AFRICA: Africa World Press Guide
compiled and edited by WorldViews
Religion, author Tshishiku Tshibangu has observed, "impregnates the entire texture of individual and commercial life in Africa." In his chapter on "Religion and Social Evolution" in Africa Since 1935 (Mazrui 1993), volume 8 of
UNESCO's General History of Africa series, Tshibangu writes: "The African is profoundly, incurably a believer, a religious person. To him, religion is not just a set of beliefs but a way of life, the basis of culture, identity and moral values. Religion
is an essential part of the tradition that helps to promote both social stability and creative innovation."
Indigenous, Islamic, Christian
Tshibangu's article (chapter 17) identifies and describes the three major strands of religious beliefs in Africa: indigenous (traditional) relig
ions, Christianity, and Islam. An earlier introductory survey, Religions in Africa (Stewart et al. 1984), follows the same three-part focus--one that we have adopted for this chapter.
The twenty essays in Religion in Africa: Experience and Expression (Blakely et al. 1994) provide a scholarly--yet accessible--overview of the varieties of religious experiences and expressions that are rooted in the African continent. The book i
s the fruit of a conference entitled "Religion in Africa: The Variety of Religious Experience in Sub-Saharan Africa" held at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, 22-25 October 1986. Scholars from four continents who study religious expression througho
ut all the major regions of Africa and in the African Diaspora in the Americas gave presentations on an array of topics from multi-disciplinary academic perspectives.
Nairobi University professor J. N. K. Mugambi's undergraduate textbook A Comparative Study of Religions (Mugambi 1993) presents a wide-ranging survey of religions and belief systems both in and outside Africa (from "the religion of indigenous Au
stralians" to "the rise of Zoroastrianism"). Four essays in section 3--all written by S. G. Kibicho, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Nairobi--cover earlier studies of African religion, the nature and structure of African religion,
the conception of God in African religion, and the conceptions of divinities and spirits.
Distribution of belief systems in Africa
African countries in which one belief system is estimated to have the allegiance of 50 percent or more of the population. (Source: Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations: Africa (Gale Research).
African countries in which one belief system claims 50 percent or more of the population as believers
* no belief system having 50 percent of the population as adherents
||Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Togo, Zambia
||Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Equitorial Guinea, Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zimbabwe
||Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Guinea, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisis
||Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania
"The importance of traditional African religion," Tshishiku Tshibangu writes (see Mazrui 1993, p. 505), "goes well beyond what the statistical affiliation figure of 20 percent of the total African population may suggest. For many Christians and Muslims,"
Tshibangu contends, "the basis of moral values still derives more from the old cosmology than from the new beliefs." He cites, as evidence, the continuing respect for ancestors, belief in the continuing involvement of ancestors in the life of their succes
sors, belief in the forces of good and evil that "can be manipulated by direct access to the divinities through prayer and sacrifice, belief in the efficacy of charms and amulets to ward off evil," and, finally, "the vast area of African life which both I
slam and Christianity have invaded but have not succeeded in completely displacing," the area of health and healing.
Kenyan theologian John Mbiti's African Religions and Philosophy (Mbiti 1990) is acknowledged to be the standard work in the field of systematic studies of traditional African religious and philosophical concepts.
African Traditional Religion in Biblical Perspective (Gehman 1993) represents an attempt by a U.S. missionary with more than 30 years' experience in East Africa to search out and understand the positive aspects of African traditional religion in
light of the Christian Scriptures.
Recognized books on the history and development of indigenous African religions include
- African Religions and Philosophy (Mbiti 1970);
- African Traditional Religion: A Definition (Idowu 1975);
- African Traditional Religions in Contemporary Society (Olupona 1991);
- Introduction to African Religions (Mbiti 1975);
- The Origins and Development of African Theology (Muzorewa 1985);
- Religion, Development and African Identity (Petersen 1987); and
- Religion in Africa (Parrinder 1969).
The Atlas of the Arab World: Geopolitics and Society (Boustani and Fargues 1991) is a good starting point for graphic illustrations of the growth of the Islamic faith in nations across the north of Africa. The atlas covers cultural, social, and eco
nomic issues in 21 Arab countries--in the Near and Middle East, North Africa, Mauritania, and the Horn of Africa. Chapter 2 focuses on ethnic groups and religions.
Books that introduce Islam in a comprehensive historical and geographical manner include
- An Introduction to Islam (Waines 1995),
- Unfolding Islam (Stewart 1994), and
- Islam in History: Ideas, People, and Events in the Middle East (Lewis 1993).
Professor Gregory Kozlowski's 100-page introduction to Islam is entitled The Concise History of Islam and the Origin of Its Empires (Kozlowski 1991). Islam's expansion throughout Africa is covered most completely in Islam in History by Pr
ofessor Bernard Lewis (1993).
The following three volumes concentrate on the influence of Islam in various regions of Africa:
- The Heritage of Islam: Women, Religion, and Politics in West Africa (Callaway and Creevey 1994);
- Muslim Identity and Social Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (Brenner 1993), and
- Islamism and Secularism in North Africa (Ruedy 1996).
Country-specific studies of the nature and political impact of the Islamic movement in Egypt, Sudan, and Tunisia are contained in Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Arab World (Ayubi 1991). The growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Egyp
t is examined in Islamic Fundamentalism in Egyptian Politics (Rubin 1990) and Islam: The Fear and the Hope (Boularès 1990).
Recently published reference works on Islam include
- Encyclopedia of Islam (International Union of Academies 1995),
- The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (Esposito 1995), and
- Islamic Desk Reference (von Donzel 1994).
Four recently published books cover the growth of Christianity in Africa:
- A History of Christianity in Africa: From Antiquity to the Present (Isichei 1995);
- The Church in Africa, 1450-1950 (Hastings 1995);
- 2000 Years of Christianity in Africa (Baur 1994); and
- Christianity in Africa: The Renewal of a Non-Western Religion (Bediako 1995).
Orbis Books (Maryknoll, N.Y.) is the foremost publisher of English-language studies about Christianity and Christian theology in Africa. Among their many titles are
- African Cry (Ela 1986);
- The African Synod: Documents, Reflections, Perspectives (Africa Faith and Justice Network 1996);
- African Theology: Inculturation and Liberation (Martey 1993);
- African Theology in Its Social Context (Bujo 1992);
- Faces of Jesus in Africa (Schreiter 1995);
- A Listening Church: Autonomy and Communion in African Churches (Usukwu 1996);
- The Origins and Development of African Theology (Muzorewa 1985);
- Paths of African Theology (Gibellini 1994);
- The Will to Arise: Women, Tradition, and the Church in Africa (Oduyoye and Kanyoro 1992).
In 1995, Willaim B. Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, Mich.)--another publisher with a strong list of English-language titles on this subject--published what it describes as "the first comprehensive survey of Christian theology in Africa to appear in English," t
heologian John Parratt's Reinventing Christianity: African Theology Today (Parratt 1995).
Books that deal with various facets of the engagement of African Christian churches in the political life of their societies include
- The Angels Have Left Us: The Rwanda Tragedy and the Churches (McCullum 1995);
- The Christian Churches and the Democratisation of Africa (Gifford 1995);
- Christianity and Politics in Doe's Liberia (Gifford 1993);
- From Liberation to Reconstruction: African Christian Theology after the Cold War (Mugambi 1995);
- Religion and Politics in East Africa (Hansen and Twaddle 1995); and
- Religion and Politics in Southern Africa (Hallencreutz and Palmberg 1991).
Bibliographies and reference works
See the lengthy bibliographies in Religion in Africa (Blakely et al. 1994) and in Africa Since 1935 (Mazrui 1993) for other books and articles on the subject of African belief systems. See also:
- Bibliography of New Religious Movements in Primal Societies. Volume 1: Black Africa (Turner 1977);
- A Comprehensive Bibliography of Modern African Religious Movements (Mitchell and Turner 1967);
- A. Oded's "A Bibliographic Essay of the History of Islam in Africa" in A Current Bibliography on African Affairs 8, no. 1 (1975);
- Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Partially Annotated Guide (Zoghby 1978); and
- Bibliography in Contextual Theology in Africa (Cochrane et al. 1993).
Background on African belief systems can be found in these reference books:
- The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion (Smith 1995);
- Eerdmans' Handbook to the World's Religions: A Comprehensive Guide (Alexander 1994);
- The Illustrated World's Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions (Smith 1994);
- Larousse Dictionary of Beliefs and Religions: A Comprehensive Outline of Spiritual Concepts from Prehistory to the Present (Goring 1994);
- The Origins of Religions (Ries 1994); and
- A World Religions Reader (Markham 1995).
U.S. churches and Africa
The Africa Office of the National Council of Churches (USA) and the Washington Office on Africa produced Christian Witness for Africa: A Guide for Effective Action in the fall of 1995 in order to encourage informed and effective involvement by U.S.
religious institutions in the formulation of U.S. government policies toward Africa. The packet contains background information, liturgical resources, and advocacy strategies designed "to assist church activists and people of conscience interested in ref
ocusing U.S. assistance policy toward Africa." For information, write the Washington Office on Africa, 110 Maryland Ave., NE, Ste. 112, Washington, DC 20002 USA.
The church engaged: South Africa
Resource materials that concern the involvement of the churches and church people in the struggle against apartheid and the effort to build a new South Africa include:
Books by and about South African church leaders include:
- Being the Church in South Africa Today (Pityana and Villa-Vicencio 1996)
- Civil Disobedience and Beyond: Law, Resistance and Religion in South Africa (Villa-Vicencio 1990)
- God's Wrathful Children: Political Oppression and Christian Ethics (Boesak 1995)
- A Long Struggle: The Involvement of the World Council of Churches in South Africa (Webb 1994)
- Prophetic Christianity and the Liberation Movement in South Africa (Walshe 1995)
- The Road to Rustenburg: The Church Looking Forward to a New South Africa (Alberts and Chikane 1991)
- The Spirit of Freedom: South African Leaders on Religion and Politics (Villa-Vicencio 1996)
- Third Way Theology: Reconciliation, Revolution and Reform in the South African Church During the 1980s (Balcomb 1993)
- Towards a Democratic Future (Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference 1993)
- The Unquestionable Right to be Free: Black Theology from South Africa (Mosala and Tlhagale 1986)
- Beyers Naudé: Pilgrimage of Faith (Ryan 1990)
- If This Is Treason, I Am Guilty (Boesak 1987)
- In Transit: Between the Image of God and the Image of Man (Farisani 1990)
- Priest and Partisan: A South African Journey (Worsnip 1996)
- The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution (Tutu 1994)
- Return to South Africa: The Ecstasy and the Agony (Huddleston 1991)
- The Spirit of Hope: Conversations on Politics, Religion and Values (Villa-Vicencio 1993)
For additional information on the church in South Africa, see South Africa as Apartheid Ends: An Annotated Bibliography with Analytical Introductions (Stultz 1993), pp. 89-93: "Religion and churches."
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