Although they began in the Middle East, both Christianity and Islam have deep roots in Africa. Both faiths grew and spread throughout Africa before gaining popularity elsewhere.
How do we assign nationality to religion? How does a certain nation claim ownership of a religion? Should nations claim ownership of religions?
My first reaction was that religion has no nationality. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized Western Europe plays a big role in Christianity, and by default I tend to think of that as the ONE and ONLY Christianity. African Christianity is as old (or older) than European Christianity, but it is also more unfamiliar to me. To be honest it will take me a while to think of Christianity in Africa as being as authentic as the one I grew up with…but of course I know it is!
The following entry is from students in Mr. Rooney’s World Cultures class as Saint Basil Academy, who researched this Imagine Africa theme as part of the course.
Any argument against the validity of African Christianity is not valid. Christianity has been in Africa for over 1500 years. Also, Christianity in Africa is somewhat unique to the continent. When the religion was first brought there, Africans incorporated elements from some of the more traditional African beliefs into Christianity. If you went to Africa, you would see that their Christian churches and traditions are very different from ours in America.
Islam has been in Africa since around A.D. 800. It was a very important religion to several of the ancient kingdoms. When the rulers of the kingdoms converted to Islam, it affected the government systems and many other aspects of the citizens’ lives. Also, the presence of Islam in Africa led to the Jihad and formation of the Housa-Fulani Empire.
However, what makes a religion “African” or “American” or “European”? If a religion is practiced in multiple places, as these two are, why is it labeled as being specific to a certain area?
The question might be easier to handle when we compare it with a similar questions: –
“Can Mathematics be considered African? (or Indian, or Chinese?)”
“Can the principle of flying an aeroplane be considered Dutch?”
“Can the principle of flying an aeroplane be considered American?”
The first person in modern times to fly a plane may be Dutch or American but the principle itself is universal; you cannot attach a country to the art and principle of flying.
Similarly the first person in modern times to have taught a belief system or a way of life that we now term Christianity may have lived in Palestine; but the belief system or the way of life itself is borderless. Anybody who practices it is practicing Christianity. But then while practicing Christianity you sing a song or beat a drum that is associated with a geographic location, it might be proper to say that you are practicing Christianity in a particular culture.
I don’t think there is anything African in the two religion, they will always remain foreign. It is because of this obvious fact that most Africans lead double lives, worshiping in the churches and Mosques but will still look upon their gods. How many christians are polygamists? How many still consult African witchcraft? The answer is, you can never consider the two African in any way. I did a blog on this; http://sayingsfromafrica.blogspot.com/2012/12/inspirational-african-proverbs-and.html on African gods, I guess I just got another great idea here!