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.
The Sokoto Caliphate, which was based on Islamic law, depended considerably on widespread systematic slavery in political, economic, and social spheres. According to Islamic law, it is only permitted, in principle, to enslave non-Muslims or unbelievers, and ʿUthmān b. Fūdī, the founder of the Caliphate, labeled his principal enemies (i.e. the rulers of the Hausa states and Bornu and their followers) as apostate unbelievers. However, Muslim jurists historically presented conflicting views regarding the permissibility of enslaving apostates. Faced with this legal disagreement, ʿUthmān, referring to numerous preceding scholars, argued that it was permissible to choose any one of several juristic views regarding a legal issue on which scholars disagreed. By the employment of this “free choice theory”, he justified the enslavement of those whom he labeled as apostates and consequently authorized the enslavement of all kinds of people whom he had categorized as unbelievers living in and around Hausaland.