices that you would look to that have are fraught with cultural misunderstandings?
Mostly, those are the areas that I looked at. I was looking at Africa hospitality and, and we're hoping people will, you know, give me something and out or do something, you know, being the receiving of gifts that I have.
Okay, let's see.
Reverend cannon, Dr. Alfred said ahead. From the perspective of the Bible and the Christian theological tradition. Why is corruption wrong?
Wow, that is the center of my research brother. That is the center of my research corruption is totally wrong because it is against the unique nature of biblical ethical principle. And that's where I bring this concept that the theology has a role to play in addressing the issue of corruption. It goes farther than that, it is wrong because the character of our God challenges us to remember that corruption is wrong. So if we are involved in corruption practices, that means we are going against the will of God. So corruption is evil, corruption. See, it is a vandalism of shrub is all to do with the last men and women is to be brought to be to be Be right before before, but also, one should also understand that corruption is wrong because it hinders human to flourish, you know, people cannot flourish just because of corruption. But God is sovereign, and we relate to him through our responsibility and free will. So we must stand firm and address the issue.
So what is the church's role in addressing corruption both in the general society but then also at governmental levels?
Good, thank you very much. In my research, I use two key words to indicate where the church can actually come in and begin to address the issue of corruption. I use the term called out as a church. We are called out God is calling us to really go and address this issue. But also we another term is bearing witness as a community. How do we win? So for me there are the church in fighting corruption has its fraud in the understanding, are they accepting and responding, God's biblical command. So congregations are called to public life. When we call Jesus, Jesus Christ is also linked with the public witness and the service in the world. So as a church, that is overall, we have to go out there and be relevant for the Prophet, the prophet, to be ready and be willing, especially to listen to the victims of corruption and injustice and seek to help them as a church. But also, we must preach the gospel we must teach for. But there is another huge challenge, and that is living out the gospel. By doing so, the church will be responding to this call. And we have to teach, of course, ethical principles of Christianity. So when it comes to the role of the church in addressing the issue of corruption in the context of the government, I use the words of Martin Luther, who said, God works in the world through the state and the church. So here we are talking about the church going out there. meeting up the leaders, at policymakers, practitioners, citizens and voters, you know, using the cross and two quick words, reshaping the activity.
Speaking that truth to the power, that the church is a prophetic community, we have to identify the truth and then stand for it. You know, go out there and speak the truth. But speaking the truth to the power means of course, technical know how and knowledge of knowledge is very, very important. We as we get to the stage in the debate, we should be really well prepared and ours is a moral and social transformation endeavor. We are out there as public with
our, our the church.
Reverend cannon, Dr. Alfred seve I am interested to know how your research thus far has been received by Western theologians. So my question is this, I've noted that, in what Missy ologists call the majority world, in outside of the West theology is much more engaged with public life where that tends to be the case. And Western theologians aren't quite sure how they feel about this tight engagement with culture. I think it's part of our our historical part of our historical heritage, that we're a culture that's decided that church and state should be very separate, and the sort of the Western ideal, but that's not the case in in Africa. Tell me, how is your research been received by Western theologians? And if you can speak to this question also, why is it that there's this intense engagement with culture in your home country of Tanzania or in Africa more broadly?
Well, that's a very good question, Jonathan. I'm so glad that my research has been accepted very positively. And I'm receiving quite a number of emails and people are wanting to know what actually, it's all about. And this is really great. And early last week, I received an email from one of my sponsors, this is London partnership, who say, look, this is a wonderful piece of work and we are going to publish it. So yeah, it will be published very soon in the process as well. congratulate the Chinese people tend to the west is to divide, you know, church and state. Now, you know, setting it you cannot separate things like culture, gospel, you know, Government leadership, all these are coming together and they relate to one another. Our concern now is African theologians is to stand firm and indicate the uniqueness of Christian theology, you know, so that we avoid the issue of being swallowed in what we are doing. So, we are very, very careful even when we can get the government will consciously, cautiously and we will
do what work
so that the identity of Christian I remained in a and the Christian identity is protected, and Jesus Christ comes the best. The first is
I'm delighted to hear that I'm very excited for your research as well. So, I'm I'm very grateful for what you're doing. also inspired by it. Okay. In seven, I'm inspired by your work and the level of engagement that you've given to the broader culture.
So thank you. That's, that's really wonderful.
Kevin seven, what are some of the particular struggles of the Anglican Church in Tanzania to stand against corruption at this particular time? And what are your recommendations to the church in Tanzania?
Thank you very much. Thank you very much. This is a very important question, really. We have a number of challenges for the church. One of the biggest challenge is when you want to go out there and address the issue of corruption. You have to be clean your integrity must know the top priority. Now when you hear voices within and outside the church, people talking about corruption in the church, that hinders our weakness this very much and I just want to say Say yes to the churches across the world, whatever we'll be listening to the stuff that we have to leave out the gospel before we can go.
Oh, that's where we'll be able to
today. The other challenge is a
theological disagreement. We still have put some people, the church here in Africa, who are still loyal to the west whereby they say let us separate the church and states. Now for us, we say yes, the churches are the state. But we can work together to address issues facing humanity. The other challenge is that we are we are divided and finally, if I may remember very well is the challenge of theological education, theological education, and the challenge of effective and competitive religion. You can't go out there and address issues like, like injustice and the corruption if you are not competent, so a lack of education, your challenge, and that we call upon churches to work together to unity, support one another to equip leaders equip leadership is priority number one, even before you start to resource the church leaders. I am
the same brother after
they go out and engage. They're very productive. So these are the challenges.
Reverend cannon Dr. Subbu hand if I may ask One final question. It's a question that I've been asking all of our guests on this program. And that is this. What would it mean for the church to be united today? How would we begin to recognize this unity and what can Christians do to pursue unity?
Again, brother, this is a very, very critical, very important question is that we are divided in matters of emphasis, matters of taste and conscious. Others want to emphasize historical continuity, authoritative leadership, liturgy, personal faith and things like that. But for me, the meaning of the church to be united is to understand that we are called to be one because God is one. We are to be we are to experience unicorn community. We are not talking about unicorns. It we are talking about that we are talking about unity of unity and unity in diversity. So we must understand that no church has monopoly to God's truth, we all share the grace of God and our unity should be the unit to open relationship, you need to have love and cooperation and we are not alone we progress. But how do we recognize that there is Unity Church, we will recognize that if and only thing we are enjoying one another, if we do not, well if we we benefit from different gifts and the contributions from different ages, you know, so that the gospel can be preached in effect
and we have to be in
business very, very, very
What can Christians do to pursue unity? Three things we need to look when you wait over interconnected. Number two, you must continually seek to work together, work in unity. Use our different gifts and capacities and all that
Finally, I will say, we must build relationships, relationships, because we are all one.
It's been our honor today to be speaking with the Reverend canon Dr. Alfred Seva hen, one of the champions of St. John's University, the first Anglican Church in church University in Tanzania, and also author of the dissertation that we've been discussing today, completed recently in Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Corruption mocking at justice a theological ethical study of public life in Tanzania. Reverend canon Dr. Stein We are delighted to have had this conversation with you. Thank you. Thank you