Religions in Africa

According to all the major surveys, Christianity and Islam each represent approximately 40 percent of the African population. Christianity is more dominant in the south, while Islam is more dominant in the north. Indigenous African practices tend to be strongest in the central states of Africa, but some form of their practices and beliefs can be found almost anywhere in Africa.

African diaspora — mostly due to the slave trade starting in the 15th century — indigenous African religions have spread and taken root all over the world, including in the United States and Europe. Some of these African diaspora religions include Cuban Regla de Ocha, Haitian Vodou, and Brazilian Candomble.

The pluralistic nature of African-tradition religion is one of the reasons for its success in the diaspora. African spirituality has always been able to adapt to change and allow itself to absorb the wisdom and views of other religions, much more than, for example, Christianity and Islam. While Islam and Christianity tend to be overtly resistant to adopting traditional African religious ideas or practices, indigenous African religions have always accommodated other beliefs.

One of the basic reasons is that indigenous African spiritual beliefs are not bound by a written text, like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Indigenous African religion is primarily an oral tradition and has never been fully codified; thus, it allows itself to more easily be amended and influenced by other religious ideas, religious wisdom, and by modern development. Holding or maintaining to a uniform doctrine is not the essence of indigenous African religions.

In lieu of these traditional African ways of defining oneself, Christianity and Islam are gradually creating a social identity in Africa that cuts across these indigenous African religious and social identities. They do this by having Africans increasingly identify themselves as either Muslim or Christian, thus denying their unique African worldview that has always viewed — as evidenced in their creation myths — everything as unified and connected to the land, the place were one’s clan, lineage, and people were cosmically birthed. Foreign religions simply don’t have that same connection to the African continent.

Jacob Olupona, professor of indigenous African religions at Harvard Divinity School and professor of African and African-American studies in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, recently sat down for an interview with Anthony Chiorazzi about his lifelong research on indigenous African religions.



Images of Women

Historically women were depicted in the American society as individuals who were docile, bound solely for the purpose of taking care of the home, and raising children.  They washed dishes, clothes, clean house, raise the kids, and did chores as their responsibilities.  The mass media latched on to these roles and elaborated on them, portraying women as having happy family lives.  But Ed Koch (1924–2013), a lawyer and politician thought differently when he said, “Stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest and we learn that individuals do not fit the group stereotype, then it begins to fall apart.”  For years women saddled with domestic responsibilities showed they had diverse talents.

With stereotypes males grew up believing females were sexual objects.  Even today in popular media there continues to be much focus on feminine beauty, and sex appeal.  Presently, it’s more than being blonde and blue-eyed.  Beautiful women are in every ethnic group, and shades of complexion.  Kat Graham (b. 1989), Swiss-born American actress, model, singer and dancer wrote, “There was a time when men thought it was sexy to have a house wife waiting for him to come home from work in her slippers, but in modern society, I think an independent woman is even more sexy.”  Today’s women are more independent because for the most part they have broken through the glass ceiling of this world that held them back from progressing in society.  Presently American society still lacks meritorious promotions, and equal pay for equal work.

Faith-Filled Women

Faith-filled women are a special breed.  Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, and Queen of the Universe is an ideal role model for Christian women.  She witnessed the crucifixion of her Son – Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962), a politician, diplomat, and the longest serving First Lady of the United States said, “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”  This was very much like Mary, Mother of God.  Christian women continue to emulate her devotion and purity.

Regardless of how intelligent and spirit-filled women are some men still view them as beings to manipulate.  Some films and TV programs depict women as flaky and unstable.  A few news clips portray female reporters as being emotional when reporting tragic stories, and some male journalists have criticized them for becoming too personally involved, rather than being detached, and objective.

Women’s Role

Why must women be stuck in a world that’s mainly shaped by men?  Anaїs Nin (1903–1977), an author born to Cuban parents in France, but living in the United States wrote, “How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than create it herself.”  For Nin, a woman must shoulder her responsibilities, and not just rely solely on men.  Women have done so in their religious lives with personalities like St. Joan of Arc, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux, some faithful Christians to emulate.  In the secular world there are also prominent women in the military, sports, arts, politics, medicine, engineering, science, technology, and executives in the corporate world.  These outstanding women are visionaries, mothers, proven creators, and renowned image builders.


The Lord appointed seventy-two persons and sent them out two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.  He told them to ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers into his harvest field to win souls (Lk 10:1-2).  It is for us to lift up Jesus to draw men and women to him (Jn 12:32).   God will make our efforts grow fruits when we do the planting and watering (1 Cor 3:8-9), because the fields are ripe for harvest (Jn 4:35).  Jesus himself is praying for future believers (Jn 17:20).  The day will come when soul-winning will not be necessary (Jer 31:34).  The harvest will be passed, summer ended, after people will not be saved (Jer 8:20).  The Lord warns us that the righteous will pay a penalty for failing to witness to evil persons (Ezek 3:18-19).  On our foreheads of those who have repented there will be identification marks (Ezek 9:3-11).

Uniqueness of God

Screenwriter Monica Johnson (1946–2010) wrote, “God is unique in giving His people ways to fellowship, witness, and remember what a mighty and merciful God He is.”  This is the reason why believers must witness to others.  It’s one way of empowering them in obtaining the blessings, and gifts of Almighty God.

Ezra Benson (1899–1994), a farmer, government official, and religious leader said, “I am a witness to nations and people deprived of their freedom.  I was there.  I watched that great Iron Curtain drop around nations which formerly had prized their freedom – good people.  I was aghast at these were written off by the stroke of a pen.”  Freedom came to these nations within the Iron Curtain by witnessing about God’s great works.

Human Rights

In our world there are battles that are fought for human rights.  A British artist Ralph Steadman (b. 1936) wrote, “It makes me so desperately sad to witness just how unforgivably wretched our world has become.”  It’s something to see a wretched world, but another thing to do nothing about it.  This calls for the commitment of believers to take action.  David Suzuki (b. 1936), a Canadian academic and environmental activist said, “Too often, governments are quick to use excessive force and even pervert the course of justice to keep oil and gas flowing, forests logged, wild rivers dammed and minerals extracted.  As the Global Witness study reveals, citizens are often killed, too – especially if they are poor and indigenous.”  However Christian believers are constantly doing their part to bring about positive change in the world.  They often confront governments that aren’t working in the interests of the people.

The eleventh general president of the Young Women’s Organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints, Margaret D. Nadauld (b. 1944) said, “Standing as a witness in all things means being kind in all things, being first to say hello, being the first to smile, being the first to make the stranger feel a part of things, being helpful, thinking of others’ feelings, being inclusive.”  Witnessing therefore could be done simply.  It’s about communicating God’s love in a broken world.

God’s Wisdom

Lao Tzu (571–531 BC), an ancient Chinese philosopher and poet wrote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  That’s how we should comprehend the wisdom of God that’s beyond our understanding.  With prayers people must come to God.  In him they will gain access to heavenly heights in the supernatural realm.  To do so they must testify about God’s goodness.  Let the whole world view believers as the embodiment of his grace as they proclaim his Word.

Beyond Miracles

Most of us will grow into the prime of our lives.  People ought not to forget the comatose state of their lives in the past.  They were clinically dead on life support, but surprised the specialists when they came alive again.  It was faith giving birth to new life.  The electrocardiograms picked up their heartbeats.  Their heartbeats became stronger, vital signs were normal again, and now they are off the ventilators.  Physicians were skeptical about their recovery, couldn’t believe their eyes because they have beaten the odds.  Their survival was beyond the miracles of modern medicine.  They have been resuscitated by Christ himself who conquered disease and death.  Jean de la Bruyere (1645–1696), a French philosopher and moralist said, “Out of difficulties grow miracles.”  Who could have imagined that while people were so critically ill, how they could come alive again?  It’s through the infinite wisdom of a loving God.

God’s Word

Every day people die and rise.  Daily after reading the Bible they rise with the fullness of joy, for they would have journeyed from the Jordan River to heavenly places.  This happens also by meditation on God’s Word.  God’s Word heals, soothes, and Christians aren’t afraid to die, for they know they will be in heavenly paradise.  That’s why they feel a strong call to proclaim the Gospel to the world.  Although Christian living might be filled with pain, trials, and tribulations, they accept these adversities as blessings.

Hubert Humphrey (1911–1978), a vice president of the United States wrote, “The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.”  The Bible is filled with spiritual friends and after reading it, anyone – Christian and non-Christian alike, is sure to reach out to others.

Journey to Heaven

In God’s infinite wisdom he sees to it how, when, why, and where believers begin their journey toward heaven.  People attend memorial services meant for the living.  Worshipers express their beliefs about their loved ones.  It doesn’t matter if the deceased were critically ill before death, or if their dreams were shattered by some dreadful disease.  One thing is certain – they endured unspeakable heartaches and won the battle of life.  Their victory came through knowing God.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616), an English poet and playwright said, “Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”  Believers by knowing the promises of God persevered in the faith, and lived hopeful lives.  God’s messages was liberating to their souls.  But it’s also essential to know of Satan’s activities on earth.  For as Sun Tzu (544–496 BC) wrote, “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”  Although Tzu was referring to battles with mortals the same is true in spiritual warfare.