A History Of Religion In Africa Essay
, Research Paper
Religion in Africa
My assignment is to write about the various religions that are situated in Africa and religions African-Americans preach. There are many different religions in Africa because there are various regions and countries in Africa. Also Africa and its inhabitants have been around for many, many years. One reason that there are so many different religions.
The first and most widespread religion I am going to talk about is Christianity. Christianity was introduced into Northern Africa in the first century. It later spread to the regions of Ethiopia and Sudan around the fourth century. Christianity was able to survive in Ethiopia because of the Coptic Church but in other areas, Islam became more popular. Christianity was introduced back into Africa with the rise of European overseas expansion in the fifteenth century.
Christianity penetrated into Africa on two different channels, the first by the Evangelist St. Mark to Alexandria. From there it spread to lower Egypt and then to Theibad, Upper Egypt and Nubia. It also penetrated b Roman soldiers and merchants. These people brought the Gospel to Carthage where it soon spread to Proconsular Africa, the Byzacene province and Numidia.
Unfortunately, Christianity in Africa was constantly under the attack of schism and heresy. Many groups who did this were the Gnostics, Monophysites, Arians, Pelegians, Manicheans, Novatians, and Donatists. These groups divided and enfeebled Christianity. Protestantism has, and still makes considerable efforts to further their religion in Africa. Almost every country where there is a major Protestant population has taken part in missionary work in Africa. These nations are Germany, Norway, Sweden, England, Holland, Switzerland, France, and The United States of America. From Germany, many people of the Berlin Missions traveled to the Orange River Colony, Griqualand, the Transvaal and many other places including the Togoland, the Goldcoast and also the Zulus. The Swedish are established in the Italian colony of Erythracea and the Norwegians have an important mission in Betsileo. The English though, have had a long history of missions in Africa. Some of the more important ones are: The London Missionary Society, which was established in 1795. This church was primarily felt in South Africa with Moffat and Dr. Livingstone. Also was the Universities Mission Society, which was based in Zanzibar. The French Protestants were successful in the Northeastern Cape Colony, and in the French Congo where the replaced the American Presbyterians in 1892. Lets not forget America though; the Methodist Episcopal Church, The Baptist church and the Presbyterian Church are all in Africa from America. The Methodists began the colony of Liberia in 1820 but was only able to establish a permanent Bishopric there until 1858. The Baptists have missions in Monrovia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Lagos. Presbyterians are very influential also. In Egypt almost every village on the Nile is not without one of their schools. In light of this, you can see that Christian Religions from all parts of the world flourished in Africa.
The second most widespread religion in Africa is Islam. Islam was introduced to Northern Africa in the seventh century. In the following centuries it spread along the eastern African coast and into the grasslands of Western Africa. By the twentieth though, Islam had penetrated into the remaining portions of Africa. Today, a Mussulman is able to travel from Monrovia to Batavia without setting foot on “infidel” soil.
Three phases of Islam expansion into Africa may be distinguished. The first section is between 638-1050. Between these times, the Arabs spread Islam along the whole Mediterranean coast, from Egypt to Morocco. In the ninth and tenth centuries though, the expansion started to halt. Also there were still Bishops at Carthage, Hippo and Constantine in the eleventh century. The second phase was between 1050-1750. One important thing to know from this phase is that the population of Northern Africa was forced fourteen times with violence to embrace Islamism and it returned fourteen times to its own religion. The last section of the expansionism of Islam in Africa dates to the present time. Here is an estimate of the number of Islamic people in different parts of Africa. 4,070,000 in Algeria, 1,500,000 in Tunis, 10,000,000 in Morocco, 6,800,000 in French Western Africa, and 3,000,000 in the Wadai and Sudan.
Naturism, Animism and Fetishism are three more religions found in Africa. Naturism is the worship paid to personified natural objects such as the sky, the moon, the mountains etc. The Hottentots and the Bantu are two such African groups who gave worship to the moon, the sun and various other objects.
Animism is the belief that natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe itself possess souls. It can be said that Animism is the religion of a great part of Africa. The Negritos, Hottentots, Bantus of the south and east, many of the Nigritians and most of the Hamites are said to be Animists. They worship neither fetishes, idols, nor material images. They believe in the survival of the spirits of the deceased and the need of honoring them.
Fetishism is the belief that an object has mysterious, magical power and has unquestioning reverence or devotion. Anything may become a fetish such as images, bones, figures etc. Fetishism is chiefly found in the west. Livingstone one pointed out that it seems that the Africans seem to become more superstitious as you go deeper into the forest country. Fetishism is practically non-existent among the Hottentots, the Nigritians, The Bantus of the east, The Negritos and the Hamites.
Another less well-known religion that originated in Africa is Rastafarian. The major belief for Rastafarians is that Haile Selassie is the living god for the black race. Ras Tafari was the previous name of Selassie when he was the Emperor of Ethiopia. Selassie was not a Rastafarian but rather a Christian. Although Haile Selassie was reported dead, the Rastafarians do not believe it. The Lion of Judah represents Haile Selassie because the lion is king of all beasts as Selassie was the king of all kings to them. Rastafarians do not believe in an afterlife but Africa, Ethiopia specifically is considered Rasta’s heaven on Earth. Rastafarians are vegetarians and don’t eat anything that has touched chemicals or comes from a can. A Rasta’s hair (dreadlocks) symbolizes their roots, contrasting the blond look of the white man.
Although there are more religions present in Africa, we are going to look at a section of African and break down its religious population. The Ivory Coast is a very deeply religious area. Muslims represent twenty-three percent of the population, Christians represent twelve percent and Animists boast a majority of sixty-five percent of the population. Thirteen percent of the Ivorian population doesn’t belong to a religion.
In Nigeria, about fourty-eight percent of Nigerias inhabitants practice the Muslim faith and thirty-four percent of Nigerians are Christians. The remaining eighteen percent of the Nigerian population practice various traditional religions.
In Liberia, about ten percent of the population are Christians, mainly Protestant. Twenty percent of Liberia is Muslim and about seventy percent follow traditional religions.
In conclusion, many different types of religion inhabit Africa. Many of these religions date back far in history and have a widely respected forthcoming. Much of the African population is very religious and few do not practice a belief. Although many religions, quite a few of the African population still stays with some of its original religions such as animism, naturism, and fetishism. Although I did not cover all of the religions I covered a majority of the main ones and saw that Africans, have been deeply religious for many, many centuries. I am happy to say I learned quite a few things about religion in Africa.