Soldiers of Central African Republic (CAR) lynched and killed a suspected rebel in front of several international Journalists, moments after CAR’s new president praises their professionalism. Last March, when the Muslim Leader of the Seleka rebels Michael Djotodia captured Bangui and declared himself President, the Seleka then began attacked Christians across the country and forced President François Bozizé into exile.
When Mr. Djotodia resigned last month, the Christians militias who identified themselves as Anti-Balaka retaliated by killing Muslims at random. The suspected rebel that was lynched was believed to be a supporter of Seleka (Muslim) government. Also, Chad’s largely Muslim contingent has been accused of helping Seleka to massacre Christians.
Religion is the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the late 19th century, the Central Africans identified themselves as a people inseparable by religion, the only thing that separated them was gender. Presently in the country, 50% are Christians with 15% Muslims and the rest upholding indigenous beliefs. The religious diversity among the people of CAR has led to civil war with 200,000 people internally displaced while another 70,000 have fled to neighboring countries.
There are many religions in Africa with Christianity being the largest religion in Sub-Saharan Africa with 57% of the population. Also, more than one in five Christians in the world live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite religions associated with colonialism, religion (especially Christianity) had immense impact on contemporary Africa. Missionaries built schools where a large majority of the first generation of African leaders were educated. Recently in Africa, conflicts that have bedevilled most African milieus is imputed to religious diversities among citizens not just in CAR. This raises the seminal question “has religion (Christianity &Islam) associated with colonialism helped or cursed Africa after independence?”
Religion has had its positives on the continent mainly in helping to create awareness among oppressed people to become conscious that they are of equal value with their oppressors before God. This idea has inspired many Africans to rise up in defense of their freedom or to liberate themselves.
In spite of religion building the ethics and values of African societies, it has had devastating setbacks on Africa’s development. The present day church and some mosques in Africa have distinctly taken on African forms. Present day religion in Africa has become a form of capitalism. Since the religious system is in the hands of the elites, religion is a major tool that is used to convince the masses that if they obey the state and succumb to its ideas, they would be rewarded in their next life. This is what Karl Marx made in a famous statement that “ religion is the opiate of the people”.Religion (especially Christianity) is used to explain to the masses that the life that they live might be harsh but if they become persistent they would be rewarded in their next life. Religion in this way is used today as a social hegemonic structure to exploit people. Recently in Africa, Pastors and other members of the clergy use religion to exploit their members in the form of amassing wealth while their members wallow in entrenched poverty.
Today in Africa, it is very common to see Pastors and various leaders of churches living luxuriously while their members continue to live in agony and low living standards. Most churches and mosques preach to their members to see their leaders as gods. In this way, the members of the churches become vulnerable to various exploitations and undue influences. Recently in South Africa, a preacher man made his congregation to eat grass as he explained to them that that is the only way to be closer to God. Duncan Williams in his speech mentioned that he is the most expensive pastor and that he will not show the pastors he trained, the ways to climb the ladder of success as he has attained. Another pastor was arrested for stealing money belonging to the church and he claimed God instructed him to. Other have acquired private jets, built universities among other things all in the name of God. The question when will this stop?
Religion plays a key role in establishing various norms and standards in which a state should operate on. So in a state where religious diversity is not managed appropriately, it engenders confusion. In the case of CAR, religion (Christianity and Islam) was used as a major tool to control the citizens of the state. Since the various leaders were not able to significantly merge the two religious sects, it precipitated turmoil.
Moreover, different religious ideologies have their own distinct view about how or what to worship. Obviously, the political ideologies of Islam and the liberation theologies put religion at the center of their belief system but Islamism proposes a theocracy, and liberal Islam and various liberation theologies tend toward separation of church and state with religion playing the central role of establishing the principles on which the state should operate. Marxism and most anarchists reject religion altogether while still appreciating that it contains valuable ethical principles. Fascism and natural socialism also reject any political influence of religion but they both believe that religion could be co-opted to support their beliefs.
Religion is pertinent in establishing seminal standards in which the state should operate. Religions have also through education given most people on the African continent a sense of pride and value that the colonial regimes were not interested in creating. As religion develops major standards for the state to depend on religion, should be able to unite countries that divide them. However, in the context of Africa, religion has been a curse after independence. The various states in Africa have failed to manage their regions diversities which has given rise to incessant conflicts and contributed tremendously in retrogressing their developments. Also, religion in Africa today is used as a major exploitative tool by some Pastors and leaders to represses and exploits their fellow men in an attempt to enrich themselves. In our view religion is a curse after independence since it has created a lot of divisions in most African states and moreover providing a major means used by the elites to exploit the masses.
In my honest opinion, I think religions has just brought divisions amongst us. If the hands of time could be turned, I think the religion we should be practicing is L-O-V-E. What a coincidence I am preaching about love just a day after Valentine’s Day. If we had love for each other, I strongly believe the turmoil our neighboring countries are going through would not have begun in the first place. Instead of having huge church buildings that preach about love and don’t even practice them, lets rather practice love as a religion as a way of life.
by Victor Senyo Amegboleza & Albert Mcbell Ninepence