The last of the Abrahamic religions to come to black Africa was Judaism. The Islamic religion made inroads especially in the areas exposed to trade with Arabs by land much earlier than the Christian which inundated parts that were mainly in close proximity to the coast, as the European harbingers came mainly via that route.
Before this time, these African people’s practiced their own religions without any intention to proselytize their own people who refused to, or their neighbours who probably had gods and ancestors they worshipped. Even when they went to war, religion wasn’t at the back of their minds neither was an intention to convert their captives, though captives from such wars may be sacrificed to the gods of the victorious party for granting them victory.
The Europeans who many years back were considered barbarians by civilizations of yore, now considered it trite to call civilizations in Africa, which predated theirs barbaric. Unfortunately, Africans in a mixture of awe cum reverence at the sight of what may have appeared as flawless human beings, were not only just willing to learn what these ones intended to teach, or brought them, also wanted to be like them as best they could, in contrast to what most Asians did with the advent of the Europeans in their midst, which amongst others included a “shutting out” at different period of their history of the Europeans from the general public, while the rulers regulated what was made available to the people, ensuring for the better part of the time that their culture, traditions and religions were for the better part of history remained intact with little or no foreign influence.
Black Africans readily shoved off their religions for that of foreigners. In the North of Nigeria, amongst the Muslims, it’s almost impossible to find beyond their language any part of their culture that has no root in Islam, talk more of the relic of any form of religion or religious practices that predated the advent of the Arabs.
In adopting these foreign religions over and against theirs, Africans have tended to become holier than those who introduced them to same, leading to the intolerance and fanaticism we often find with religious Africans, as evidenced with the African arm of the Anglican communion splitting from it’s western arm led by the Nigerian branch because the western arm decided to allow gay bishops within it’s ranks. And to punish people involved in gay and lesbian relationships, they readily referred to Biblical and Quranic instructions which advocate capital punishment in some instances for those found committing SODOMY.
African religions were relegated by Africans claiming they were backward, and without even considering their merits, threw the baby out with the bath water.
They cited as reasons, the ritual killings and human sacrifices inherent in some of Africa’s religions, while on the one hand these religions were been introduced in to Africa, on the other hand Africa’s resources, of which the greatest of them all were humans, were been taken out mainly for slavery. The Arabs far before the Europeans and also beyond them, with the connivance of African paramount chiefs, kings, emirs and the likes.
Once African states became INDEPENDENT they adopted these foreign religions (even languages as official languages) as their state religions, or when secular, recognized them as religions practiced within the boundary of their states with no mention of the native religions, save for Republique Du Benin where VOODOO is recognized as state religion. They then go further to sponsor pilgrimages to so called HOLY LANDS, indirectly inferring that their lands could be unholy. Some of these pilgrims not only make these journeys to pray for solutions to issues that ail them (like they couldn’t be heard by the ALMIGHTY in their homeground), but go ahead to bring along with them the soil of those countries, even mustard seed and olive oil from Israel for instance, which they intend to assist their prayers with, when they are back home.
Religion is the most divisive of element in the African polity, even far above ethnicity. In Nigeria religion determines lots of things. Even holidays are scheduled in such a way that the number of Christian holidays are equal to that of Muslim holidays, even when some of these holidays aren’t observed elsewhere in the world. The Christians go on pilgrimage with state sponsored pilgrimage boards even when it isn’t a biblical obligation or lacking Christian scriptural basis just because the Muslims, whose religious pillars requires pilgrimage of them are doing it. Some state governments in Nigeria would rather spend money to transport people to Mecca than build social amenities and infrastructure that’ll better the lives of the people. Majek Fashek said it better than all when he sang “RELIGION IS POLITICS”.
It is interesting to note that Nigeria currently ranks as one of the world’s most corrupt, yet you would find a church and/or a mosque on almost any street that you visit, besides that, you’d hear families praying so loudly, even someone preaching early in the morning on the street or at the Bus Stop. The biggest buildings around are churches and mosques over schools, hospitals or factories and industries. In the midst of all these is the grueling level of poverty in the midst of so much plenty. The poor are told to expect their reward in heaven, as it would be easier for camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. These rich who will not make heaven will not include gluttonous clergy who feed on the tithe of gullible miracle-seeking Nigerians and Africans, nor the corrupt members in government or private business owners whose tithe could conveniently build the same church ten times over, or the school the general overseers of these churches now own (the fees of which are far above the reach of common members of these same churches), and including their jets.
Though, prayers to the Gods of both religions are made at official functions in Nigeria, both groups doubt that the other (KAFFIR/UNBELIEVER) will make heaven, Islamic zealots even go a step further in the Northern part of Nigeria to kill and main Christians and animists in their midst at the slightest provocation (even when such provocation wasn’t caused by a Nigerian, as in the case of the Danish cartoonist and the American joker who made a film Muslims worldwide found insulting), invoking JIHAD which ordinarily shouldn’t find a place in our civilization in fighting for and on behalf of a God and religion (something even high priests of so called native Gods won’t fathom as they are cock sure that their God will avenge actions directed against it and insults thrown at it), while the Christians in keeping with injunctions of Christ turn the other cheek, allowing for injustice against them to be perpetrated over and over again. All of these, way before extremists groups like Boko Haram became active in Nigeria, Al-Shabab in Kenya, Uganda and of course Somalia amongst many others in Africa who readily cling to injunctions in the Quran as very relevant to how government should be run today in seeking to impose a strict version of Islamic sharia, not only in Muslim majority areas, but even to include non-Muslim areas too as the bokosites are currently agitating for in Nigeria and the Shabab in Somalia, backed by international terrorist networks funded by hardline clerics and adherents as well as moderates who hardly bother to find out what their ZAKAT funds or finances, and above all elect to be quiet when the minority fanatics bring their religion to disrepute when they engage in acts of terrorism on behalf of their religion.
Judaism which is also fast gaining a foot in Africa like Christianity and Islam has a history that’s also replete with violence, as recorded in the Torah with tales of annihilation of enemies almost like the mainstay there. Christians may have shed the toga of violence but the CRUSADES and the INQUISITION remain a stain on it’s European past, and it’s contribution to slavery in and of Africans, an eternal stain and shame. The minority status of African Jews appear to temper them for now, though you can only imagine the future when they become majority with the belief they currently propagate as the CHOSEN ONES.
Disillusioned by the Abrahamic religions, many Africans have looked to the East for THE WAY, meditating and following the way of peace as best they could. Again, those aren’t without defect as violence by Hinduists against minority Muslims in India is widely documented, while the actions of Buddhists instigated by a Buddhist priest of acclaim in Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims makes the peace loving nature and demeanour of the Dalai Lama look like it’s made “only for TV”.
The religion doesn’t make the man, it hardly does. It didn’t make our forefathers and it hasn’t made us any better for abandoning the ways of our fathers for the NEW ways. Suicidals, Homicidals and Genocidals will find cause in religion of whatever kind, to kill or maim themselves or their fellow man as directed by their God, but in reflecting on our humanity, we will find in religion the basis to LOVE our neighbours, just as we do ourselves.