At the International Conference on Family Planning 2016, GHN’s Maryalice Yakutchik conducts a Q&A with Sheikh Mangala Luaba, Grand Mufti, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chairman, Union of Muslim Councils for East, Central and Southern Africa.
NUSA DUA, INDONESIA— Regally statuesque in his long black robe and gold hat, Sheikh Mangala Luaba favors a more humble moniker over his many loftier titles: “I am not grand,” the Grand Mufti insists. “God is grand. I am small. I am a servant of God.”
He is not the least bit reluctant to make a grand claim for family planning, however, linking it to nothing less than “the welfare of mankind.” As a faith leader, he has been active in the family planning movement since 2008.
This most senior and influential Muslim religious and legal authority in Africa says he is attending ICFP 2016 in Indonesia to tap into the knowledge of other faith leaders from different backgrounds. He is also eager to put to the test his recent media training—part of the 2-day Faith pre-conference—by graciously cutting his lunch short to offer himself up to an impromptu interview.
What is your role, as Grand Mufti?
Sheikh Mangala Luaba: Muftis interpret the law of the Quran, the Hadith. My most noble mission is to explain this truth of the Quran, without sentiment.
What does the Quran have to say about family planning?
SML: When family planning came (to DRC) as a campaign, it stimulated us to do more research in the Quran. We found that family planning corresponds with the Quran. It is a good thing. The Islamic faith does not reject family planning. It supports family planning.
Would you please define family planning?
SML: Family planning means giving good health to the mother. It means giving good growth, development and health to the child. It means giving time for the father to provide financially to the family.
Can you talk a bit about family planning as it relates to contraception?
SML: The Islamic concept holds two way of doing things. One can use the natural method of abstinence, or a scientific/modern method involving medication. Reversible methods are allowed. Permanent methods are forbidden. A man can’t decide all this for himself, he has to go to the doctor. Different methods are promoted, depending on the situation.
What are some of the challenges in DRC with family planning?
SML: One of the biggest challenges is getting the government to support this, based on the political system. If there’s a war or if there’s a conflict, it complicates my work with family planning. Now, I have the support of my government; I am doing advocacy all the time.
At what level of government are you advocating for family planning?
SML: I speak directly to the president (of DRC), who is involved personally with family planning. And the president speaks to the ministers. The president is aware that I’m at this conference. When I return, he wants me to share what I’ve learned with different communities, including the religious authorities.
What do you plan to report back to the faith leaders in your country?
SML: I will talk about the organizers of the conference, the participants and the issues; and relate the contents of what I am learning.
This conference is an event that gives people hope. The family forms the society. And this provides the planning of the family.
This conference is supported by big institutions that have a planetary vision; one that is bigger than just a single country or region.
Can you share a highlight of the conference?
SML: Yesterday we learned media techniques. I am getting better at knowing how to present family planning issues to the religious leaders. The message is very important.
I was impressed by all the advertising (about family planning and the conference) I saw at the (Bali) airport. It’s a grand success that the president of Indonesia was here at the opening ceremony. My president knows his counterpart was at this conference. When we have a conference in Congo, our president will feel a need to come.
I hope you will invite me, too.
SML: You have to be there. If you’re not there, how will we get the message out? You are one of the partners. The world is united in the work on family planning. Thanks to everything the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health is doing to put on this conference.
Shukran! (Thank you!)
Ed note: Global Health NOW correspondent Maryalice Yakutchik, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, is among the journalists reporting from Indonesia at the 2016 ICFP. Check back every day this week for exclusives from the conference: http://www.globalhealthnow.org/intl-conference-family-planning-indonesia-2016.html
Join the thousands of subscribers who rely on Global Health NOW summaries and exclusive articles for the latest public health news. Sign up for our free weekday enewsletter, and please share the link with friends and colleagues: http://www.globalhealthnow.org/subscribe.html