It has been sometime since I have actually done one of my Travel Reflections after a missions trip. I thought I would do one about my recent trip to Nigeria (March 18-26).
(1) It is amazing how much I don't know about Africa! I have traveled quite a bit through other parts of the world, but not so much in Africa. I believe someone told me there are 51 countries in Africa. I have been in four of them (South Africa, Ethiopia, Uganda, Nigeria). Before the trip, if you would have showed me a map of Africa with no names of countries on it and asked me to identify Nigeria, I would have just guessed. (See how quickly you can find Nigeria on this map...)
(2) It is also pretty amazing to me how infrequently news about Africa gets much coverage in the USA. For example, right now there is a civil war going on in the Ivory Coast due to fraudulent elections and the established president refusing to step down after his opponent won. This barely gets a mention in our news. Yet, a number of students I had in Nigeria were working in the Ivory Coast and had to leave the course prematurely to go back and help the evacuations of missionaries from that troubled area. The one pastor told me he was in frequent contact with his family and co-workers and that rebels had come to the mission training center and thoroughly searched it. It was a scary experience for his family and team.
(3) Here are some "facts" about Nigeria:
Population - about 175 million.
Size of country - about twice the size of California (which has a population of 37 million).
Nigeria has the 7th largest population in the world.
Nigeria has the largest black population in the world.
Lagos is the biggest city with a current population of 15 million. The United Nations estimates that another 8 million people will be added to Lagos in the NEXT FOUR YEARS, having at least 23 million people by 2015. (Lagos is tagged by WorstCity.com as one of the worst cities in the world. Lagos is pictured... and by the way, this is a picnic traffic snarl compared to what I was in...see below.)
I was teaching in Ibadan which has a population of 8 million people and will grow significantly as well. To say it this way, in two cities, they have MORE population then is in the States of New York and Pennsylvania combined!
I was in the worst (and most frightening) traffic jam I have ever been in. I have been in some pretty wild traffic in the world (India especially) but never had the experience I had going from Lagos to Ibadan. I was sure we were not going to get there. (I can't even describe what was going on... just think utter chaos, no rules, thousands of trucks parked on the highway for miles and every driver doing what is right in his own eyes... then multiply that by TEN and you have a sense of what I was in...)
Life expectancy for males is 47 and for women it is 50!
They speak 521 languages in Nigeria.
The 2nd largest film industry in the world is in Nigeria. It is called Nollywood.
The country is about 50-50 divided between Muslims and Christians and Nigeria is experiencing significant conflict in this division. More on this below.
(4) I was in Nigeria, working with Development Associates International, an organization that does graduate level teaching in leadership in quite a number of countries, Africa being a center of their work. This was my second trip for them. In March 2010 I was in Uganda working for DAI.
I taught a course on Ethics for Leaders on this trip. Many years ago, I spent a lot of time studying ethics and particularly, quite a few ethical issues. But I was definitely "rusty" on this topic and spent a few months reading up on this subject.
(5) I also knew I was going to be in a very different cultural situation where the ethical issues are manifest in significantly different ways. To help with this, I watched a number of films about Africa and its problems. I highly recommend these films:
Cry Freedom. The story of Steve Biko of South Africa and the white journalist/editor who told his story of oppression and murder. It is brutal, what the white government did to preserve its power and privilege. There is a scene at the end where it shows the police slaughtering black school children who were doing a peaceful protest. Heartbreaking . . .
Hotel Rwanda. The story of the 1994 mass murder of the Rwandan genocide as Hutus took control and killed a 800,000 people from the Tutsi tribe in 100 days. And the "western nations" did virtually nothing. In Bad Leadership, Barbara Kellerman says this was a major blight on the Bill Clinton adminstration.
As We Forgive. A simply incredible story of the reconciliation that took place in Rwanda. Fourteen years after the genocide, the government releases 50,000 murderers in prison and sends them back to their communities. What do you do when the person who murdered your family is now living back in your neighborhood? Powerful, profound . . .
The Last King of Scotland. A dramatic portrayal of Ugandan ruler, Idi Amin, who was crazy, despotic and murderous.
God Grew Weary of Us. A story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, which is another of the mostly untold, unfamiliar story of children refugees from the slaughter of Christians that was carried out by the Muslim government of Sudan. What these children went through is beyond belief. The movie is their story and follows the resettlement of just a few of them in the United States. That part of the movie is a powerful example of cultural shock.
These movies provided some of the stories of ethical issues we discussed in class.
(6) We spend several days looking at the foundations of ethics, definitions, systems and theories, models, procedures, and problems. We also spent a day looking at how one uses a biblical worldview as a framework for thinking through ethical issues. We looked at the themes of Creation - Fall - Redemption and Consummation as a way of thinking about any ethical need or problem. We did a case study looking at the issues of Power and Authority in light of this worldview approach. For Africa has greatly suffered due to the misuse and abuse of power an authority. So what does ethical leadership look like in how it uses power and authority.
In particular, we talked about a distinctly Christian ethic as concerned with the themes of:
MISPHAT - or justice and righteousness,
SHALOM - or peace and wholeness,
HESED - or the lovingkindness of God (with themes of grace and mercy added here)
FREEDOM - and the theme of responsibility and obligation that flows out of freedom . . .
All of this was talked about in the context of the Kingdom of God and the transformative work of God that makes ethical leadership possible.
I'll finish with this Travel Reflection on Wednesday and tell some stories of some of the leaders that were in the Ethics course and add some pictures from Nigeria.
Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International