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Forum 2 : Religion in Africa
The role of African Traditional Religions (ATRs) in the political and social development of the continent is only now beginning to be appreciated in the West. But what of their relationship with Christianity and Islam?
Is it all about conflict and persecution, or more about integration and fusion?
It certainly is difficult to draw a clear line between how much good has come to the African continent brought by religion, and how much trouble it has wreaked upon us. Some of the best schools we have in Uganda, producing the finest teachers, economists, engineers etc., are religious in their foundation. However, the worst wars that have been fought on the continent, like the war in Sudan, the genocide in Rwanda, the rebellion in Uganda led by the Lord's Resistance Army, and the clashes in Nigeria etc., all have religion behind them.
It has been difficult to evaluate the role of Traditional African Religion in African history for a variety of reasons; one of which is that the many foreigners who brought their religion into the lives of the African thought that the African did not have a religion, and at best described the African religion as 'uncivilized', 'pagan', 'heathenism' etc.
Of course, African religion is one which throughout the ages has built its society as a God-fearing people with the ideas and ideals in that religion as noble as any other religion. It is sad to say that the theology and spirituality that this religion fosters has been neglected by Westerners and some African scholars, only to be dismissed as mere cultural phenomenon.
I am glad I worship God in a church in the United States which utilises the pouring of libation in the liturgy of their religious services.
Robert A. Osei-Wusu
It just bothers me that the story of Christianity is often presented (especially by Dr. Ali Mazrui in his films and writings) as a negative force that destabilized Africa and led to colonization and other evils. Was there anything good the Christian missionaries did? Did the missionaries enslave and steal and colonize, or were these unfortunate by-products of a general intercourse with the West? Would someone for once note that the destruction of culture by the Christians would be the better evil compared to the destruction of lives and livelihood by "jihading" muslims? History is best when it provides facts, and worst when it presents biased opinions.
Ashiwel Undie, USA
A remarkable point is always missing in African history. When dan Fodio wanted to conquer Borno Kanem, he couldn't believe that this Empire was Islamic since the 8th century. As the dynasty of the Mai was very weak, the preacher el Kanemi, a preacher from Morocco, had already organized the population.
Richard Weinrich, Germany
The mission activity of the catholic missionaries should be taken into account. Much has been done, for example, by the White Fathers. In the context of slavery it could still be mentioned that Cardinal Ch. Lavigerie, around 1890, launched an anti-slavery campaign which brought him to many countries in Europe: France, Italy, England, etc. He got his information about the terrible slave-trade from his missionaries and from Livingstone.
Joe Buholzer, Great Britain