During the old good days of African tradition, religion existed almost in every society. The existence of a creator, the maker and giver of all things who lived above the earth in heaven; here in Uganda He was known by different names according to different ethnicity. Banyankole called him Ruhanga/Nyamuhanga, Banyarwanda called him Imana/Rurema, Baganda called him Katonda, Basoga called him Mukama, Banyole called him Were/Nsaye, Luo and Acholi called him Jok, Iteso called him Edeke.
In many cultures it was, however, believed that the evil persons could use black magic to interfere with the good wishes of God and cause ill- health, drought, death or even bareness in the land and among the people.
At a lower level, the idea of God was expressed in the medium such as Emandwa among Banyankole. These were God’s angels particularly to different families and clans and they were easily approachable in the event of need. Each family had a shrine where the family gods were supposed to dwell. Banyankole for instance would offer sacrifices to emandwa in form of offertory and thanks giving. In the event of sickness or misfortune, the family members would perform rituals called okubandwa as a way of supplicating the gods to avert sickness or misfortune. Which is not different from the church in the Old Testament; time and again offerings and sacrifices were made to keep good relationship with the creator.
Many cultures in Africa did not believe that death was a natural phenomenon. According to them, death was attributed to sorcery, misfortune and the spite of the neighbors except in the case of death to an elderly. Natural death was expected at an older age. People found it hard to believe that a young man could die if it was not due to witchcraft and malevolence of other persons. Accordingly, after every death, the persons affected would consult a prophet (omurangi in Runyankole or Nnabi in Luganda) to detect whatever was responsible for causing the death.
In many African cultures the prayer places were in homes where special prayer points, shrines were established and people could talk to their God through medium such as Mandwa among Banyankole and Nyabingi among Banyarwanda as there were angels during the early church.
What is common between the African tradition religion and the in the Old Testament are the presence of a medium such as mandwa Vs angels, places of warship as in homes and the existence of prophets who took special roles such as delivering God’s message, foretelling the future, interpreting dreams and healing.
During those days life was good. People lived in harmony with each other and with their creator. There was peace in every society. Whenever there was cause for alarm, prophets were there to tell the cause and to help find solution.
How did Religion change?
Understanding of religion in Africa came to change during the colonial times by colonial masters who came as Christian missionaries. Because it was hard to achieve their colonial political intentions, they found a way through by playing with religion. And what gave them success were the various services they came with such as education and health services which Africans needed. With this, the colonial missionaries were able to turn the African religion upside-down in a way they wanted.
- The first missionaries set a campaign against each culture’s idea of a creator as they preached One Universal God.
- They campaigned against home based worshipping (in family shrines) and promoted the universal worshipping in one place they called church.
- They campaigned against the existence of prophets/abarangi and all the traditional mediums
- They changed many life styles of Africa and their followers adopted the western ways of life.
- One regrettable teaching was the gospel against polygamy among various African cultures; husbands were taught to abandon their wives and come to church with only one wife; leaving destitute children in the care of nobody. How would you say that this was pleasing before God?
One major mistake they did was to steal religion from Africa to Europe. The Anglican Church headquarters wouldn’t be in England, the Catholic Church headquarters wouldn’t be in Italy. Because religion never started in those countries; it started here in Africa. And this has remained for centuries up to today. At least these headquarters would be in Egypt or Israel.
There was something wrong with colonial missionaries; something still wrong today; a religious leader in Africa to spend a lot of church resources to go to England or Italy to get religious orders about a religion that started in Africa. An Italian or English man to come to Africa, to use African resources to teach Africans about a religion that started from Africa, teaching people who were born in the land of religion Africa. Everything is wrong. Europeans should be coming to Africa to visit the holy land and to learn about religion but not to teach about it. An African religious leader should be going to Europe to spread the gospel, to teach Europeans about religion but not to receive religious orders from the people who originally had no religion.
When you read the bible both the old and new testaments you will find that God started His creation in Africa, religion started here in Africa, Jesus was born in Africa, Jesus’ work was done in Africa, all prophets written in the bible were Africans, all holy places of God are in Africa. Why then, how comes that the religious headquarters are in Europe? Who are they to challenge African ways of warship? What do they know about God and His works? Isn’t it high time they handed over back religion to its owners, the Africans?
The Effects of it all
Since the main goal of colonialists was a political mission which they commissioned through religious means. First they divided Africans along different religious denominations, these differences created a huge impact on African society and still it is. Up to today Africa is still colonized on religious grounds; religion is so much mixed up with politics everywhere in Africa. Religion has lost the meaning it had during the early good days of African tradition. People are detached from their creator; there is no more genuine worshipping. Religion got commercialized and politicized. As a result there is no peace in the world because the intercessors, the prophets call them abarangi in Runyankole were interfered with. God’s angels have no space in Africa, have no rest and they are just wandering over the earth. The world is full of calamity and there is no redress. The God of Africa is not happy at all.
Today is the time Africa should wake up to reclaim their God from the colonial masters, it is time to give God his position in Africa, in our nations and in our homes. It’s time for warship to take its original form, it’s time for prophets to perform their roles as ordained by God, it’s time God’s angels find a place and do their roles among the God’s people, it’s high time God’s prophetic ministry is redeemed. It’s time for divine intervention, it’s time for miraculous occasions, it’s time for healing; it’s time for peace and prosperity in Africa. It is high time Africa embraces a non denomination religion – the African Indigenous Church.