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​Rethinking ‘Church’ in Times of Transition: A Perspective from GhanaHide

by Justice Arthur

The effects of the COVID-19 have affected literally every facet of life including religious communities. The closure of churches at the height of the pandemic prompted many churches to embrace different ways to ‘do church’ and to reimagine the future of their communities. The new landscape has called for resilience, adaptability, and creative ways of functioning as churches today. However, for a long time, many churches have resisted and spoken against implementing or even considering diverse ideas about ‘being church’ today. The quest has been to maintain the traditional beliefs and ways of maintaining the practices of churches. This paper explores the impact of the coronavirus on the changing practices, mission and theologies of some selected churches in Ghana. It argues that the pandemic has forced churches to rethink some of their cherished and time-honored patterns.

​Official Bilingualism and Religion in Cameroon: A Critical Analysis of Language Use in the Revival ChurchesHide

by Gratien Atindogbé & Endurence Midinette Koumassol Dissake

Statistics of religious practice in Cameroon reveal 38.4% Roman Catholic and 4.5% of other Christians, i.e. the revival churches (Indexmundi.com 2020). The language used to worship is dominantly the two official languages of Cameroon, English and French, but also some few Cameroon national languages into which the Holy Bible has been translated. The purpose of this paper is to propose a critical analysis of the use of languages during the meetings of the revival churches where English and French are the means to communicate with a multilingual audience. The pastor is generally monolingual, and has to resort to the services of a makeshift interpreter. Using transcriptions of recorded audio files, we demonstrate, with the use of computer-assisted translation (CAT) and the expertise of two revisers, that the amateur translators, voluntarily or involuntary mislead their audience by proposing translation equivalents or interpretations that entertain a suspicious agenda. Furthermore, the analysis of the ethnographic data of the pastors and non-skilled interpreters reveal that the understanding of the Bible by these main actors is highly linked to their level of education. Consequently, their messages to the members/audience are sometimes far from the original or intended meaning. In short, language in those churches is an important factor that contributes to religion being the opium of the people.

​“I was made to buy the Igbo Bible and I didn’t like it”: Decolonizing the Ikwere via Bible TranslationHide

by Uchenna Oyali

This study investigates the Ikwere people’s use of Bible translation, the tool used by the Christian missionaries to impose an Igbo identity on them, to resist the same identity and index a distinct Ikwere one. Before their encounter with Christian missionaries in the 19th century, present-day Igbo people in Southern Nigeria did not have a pan-Igbo consciousness nor were they collectively designated. They spoke different dialects, sometimes mutually unintelligible, and existed as small village units, with no central administrative or religious authority under which they all rallied. However, guided by the notion of one language one nation prevalent in 19th century Europe, the missionaries decided that the speakers of the different lects, including the Ikwere, belonged to one nation, the Igbo nation, despite the people’s rejection of the collective identity. Thus, they abandoned the Bible translations being done into Igbo dialects, produced a single translation called Union Igbo Bible, and imposed same on the whole Igbo nation. However, over the years, the Ikwere have resisted this imposition of an Igbo identity upon them and, in order to subvert the impact of the Union Igbo Bible, embarked on translating the Bible into Ikwere, consciously framed to project Ikwere as distinct from Igbo. This study explores the strategies adopted to achieve this goal, ranging from the narratives in the Bible paratexts to the choice of terms for Christian concepts. It also presents data from a field survey that interrogated the spread of these terms among Ikwere speakers.

Mapping Typologies of Jihadi Narratives in Kenya: Textuality, Territoriality and Marginality DiscoursesHide

by Halkano Abdi Wario

Since the fall of the so-called Islamic State in late 2017, there has been an upsurge in the number of its affiliate violent extremist groups and to Al Qaeda across Africa with attendant destabilizing impact across the continent. At the core its recruitment narratives, legitimization of violence against its target and rationalization of its existence is instrumental interpretation of religious texts for political ends. While these narratives have similarity across Africa, there is dearth of studies that examine, categorize and interrogate how religious texts, historical injustices, perception of state neglect  and economic precarities account for major jihadi narratives. Taking the case of Kenya as a study and based on field research done in the last half of 2021, this paper will explore diverse typologies of jihadi narratives in Kenya, their spaces of circulation and assess why despite years of faith-based interventions, the appeal of these narratives have not subsided. The paper is based on the understanding that violent extremist actors are driven by both local socio-economic and political uncertainties and  influenced and sustained by translocal support systems that often position them as legitimate representatives of their political and religious constituencies despite being fringe actors in post-colonial state structures.

​Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis: The Public Division between the Anglophone and Francophone ClergyHide

by Endurence Midinette Koumassol Dissake & Gratien Atindogbé

Since the twentieth century, Africa has been facing several crises that have known the church’s implication (Silvestri & Mayall, 2015). The Republic of Cameroon has recently faced numerous crises in some of its ten Regions. We count, for example, the attacks by Central African armed bands in the East, the Boko-haram insurrection in the North, and the Anglophone crisis in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. Of all these crises, the Anglophone crisis has caught the attention of the Cameroon clergy the most. Since the start of the said crisis in October 2016, the clergy has made several outings, including more than ten open letters addressed to members of the government and other clergy members. Using the critical discourse analysis approach, we analysed six open letters written by some priests. We noted that the clergy has taken divergent positions on the crisis in these letters. While the French-speaking clergy condemned the abuses of the separatist armed militants, the English-speaking clergy rather condemned the actions of the government. Some Anglophone priests pose for secession and the independence of English Cameroon. What we propose to demonstrate in this paper is that the neutrality of the church is heavily questioned, considering the radical and polarising positions taken by some religious authorities.

The Role of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on Institutionalizing Traditional Education System in Medieval EthiopiaHide

by Emnet Tadesse Woldegiorgis

The dichotomy between traditional and modern education in post-colonial Africa is related to the difference between pre-existing endogenous (mostly cultural) structures of learning and the exogenous Eurocentric or the so-called ‘modern’ educational systems. The introduction of Christianity in the Fourth century is considered as one of the landmarks for the beginning of traditional yet structured education in Ethiopia. Since Ethiopia has never been colonized, Christianity and its institutions were not introduced through European missionaries. As the Church was strongly associated with the Monarchy in the medieval period, its education profoundly influenced the socio-economic and political lives of Ethiopian societies. The Church provided legitimacy and supplied elites to the bureaucratic functions of the Monarchy while in return receiving the official status of state religion and amassing huge resources, mainly in the form of land. The design and the dispensation of education until the introduction of ‘modern’ schools in the early 20th century were almost exclusively that of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (Milkias,1976; Kebede, 2006, 2010). The traditional Ethiopian system of education has its own unique structure and context that can allude to epistemic plurality. This paper is intended to give a historical analysis of the role of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in institutionalizing the traditional education system in Medieval Ethiopia. It also interrogates the notion of duality, plurality and epistemic inclusion on the postmodern Ethiopian education systems.

​Islamic Charity in Nigeria: Understanding Faith Based Organizations in Times of Socio-economic CrisisHide

by Adeyemi Balogun

In Nigeria, Islamic faith-based organisations (FBOs) are responsible for the social welfare of many Muslims. These FBOs have increased from the 1990s due to Nigeria’s complex socio-economic crisis and the inability of the state to provide adequate social services for the people. Largely promoted by Muslim elite of varying professional fields, Islamic FBOs intervened in areas that range from healthcare to education. But while their intervention is often underscored by the failure of the state to guarantee social welfare, the establishment of these FBOs also represent one of the modalities through which religious obligations such as charity and piety are expressed and achieved. Though they face different challenges that define their mode of operation and capacity to achieve their objectives, these FBOs are making significant contributions to the social development of Muslims in Nigeria. This paper explores the history of these Islamic FBOs drawing attention to the main players, their areas of intervention and how they could be understood within the context of the socio-economic crisis in the Muslim societies of Nigeria.

Religion, Women’s Higher Education and Empowerment in Nigeria: A Critical Study of Christian and Muslim Women in Selected Local Government Areas of Kaduna StateHide

by Lohna Bonkat-Jonathan

The Nigerian National Policy on Education stipulates the need for education of all at all levels especially for women. Despite this policy’s commitment there are still many women who have not attained higher education in Nigeria. It is based on this that this paper sets out to examine what role religion plays on the level of education and how it translates to the empowerment of women in Nigeria. The questions this paper sets out to unravel are; does religion impact on the level of education of women in Kaduna state; does the level of education empowers women in the state? Can some religious norms contribute to women attaining higher education in Nigeria? This paper will employ a qualitative approach through interviews and Focus Group Discussions (FGD) to access data. Preliminary findings shows that there are more Christian women in higher education than Muslim women in the local government areas studied in Kaduna state. This also translates to them being more empowered because of their exposure and experience. It also shows that early marriage and culture are some challenges is facing most women in the local governments understudy. The study therefore recommends that women especially Muslim women should be encouraged to make efforts to continue schooling even after marriage. Also, awareness should be created to educate parents and guardians of girls and women on the importance of education and how it can be used as a vehicle towards the empowerment of women in Nigeria.

​Historic Concession: Religion as A Driving Force for Power in SudanHide

by Ahmed Elhassab

Over centuries, religion has been one source of seizing power in course of human life across the Globe; and Sudan is no exception. Since 1505, marks the Sun-rise date of the first Islamic Funj Sultanate in the middle of the current Sudan, power has ever been contested based on three inter-related identities; religion, genetics and tongue. Since then, religion, namely Islam as a dominant belief in the country has been playing a major role for wealth and power aspiration. A text-model on the mind-set of the Sudanese masses is for the leader who satisfies this tripartite identities: A Muslim, Arabs and Arabic mother-speaking personality. This paper, aims at investigating the paradigm shift of religion from a mere field of worship to the field of shaping politics and power in the country. This new role of religion has made what can be depicted as a build-in "historic concession" in favor of certain groups who have sustained power for centuries now. Moreover, it has drew a benchmark in terms of wealth, power and social status, necessary for the minimal qualification to contest power, irrespective of whether that be achieved through a military coup or a democratic process.

A review on ደቂቀ እስጢፋኖስ (“The Stephanites”), translated, annotated and compiled by Prof. Dr. Getachew Haile, 2004, College Ville, MinnesotaHide

by Aychegrew Hadera Hailu

An Ethiopian maxim argues that religion is a private affair. The constitution (Ethiopian) also argues that “[…] the state shall not interfere in religious matters” (1994: 4). But, the government has never put aside religious matters. In fact, a Muslim protest that suddenly started in 2010 was against state interference in Islamic affairs. The protest went on unabated until 2017 (Abbink, 2014: 352). Likewise, Ethiopia’s premier, Abiy Ahmed returned Abune Merkorios, the fourth Patriarch from exile in 2018. It was to reconcile the synods of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church at home and abroad, believing that their reconciliation would bring about a national unity of Ethiopia (Herald, 2018: 1).
State’s proclivity to interfere in religious affairs originates from the fact that churches and mosques have a degree of authority over their followers. This is particularly true in nations like Ethiopia where Christianity and Islam have many followers. The Orthodox Church and Islam have currently 43.1% and 34.1% of adherents respectively (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2022). The state has begun a relationship with the Orthodox Church since the fourth century when the later was established. During those years, the state helped maintain unity of the church. Kings always thought that they had the responsibility to deal with threats that endangered unity of the church. Hence, a range of issues in ደቂቀ እስጢፋኖስ (“The Stephanites”) should be understood within the historic church-state relations. ደቂቀ እስጢፋኖስ (“The Stephanites”) deals with a religious movement and with the treatment accorder to its protagonists. As learned from the book, the protagonists were wronged. These events took place in the fifteenth century. However, this has never been a thing of the past; the harsh treatment to the protagonists casts a long shadow on current debates about religious freedom in Ethiopia. People out of the Orthodox Church express fear that the church still has a motive to extend its hegemony over other religious groups. The church responds back by arguing that the Stephanites did not challenge theological doctrines and that they expressed views that challenged the power and authority of the Ethiopian monarchs of that period; the monarchs acted independently to defend their power and authority. I will, hence, present a paper on current debates about religious freedom and then present a critical review of ደቂቀ እስጢፋኖስ (“The Stephanites”).

Martyrs in the Sudanese Revolution: Politics, Images and Affective ResonancesHide

by Valerie Hänsch

Since the inception of the December Revolution in 2018, many Sudanese, particularly young ones, have lost their lives in the struggle for freedom, peace and justice. After the military coup in October 2021 that toppled the transitional government, the weekly protests have been met with unprecedented violence by the military and security forces. But this does not stop the protests. Every time a revolutionary is killed, even more people attend the funerals and fill the streets with anger, grief and the cries for justice. Representations of martyrs and accompanying prayers flood the mass protests, appear on the walls of Khartoum city and fill social media posts. In this presentation, I explore the changing role and concept of Islamic martyrdom in the ongoing Sudanese revolution. By drawing on interviews, participant observation and analysing the portrayal of martyrs in social media, street protests and Khartoum’s city-scape, I examine how the religious concept is deployed, enacted and perceived in the revolution. I shall argue that practices of grieving, honoring and remembering martyrs create affective resonances that electrify the protests, sustain the search for justice and uphold the felt need to continue fighting for the aims of the revolution.

​Youth Islamic Performance, Popular Culture and the Idea of Islamic Religious AuthorityHide

by Fulera Issaka-Toure

The Tijaniyya is the oldest Islamic religious group in Ghana linked to Sufism. It is a religious grouping which has its specific daily and weekly rituals as well as the annual Maulud-Nabih (birthday of the Prophet Mohammed) celebration/festival which distinguishes it from other groups. In Accra and in Ghana in general, Tijaniyya practices are not hard to locate and are usually headed by mature and seasoned Islamic religious authorities. However, the one particular name which has become a distinct movement within the Tijaniyya fraternity is the Jallo Maikano fraternity with following all over the country. This paper is centred around the question of how the youth of the Jallo movement have become dominant actors thereby begging the question about the shift in Islamic religious authority and its link to popular culture and youth religious performance. This question is particularly significant because of how youth actants through some specific popular culture in religious performance have helped shaped the constitution of Islamic religious authority.  Through empirical research, this paper shows that, youth maulud celebration and Sufi practices has introduced another dimension of Islamic religious authority in addition to a particular kind of popular culture which forms a distinct identity of the Jallo Maikano movement.

​Religion, Politics, and Society: The Role of Political Islam within the Sudanese Revolution of December 2018Hide

by Bakheit Mohammed Nur

December 2018 marked a new direction in Sudan’s political landscape as thousands of people revolted against President Omer al-Bashir and the Islamist regime that had ruled the country since 1989. Under authoritarian rule, Sudan suffered from genocide, war crimes, human rights violations and economic stagnation. As a result, Sudanese opposition groups organised demonstrations in 2018 to protest repression and to demand change. This revolution galvanised unprecedented support from a wide variety of socio-cultural groups across the country. Protestors, in collaboration with the Sudanese armed forces, succeeded in ousting President al-Bashir from power, setting in motion a process for political change in Sudan. This article analyses the practices undertaken by protestors in 2018 and 2019 and examines the social-cultural, political and religious dimensions of the Sudanese revolution. It also explores how the revolution’s protagonists contested the role of political Islam and how its antagonists reaffirmed their Islamo-political ideology in counter-revolutionary activities.

Religion-Politics Conflation in Zimbabwe in the Post-Mugabe EraHide

by Charles Moyo

Zimbabwe is a secular state. Yet, in recent years, especially in the post-Mugabe era, the line separating religion and politics has increasingly become blurred. There have been concerted efforts by the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU PF), to weaponize religious activities for political expediency, especially by placing religious leaders at the vortex of political campaigns, diplomatic activities and other politically related functions. Consequently, two antagonistic camps of religious leaders or groups have emerged in Zimbabwe: those who support the current political establishment versus those who overtly oppose its ideological bankruptcy, corruption and violent tendencies. This development has diminished the positive role that religion and religious leaders can play in terms of societal development. Since the colonial times, religion has played a crucial role in terms of shaping political and socio-economic discourses in Zimbabwe. During the colonial period, African traditional religion (espoused by spirit mediums and some traditional chiefs) and Christianity (especially missionary establishments) played a critical role in the context of resisting and dismantling colonial rule leading to Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. This paper therefore seeks to reflect on the phenomenon of religion-politics conflation and the consequent weaponization of religion by the Mnangagwa administration in Zimbabwe. The paper will further highlight the pitfalls of such weaponization as well as offering remedies. In terms of data collection, the paper will rely on desktop research and observation.

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