Friday, October 12, 2007

Syncretic Nigerians?

epiScope points us to this curious story:

...Across West Africa, churches or mosques can be found in virtually every settlement: evidence of deep Christian and Muslim roots sown by the merchants, missionaries and slave traders who brought the religions hundreds of years ago. But also firmly settled in the red soil are indigenous practices that West Africans integrate with the foreign beliefs.

The results may sometimes seem to flout the monotheistic holy books, the Bible and Quran. But many West African faithful say their interpretations are equally valid — although they don't always tell their pastors or imams...

...In the largely Christian areas farther south, many professed Christians have more than one wife, which tallies with pre-Christian practices where men took on many spouses to ensure survival of the bloodline during times of drought or war.

Some people practice both Islam and Christianity. One taxi driver in Freetown, Sierra Leone, tells of traveling with his first wife to mosque on Friday and his second wife to church on Sunday.

In Nigeria, shrines with old icons abound, with members of many ethnic groups praying to their old gods...

..."Generally Christianity tries to preach against what's considered idolatry, or idol worship. There may be aspects of local culture that the church allows, but as long as it tries to wipe out the worship of God, we're against it," said Rev. Akintunde Popoola, a spokesman for the Anglican Communion in Nigeria...

..."Some people may say we're worshipping idols. But no, this is our heritage and we can't forget it," says Oladunjoye Wasiu, a 25-year-old student standing by the river. "Allah sent the water in the days of our forefathers, so there's a rapport," he says.

"We Yoruba people, we have many small deities, but they are all servants of God," says Osunleti, the artist. "All these idols are servants of God: I'm a Christian, I'm a Muslim, I'm an idol worshipper, I'm an artist, I believe in everything," he says.

"I just believe in God. We're all servants of God, and we can pray through anything."
I do not know enough about the culture of Nigeria to stand in judgment of such practices. I recommend that we all be careful about attempting to inject our values into their world.

However, I do find it highly ironic that in the land that has given us Abp. Akinola, one of the most outspoken critics of our culture, we find such things going on. With so much apparent work to be done in his own backyard, one wonders how he finds the time to launch missions in ours.


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