OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — One of Africa’s most senior Catholic leaders has denounced the imposition of “foreign ideologies” across the continent and urged Africans to seek modernization without succumbing to Western influences that erode family bonds.

“We are observing the spread of a mindset and policies that devalue the engendering of human life,” said Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo, who also heads the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.

“Such ideologies claim societies are poor because of their high birthrate. So they propagate contraceptive methods, insidiously imposing them on women and young girls to avoid pregnancies and achieve a ‘demographic dividend,’ in pursuit of some unknown happiness.”

In an Easter homily published on his church’s website, the 76-year-old cardinal said Christians had a right “to speak up for human life, without fear,” against “the imperialism of lobbies and associations which praise and seek to impose homosexual marriage, sexual freedom, divorce, etc.”

“Human life is sacred, and practices such as abortion and homicide are offenses punished by excommunication,” said Ouédraogo.

“The church can make its contribution by calling a halt to this dictatorship of uniform thought and manipulated information, which deceives and compromises the life of entire generations by promoting a culture of death through abortion and euthanasia, contraceptive and anti-birth measures.”

Church leaders have frequently criticized population control programs in sub-Saharan Africa, whose population is forecast to double by 2050 to around 2.5 billion, as well as efforts to link humanitarian aid with the promotion of contraception and abortion.

The continent’s fertility rate was 4.7 births per woman in 2018, the world’s highest, according to a May 2020 World Bank report, while its most populous country, Nigeria, has 206 million inhabitants and a growth rate of 2.6 percent.

In his message, Ouédraogo said “responsibility to procreate and educate” remained “an essential purpose of marriage,” although the Catholic Church accepted natural methods of birth regulation as “expressing the dignity of life.”

He added that many African families lived in fidelity to Christian values which “constitute the foundation of the family institution, as well as the future of church and humanity,” and allowed them to determine their “choices and commitments.”

“In Africa, as around the world, the family is the primary cell not just of a living ecclesial community, but also of society,” he said.

“However, we are witnessing important mutations in contemporary society which contradict many family values, especially African ones. In adopting the positive values of modernity as active subjects of the world’s future, African Christian families should rebel against this.”