July 2014: “Let Us Pray”
“We are an Arab, Muslim nation, anyone who does not like it can go,” said Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir. Soon after 2011 was the year when majority Christian Sudanese left Sudan, and formed South Sudan. In 1989 Sudan undertook a cultural project, which denounced the multi-ethnic, culturally rich Sudan and replaced it with an Islamic theocracy—a religious nation state. In the early years, many women and children fell at the mercy of officers who either humiliated or punished them. Even though the diktats, or rules have loosened over time, occasionally a sweep reminded Sudan’s citizens of what it means to live in a nations whose rules are one in the same as religious rules interpreted by the few for the many.
Sudan is not the only nation that has struggled with keeping church and state separate. Currently, Boko Haram has become a household name for its extremist terrorist bombings, abductions, and rapes of all opposed to strict sharia law. Over 70 days ago, the organization abducted over 300 schoolgirls form their campus in the middle of the night. While about 50 girls escaped, the remaining girls have not been found. Since the abduction, there have been more abductions, killings, and bombings, all in the name of Allah.
All over the continent from the Central African Republic, to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, Africans wage religious wars all in the name of God. How often are these wars publicly about religion but privately about politics, control, resources, land, and centuries old family disputes?
There is no doubt that African continent is one of the most religious communities in the world. There are churches and mosques in every major city and most rural communities. Even with houses of God casting long shadows of African communities, what have Africans gained from their deeply seeded faith? Extremist religion has been used in very political ways to criminalize inter-religious marriage, homosexuality, and maintain grave gendered education gap. With a reality as dangerous as that is religion a sword used to cut down the disobedient, and outspoken in society, or staff guiding us together to a life of harmony?
Have Africans accepted the faith of their oppressors without examining the role those religions played in taking over their cultures, traditions, and communities? What role has religion played in some of the most heinous atrocities on the continent? How can religion bring healing where it is the cause of so much distrust and animosity?
Have Christianity and Islam truly made the continent a better place? Is it possible that what we lost was far more precious, more natural, more humane, or is it the interpretations of these foreign religions that has lead to so much violence? Is there room on the continent for indigenous religions as well as more modern faiths? Can the past and future live comfortably together?
This month in Rise Africa we will explore all of these questions and more. Our goal is to develop a connected and empowered global African community, one that has the confidence to speak their voice and the awareness to engage in productive conversations with one another about the shared and unique lives we live as Africans and members of the African Diaspora. We imagine an Africa where we’re all involved. With that being said, as always we value your participation. Share your experiences with, and reflections on conflict on the continent with the Rise Africa community. If you, or someone you know would be interested in participating in this series, we encourage you to contribute. Visit our “Submit a Guest post” page for more information on the guest contribution process and e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have additional questions. Click here to access all articles under our July 2014 theme.