This paper draws attention to the neglected episode of a crisis that engulfed the Benin City Roman Catholic Station from 1951 to 1952. It examines how a disagreement between an Irish priest and an African catechist degenerated into a crisis that pitted the majority of the African laity against the Irish clergy. This crisis was not only reported in national newspapers and taken up by nationalist agitators, but also attracted the concern of Roman Catholics outside the diocese as well as the Vatican. This paper contends that the disagreement became a crisis because of the Irish clergy’s upholding of their policy of gradual incorporation of the African laity into participation in the administration of the diocese, and the African laity’s determination to pursue their aspirations of full and unhindered participation in the administration on their own terms. The crisis was also fueled by African nationalist ferment of the period, which prolonged the issue. The argument is supported with archival sources, newspaper reports and oral interviews with participants and members of the diocese.
This paper presents a historical analysis of health care services through African churches in Mbeya Region, Tanzania from the 1980s to the present. In particular, it examines the influence of African churches in healing diseases spiritually. It analyses the changes in health care services in Mbeya Region, and the dominance of African churches in health services. It also shows how health care services are provided, and the successes and challenges related to health care services in African churches. Methodologically, the paper is based on a careful analysis of oral interviews, archival documents and secondary data. It argues that African churches emerged in Mbeya in the 1920s in response to the historical churches that operated in the region from the 1890s. The paper notes that diseases have been a significant factor throughout African history. Controlling disease was an important aspect of change in different historical periods. Unfortunately, historians have rarely paid attention to the involvement of African churches in health care services. This paper covers the strategies used by African churches in health care services, such as preaching on healing methods from the Bible. Through healing services, leaders of African churches are able to transform their own lives, but not all individuals are healed. This paper makes a contribution to the historiography of Africa by identifying the role of African churches in healing systems.
In his 2015 book Christianity, Development, and Modernity in Africa, Paul Gifford argues that Christianity in Africa is bifurcated into an ‘enchanted’ and a ‘disenchanted’ form. He presents the conundrum that the enchanted form is pervasive yet incompatible with modernity and consistently ignored by scholars. In this review article I draw on Gifford’s conundrum as a springboard to propose a new angle from which to analyse religion and politics in postcolonial Africa: one that moves beyond received dichotomies between tradition and modernity, public and private life, or this-worldly and otherworldly concerns. The work of Michael Schatzberg, Peter Geschiere, Ogbu Kalu, and Emmanuel Katongole moves in various ways past the oppositions that undermine Gifford’s work. In dialogue with these scholars, I articulate a plea to scholars of religion and politics in Africa to develop an appreciation for the powerful role of the religious imagination in African and global arenas of power.
For many Muslim South African antiapartheid activists, a renewed understanding of religion in the form of Islamist ideology provided purpose, perseverance, and direction. Becoming part of a collective shaped and informed their public engagement with religion. This paper shows how they used religious discourse to navigate the complexities and ambiguities within their private domains while embarking on an Islamist journey. By suggesting that South African Islamism can best be viewed as the sum of a multitude of journeys of everyday political Islam, this paper argues for an approach that examines a long-term narrative, takes heed of perfectionist ideals, and remains cognizant of everyday realities.
Malawi is a profoundly religious society and faith-based organisations (FBO s) play a significant role in politics, addressing social concerns and governance. This article investigates their role in Malawi’s political realm when engaging with the state and argues that the FBO s are opportunistic in their engagement. They seize upon opportunities for exerting influence when political and social issues dictate that action be taken in accordance with religious tenets of social responsibility, in tandem with fluctuating levels of political tension. Typical high points of tension are elections, but other controversial issues may also feature prominently. FBO s consider suitable entry points and tools of advocacy at their disposal within existing opportunity structures. As organised religion, we find that faith communities have engaged and continue to engage with the political establishment through various means, predominantly by issuing pastoral letters and statements.
The role of religion in ecological discourse has gained ground in the quest to improve people’s lives in society. Herbal medicine is known to treat complex diseases. However, there are complexities in protecting the environment since herbal medicine entails having an in-depth understanding of traditional knowledge systems, beliefs, and practices. Pentecostal churches in Zimbabwe such as the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) have remained impervious to the widespread campaign promoting the use of herbs as an effective healing treatment. Divine healing is central to the AFM, and thus they view traditional herbal medicines as originating from evil spirits, despite scriptures referring to herbs as both food and medicine. Accordingly, developing a theology of ‘greening faith’ in the AFM will foster a constructive attitude toward the use of traditional herbal medicines. This article examines the position of the AFM on traditional herbal medicine and utilises ecotheology as its theoretical framework together with data gathered through in-depth interviews. The article concludes that the AFM should consciously use faith to protect the environment and promote the health and well-being of its believers.
In the contemporary literature about the relationship between religion and COVID-19, vertical as well as horizontal responses can be distinguished. Much of the current literature is based on personal reflection or on quantitative research. This article adds a qualitative research perspective and offers a preliminary analysis of the religious frameworks used by pastors in the Reformed Church in Zambia. Although the pastors acknowledge the need for communal action, their livestreamed services show an emphasis on the vertical dimension, i.e., the relation with God. As this article argues, this can be understood from an African worldview. There is also evidence that the initial vertical dimension of the services shifts to more horizontal concerns as the pandemic progresses.