WHY AFRICANS ARE ASHAMED OF THEIR
ANCESTRY’S RELIGIOUS PRACTICE
Professor Jean-Paul Pougala explains why Africans have abandoned their religious practice in the past to embrace invader’s religions and philosophies. But now they are retaking it.
Africa is the cradle of civilization. That means that African are the fathers of all the 7 billion of men and women populating the entire planet. This claim was scientifically proven through DNA. The consequence of the link between Africa and its children scattered all over the world is the exportation of African religious practice to every country in the world. It is indeed the only universal religion that did not need any bishop, any missionary, any Imam to be present everywhere. It is the only religious that was spread to every continent without a single word, a proselytizing word or a vain propaganda aiming at looking for converter people, without any death, without violence? The African religion is therefore the mother of all religion not only because it is the oldest but only because it is the one that best resist to the time, space and uprising of new religions that do every in its power to get rid of the African religion. But why are African themselves giving the wrong impression to be ashamed of their ancestry’s beliefs?
A – AFRICAN INTELLECTUALS ARE GUILTY
In a theatre performance published in 1946 entitled: Malatesta, Henry de Montherlant (1865-1972) wrote: “Long life to my enemies! At least they cannot betray me ”. And Bernard Werber added: “Only your true friends know where to strike to inflict the most pain”. The African people have been betrayed by its own intellectuals. The African religion was cheaply sold for a piece of bread by its own children who were meant to protect it. While Africa was still under European occupation, the most African intellectuals spent their time to encourage this occupation.
The most famous of them was Leopold Sedar Senghor. This is what he advised in 1945 to catholic missionaries to dominate its people; he cited a myth, a sentence of a circular letter written a century ago (1847) by the priest Libermann to its missionaries sent in Africa: “Be black with black people in order to win over them in Jesus-Christ”. That humiliating and rubbish sentence does not deserve to be commented any further. But Senghor did not stop there. He later added: “The role of Catholicism is to clearly remove someone from its family, ancestry’s God; (…) Through Christ, God became human, who therefore blocks Catholicism to fall under formalistic abstraction. M. Griaule will tell me that I am speaking from a believer’s point of view and it is not wrong”. Alleluia. In order words, to Senghor, individuality and European selfishness should replace the African solidarity and the generosity, should be substituted to the “African family” that judges like a formalistic abstraction: an illusion, a utopia kept by the tradition, by the conformity. To him, a brother should be a biological brother, a cousin should be truly a biological son of the direct uncle or the aunt and not this African “formalistic abstraction” that he hates so much.
But the worst is what follows “remove ancestry’s God” especially when he puts it in a relation with the previous Libermann’s quote “Be black with the black people”. Senghor was a very clever man. He succeeded where missionaries always failed: by recommending to get rid of the Christian ancestry’s God, his idea was to promote this monotheistic concept to finally dismiss the African religion by the European one. He knew that for Africans there is no God. Their ancestries are their gods, that is their Gods and they are the ones to be worshipped. By offering a God to African people is to strip their ancestries from their divinity seats. It is like to cut the link between an African and a death; It is like kill him, as he ceases to be himself. African people are stopping being themselves unbeknownst to them and without having a clue of what they have become. The only certainty is that they have become very weak because they have to wait for the new master to tell them what they are and what they will become.
It is that role that some will call “betrayer”, others “good black”, and others “colonial support”, or “vice prefect of France”, that the vast majority of Africans have decided to adopt due to the huge reward that Senghor got back then: Head of State. The follow-up of the crisis in Ivory Coast in 2011 is there to back up this claim. What really hurts is to imagine that at the same period many African intellectuals gathered in Dakar, Senegal to study like Dr Felix Moumie from Cameroon from 1945 until 1947 and most probably spoke to their elder brother Senghor (who was the Senegal deputy at the French National Assembly) on ways to force France to acknowledge the independence of African countries. We know how the story ended up: assassination of these Africans who were too clever to imagine a free Africa, maybe too naïve to think about a free Africa. (Dr Moumie died after poisoned by France at the age of 35).
The intellectuals who are those who draw everywhere the architecture and adjustment of religious beliefs by writing for example holy books should be the reference to believers, in Africa, failed to complete their duties. They are the first to be locked in religious offers provided by their colleagues from other continents.
These new types of absentees, often too educated , left behind them a huge mess abused by other ideas, imported beliefs and that are fiercely fighting to claim this abandoned territory, hence the ongoing violence between Christians and Muslims on Christmas day 2011 and the following days in Nigeria.
B – RELIGION AND SOVEREIGNITY: THE CASE OF JAPAN
Can we really claim to be independent and adopt religions imposed by violence and that come with submission and slavery? Japan epitomisez the practice of the workship of the deads which originated from Africa as the state religion in 1868, the Shinto priests were paid by the government, each citizen must register as a member of a nearby sanctuary. This move seriously hampered the progress of Christianity in Japan.
In the 5th century of our era, Japanese felt a cultural complex towards their Chinese neighbours who had a well structure and strong religion: Confucianism that had been in place for 8 centuries whereas Japanese still practised a religion originated from Africa which was a mess. Each Japanese village practised the worship of the dead without a proper synergy between them and different rites. In order to avoid that Japanese massively converted to this new form of foreign religion, Japanese intellectuals gathered and clearly ask themselves the following question: “can we develop ourselves and claim to be a powerful and strong country and waved our spiritual identity to others? Can we claim to be patriot and be ashamed of our ancestry’s religions?”. The answer to these two questions is NO. But what should we do then? The people need to know and are always eager to welcome any idea that comes from abroad. The answer has now been found: gather and harmonize the worship of ancestry in different villages, in order to stop different communities practising different religions which could actually be the door through which any foreign religion can sneak in. That harmonization is known as Shintoism. The mount Fuji therefore became on a national scale, the reference holy mount of this new religion. In the 21st century, the Japanese from Tokyo event went further in their religious practice by dedicating an entire room in their house, for those who can afford it, to the worship of ancestry to who many gifts are offered including meat, bread, and water. A Japanese is in touch on a daily basis with his dead, his ancestry. The consequence is that he is in harmony with himself and others. The country is the third world biggest economy without the same level of violence that is observed in Western countries.
C- AND AFRICA?
Christianity and Islam are religions introduced in Africa through violence. The African religion has proved to be a religious of peace, its origin is the harmony between the members of the society. It is a religion of dialogue and forgiveness. This is why despite the distress caused to Africans by the Europeans and Autochthons from America, by Autochthons from Australia and Papua, none of these people has ever developed the feeling of revenge and not even hatred in the long run. The African religion does not teach ethics, it is moral and ethical. Its advocates, convinced that they become gods after their deaths, claim responsible for the behaviours every day.
The African youth should be prepared to reclaim its fate because their elders have pitifully failed even where there is no need to be clever to progress: religion.
To avoid scenarios of Christian and Islamic terrorism in the African continent, in my humble point of view, there is only one sustainable solution, Africa must start its dismantling of truth that came from abroad without any effect on its environment, and ceased to be ashamed of its ancestral beliefs, by offering itself to stupid practice which is believed the African religion, but which is in fact a forged copy of the original. Our governments should be brave to put specialists into work to reshape the religion by adapting it to the modern context.
D – IS THE AFRICAN RELIGION BACKWARDS?
The religion is rather in advance compared to monotheistic religions such as Islam and Christianity because it has succeeded to completely erase the fear of the death. The fact that deaths become divinities allows to some extent the regulation of possible uprisings, thereby guaranteeing the security of the entire community as everyone should be self-regulated and avoid radicalisation as he knows that his father, mother, and grand-father and so forth will soon become a divinity. Bombs of Christians and Muslims become useless and voided as we know that the person that we plan to kill will become a divinity who can punish us if we wicked or protect us from every evil, that we sing and promise to ourselves to never do it. In other words, in the African religion, the advocate cannot request to be protected from a fault that he has committed, thereby deterring to recourse to these evil means to solve his problems. This aspect sharply contrasts with Islam and Christianity that promise to those who trespass against other people a total forgiveness, on the basis of an unconditional forgiveness, all you need to do is say a few prayers and the damage is repaired. Nothing stops you from doing it again.
Religion that is meant to be an closed question, is important to people to express themselves. The Pope John Paul II spent so much energy and effort to include Christianity in the European Treaty as the building block of the European cultural identity. One can only agree with him as he was just trying to pay tribute to his ancestors. The true question was to find out the place claimed by African Christians in that European cultural identity? The shame that has some Africans of their ancestors has turned the remain of their belief into a folklore in the search of some naive souls to be fooled by some stupid revelations about their future. States should take control in Africa to draw the line marking the difference between the good sides of the religious mythology of our ancestors and the scramble for money that is hampering all layers of the traditional African society with witchcraft in every meal and the unfair accusations of enemies chosen to bear the blame of all fault that can happen.
E- IN AFRICA LIKE IN JAPAN
As explained earlier, Japanese Shinto is a variant of the African religion. The difference between Japan and African is that in Japan, the intellectuals were not ashamed of their ancestors’ beliefs. It is a direct communication with a dead that nothing can replace. A Japanese takes his serenity from his dead to which he worships every day with whom he is in touch and feels an inner peace with himself and the entire society. It is the same scenario that we observe in many African villages where the room of the deaths is replaced by the holy forest under which many sacrifices are offered, palm oil poured on the ground or a piece of goat that will be enjoyed by ants.
F- WHICH AFRICAN RELIGION IN THE 21st CENTURY
At the time where we are experiencing a strong urbanization of Africa, with villages about to become cities, African States should consult each other to harmonize the African religious offer, with the creation in all African cities of a kind of botanic garden that will be used as shrine and for sacrifice that African believers and other people from other continents that join to enjoy a peaceful break by listening to the noise of birds or an artificial river so important in African tradition as a purification tool.
If on the contrary nothing is done, this religious decline of African people will continue to create this no man’s land, a kind of shop of souls where all jackals of the world will come to hunt their preys to feed their boxes and glories with sometimes a side effect between the predators like the sad events registered in Abuja, Nigeria on Christmas day and the following days for the revenge.
Africa has nothing to do with battles to position any imported religion. Without the religion of ancestors, the spiritual journey in which many Africans live for many years, will always be an element of social imbalance and cultural decline. The more a state allows imported religions that it cannot control the harder it is becoming to manage your citizens on a daily basis.
G- WHAT SOCIETY MODEL FOR AN AFRICA SOON PROSPERED?
Africa will become in the years to come one of the most powerful economic in the world. The religion that we are using will shape the society in which we want to live. The 2 main religions that we have imported have common things which are against our interests:
– Fatalism: Africans who have suffered from forced labour tend to mix work and explanation of punishment and submission. If a religion can console it by awarding all the causes to a single god. Our main priority is to get people into work, convince the young people to like working. It is to encourage our young peoples to create their own work to be the master of their own fate. To Africa, the fatalism of these two religions is disturbing.
– The victory of someone on the society or the community. The extreme levels of wealth and poverty can be observed in places like New-York and Dubai without bothering anybody. Poverty is even appraised as a virtue. Would God prefer poor people over rich ones? In any case, these two religions need poor people for rich to have the opportunity to help by giving back a fraction of their wealth. Our goal in Africa is to run away from poverty by all means.
– Lack of patriot act: the Japanese debts are totally swollen up by Japanese companies which in their Shinto, do not let an outsider to come to their rescue financially, at the time where in the West, some of their own citizens are speculating over the collapse of their own countries who are in fact betting on the entire decline. The day they learn that they could earn a few extra dollars in addition to relocating their industries to China, they all rush to close their companies in the West without caring about the damage that they are causing on the same society that has given them all their wealth and power. The most ridiculous of all is that even states have been involved in this game. We have notice the French government, shareholders in a big company, relocate the administration and accountability departments to India and therefore many French people lost their jobs.
Is this the kind of development that we need in Africa? I do not think so. We must go back to our ancestors’ religious in order to reclaim this ancestral solidarity that used to our strength and set aside the balance of our society even during the period of oppression of European occupation. The prosperity of the African continent will only be effective and steady if everybody is involved like an entire village. We should stop adopting developing models that we can control and most importantly models that are not controlled even by the person who bring it over, due to the deep economic crisis in he finds himself in, and create our own development model starting from our villages, by starting to turn our companies into the first production circle and sharing of our wealth. Our cities will only follow the nice wave hence created and controlled.
If we do not get back to our origins, the gap between the flourishing economy and a pocket of poor people will be inevitable. Selfishness of monotheist religions in which nobody is accountable for his own actions only to God has brought about the Money God.
Africans who live in Europe have heard at least once this saying: “you are not like the others, you are more clever”. How do most Christians and Muslims react? They feel flattered. They feel elected and most of the time, they make a meal of it. On the other hand, those who practise the worship of the deaths react by indignation. Because we are part of those who are less clever, as we are the ones to be insulted as in our beliefs, we are nothing in our group, we can be very successful in our lives, but as long as our image is tarnished, we are also tarnished. European jails are full of Africans who have committed only one crime “illegal immigration” and the other Africans who are legally residents in those countries or who have been granted citizenship think that they are not concerned with any immigration issue. Mistake. Every time, we should always look back to our roots, in our traditions and beliefs in order to explain what is going on. We quickly understand that these illegal immigrants are a part of ourselves. Who are we then? We are what our family is? We are what our country is? We are what our continent is? If it is poor then we are poor as well. If it is humbled so we are.
When you betray your ancestors, you can betray everything. Those who are ashamed of their ancestors are an indication of those on which we can put the hope of African rebirth. Africa will soon be part of those whose voice counts in the world. Will it be there proudly? Will African languages be there? Will it ever exist a strong Africa without its religion?
Jean-Paul Pougala is a Cameroonian citizen, Director of the Institute of Geostrategic Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org www.pougala.org