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THE ROLE OF EDUCATION IN MISSION WORK

In addition to make the Scriptures and services accessible, the other important role of translation in mission is educational. A culture of illiteracy cannot be other than a culture of ignorance. Only when missionaries have acquired a language, reduced it to writing and translated at least some of the Scriptures into it can other educational work be undertaken. Recently, a group of people from the International Ecumenical Movement—Kenya Chapter, visited our Patriarchal Seminary in Nairobi. In our conversation, I expressly told them that my most urgent priority is now education. Without fighting illiteracy, mission and evangelism become practically impossible.

When the Gospel or the Divine Liturgy is translated into a fresh language, the people who receive it come into a new world and enjoy a larger freedom. The newly-translated resource will almost certainly be the first book ever printed in that language or dialect. In other words, it is the beginning of a literature; and the beginning of a literature for any people is no small event. I have, over the years, learnt that translation does not merely bear a role in mission. Without it, there can be no mission.

PHILANTHROPY AS A NECESSITY
Our Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, under the leadership of its present Pope and Patriarch, Theodoros II, is contributing very substantially in education, health and social welfare. The Patriarch himself (who served for many years on the African mission field) initiates and undertakes all the programmes pertaining to these projects. Developments are hampered by financial and other constraints, but every effort is being made to lay a secure foundation and to ensure a systematic programme for bettering the life of our brothers and sisters throughout the African continent. By the help of God, many of our visions are becoming a reality.

To win people to the faith and to build churches is good, but the good Will be undermined if the people are malnourished, desperate and without hope for the future. It was for this reason that in Kenya the Orthodox Church considers it essential to match the spiritual development, with a parallel infrastructure of hospitals, clinics, schools and day nurseries, not forgetting orphanages and children’s homes. Wherever they may occur, poverty, sickness and ignorance are a blight in which the Gospel can never readily flourish. Moreover, the blight tends to be self- perpetuating. A man with a minimal education, or none, can only expect the lowliest of unskilled jobs. With this sort of livelihood his diet and that of his family is bound to be deficient and sickness will always be lurking in their homes. Literate men can seek better jobs than their illiterate brethren or can be more readily trained for skilled or semi-skilled work. This is the Church‘s way to empower her people.

In First World countries the state undertakes the responsibility for educating its citizens and providing a health and Welfare infrastructure, including unemployment insurance. In the Third World, such amenities are often very basic and inadequate, or do not exist at all. If the Church is to do justice to its people it has no choice but to step in and do all it possibly can to meet their essential needs.

Literacy also has its spiritual dimension. There can be no doubt that not being able to read and write is a serious disadvantage in anyone’s Christian life. Please understand my point; I would not, of course, wish to suggest that an illiterate person cannot be a good Orthodox or a good Christian. But I would certainly assert that he would be a more effective Christian if he was literate. To the illiterate, the Bible must remain a closed book. Orthodoxy has always encouraged her children to read and study the Word of God.

In conclusion, it must be pointed out that holistic Christianity is rooted and grounded in the Orthodox teaching of the all-embracing character of the atonement. Our bodies are redeemed no less than our souls are. For this reason the true missionary must not fail to minister to the Whole man.

As you realize, it is impossible to exhaust such a vast topic as “Mission and Evangelisrn” in a single lecture. I have simply tried to share a few thoughts with you, resulting mainly from my personal experience of over thirty years spent in the Lord's vineyard in Africa.

Archbishop Makarios of Kenya
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