Returning to My Roots: African ‘Religions’ and the State
PROSELYTIZATION AND COMMUNAL SELF-DETERMINATION IN AFRICA, Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, ed., Orbis Books, 1999
25 Pages Posted: 25 Dec 2009 Last revised: 5 Jan 2010
Date Written: 1999
Four decades after physical decolonization, the African state is today mired in crises of identity. Multidimensional and complexly dynamic, these crises primarily feed from the traditional troughs of culture and religion, ethnicity and race, history and mythology, and politics and economics. The realm of religion, together with its essential linkage to philosophy and culture, has been one of the pivotal variables in the construction of the identity of the modern African state. Religion has been one of the critical seams of social and political rupture in several African states. Due to the centrality of religion in the construction of social reality, this critical examination of the treatment of African religions within the African state will necessarily probe the intersection of Islam, African religion, and Christianity - the three dominant religious traditions in Africa. This chapter primarily argues that the modern African state, right from its inception, has relentlessly engaged in a campaign of the marginalization, at best, or eradication, at worst, of African religion. Further, it argues that the destruction and delegitimation of African religion have been actively effected at the urging, or with the collusion and for the benefit of, either or both Islam and Christianity, the two dominant messianic traditions.
Keywords: Africa, Religions, Decolonization, Culture, Islam, Christianity, Messianic Faiths, Marginalization, Eradication, Identity
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