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.
This article discusses the so-called ‘revolutionary’ character of Evangelical and Pentecostal movements, as has been proposed in mainstream sociological and anthropological literature. Through a historical and ethnographic account of Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity in Angola, we suggest that in this country Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism is defined by exclusionary tactics that render most churches compliant with the current political regime, and they in fact act as reactionary, conservative forces in contexts of social and political disruption. This in turn exposes a divergence in terms of political rhetoric and praxis among Evangelical and Pentecostal movements.
Between 1910 and 1917, the Students’ Christian Association of the University of Michigan sent out six alumni to go to Basra, Iraq, to do what they perceived to be humanitarian work. This study looks at the various fundraising mediums used by the organizers of this so-called “Michigan in Arabia” venture to convince potential donors to give the necessary funds. By analyzing these sources this study shows how a campus organization that ostensibly aimed to help the inhabitants of Basra instead functioned to cultivate Americans’ interests in the potential of this Persian Gulf city as a base for furthering U.S. power in the Middle East. It is important to study this short-lived U.S. engagement in Iraq because by cultivating incipient U.S. imperialism in the region, the Michigan venture provides a historical foundation for the emergence of U.S. economic, political, and strategic interests in Iraq in the long run.
This article explores aspects of Middle Eastern and North African (mena) Jewry in the first half of the twentieth century through their engagement with philanthropy. Specifically, this article demonstrates how many urban Jewish communities in mena adopted and adapted Western European philanthropic structures to fit the needs of their local communities by engaging with multiple public spheres (Jewish, Arab, imperial) that were, at times, in conflict with each other. By highlighting the transnational nature of mena Jewry in the twentieth century, this article demonstrates the importance of philanthropic networks as an articulation of power and social status. Finally, this piece suggests that local Jewish philanthropic initiatives can act as a prism by which we understand power structures within transnational religious networks.