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Anne Britt Flemmen and Mulumebet Zenebe

This article explores the religious association mahbär, also called tsïwwa, in Ethiopia. Data from lay practitioners as well as priests show that religious mahbär has many religious as well as social functions. It is a ritual with long traditions in the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwahedo Church. The authors show that what characterizes mahbär as a ritual is its unusual richness, complexity, multifunctionality and flexibility. By placing it within the Ethiopian religious context and the present development, the authors discuss why religious mahbär is in decline despite its multiple functions, flexibility, and support from the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwahïdo Church. In difficult economic times one would expect traditional rituals such as mahbär to become more important to people, and hence to be strengthened, but this does not seem to be the case here. In the authors’ view, three factors are pushing this decline: economic challenges, time constraints, and member recruitment.

Juliet Gilbert

The quiet city of Calabar in southeastern Nigeria is famed for its burgeoning church scene offering various spiritual services. In this religious marketplace, The Brook Church stands out due to its beautiful building, well-dressed congregation, clever branding, and its ‘unique’ preaching. Focusing on young women’s engagement with The Brook Church, this article builds on recent analyses seeking to understand the attraction of Pentecostalism for this often marginalised and disenfranchised social group. Examining The Brook Church’s life-affirming doctrine of Zoe, in which individual aspirations are realised through careful and timely management of the religious self, the article explores how religious action and rhetoric mould new subjectivities aimed for success. Illustrating how Pentecostal practice gives young women a newfound sense of self-worth and confidence, the article’s emphasis on the individual project suggests we should broaden debates that solely equate young women’s engagement with Pentecostalism with sexuality and marriage opportunities.

Mika Vähäkangas

Tanzanian Ambilikile Mwasapila aka Babu wa Loliondo, a retired Lutheran countryside pastor, suddenly became the most visible media personality and healer in East Africa for half a year in 2011. He had received dreams in which God provided him with the recipe for a herbal medicine that would heal all maladies. Lutheran bishops who had all but abandoned the elderly pastor in his former remote mission field eagerly approved his ministry, while reception in Charismatic churches was mixed. After initial suspicion, the government strongly backed him, and the national research hospital vaguely endorsed the medicine, which is essentially the same as traditional medicine in several ethnic groups. Thus, in this ministry modern scientific, Christian, and traditional worldviews suddenly corresponded, thereby easing the tensions between the three lifeworlds of Tanzanian Christians. After the deaths of several hiv-positive patients who had abandoned antiretroviral (arv) drugs, the magic of the healer vanished.

Adriaan S. Van Klinken


The born-again discourse is a central characteristic of Pentecostal Christianity in Africa. In the study of African Christianities, this discourse and the way it (re)shapes people’s moral, religious, and social identities has received much attention. However, hardly any attention has been paid to its effects on men as gendered beings. In the study of men and masculinities in Africa, on the other hand, neither religion in general nor born-again Christianity in particular are taken into account as relevant factors in the construction of masculinities. On the basis of a detailed analysis of interviews with men who are members of a Pentecostal church in Lusaka, Zambia, this article investigates how men’s gender identities are reshaped by becoming and being born-again and how born-again conversion produces new forms of masculinity. The observed Pentecostal transformation of masculinity is interpreted in relation to men’s social vulnerability, particularly in the context of the HIV epidemic in Zambia.