Religion in Africa

 

Religion in Africa

What are the major religions in Africa? Christianity and Islam are the two major religions. The percentage of the people who do not practice in Christianity or Islam practice traditional or folk-lore religions.

According to the World Book Encyclopedia, Islam is the  largest religion in Africa. The population is 47% Muslim. This accounts for 1/4 of the world’s Muslim population. Islam’s history in Africa stems from Prophet Muhammad, whose early disciples migrated to Abyssinia in fear of persecution from the pagan Arabs.

Abuja National Mosque in Nigeria, Africa
Abuja National Mosque in Nigeria, Africa

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Christianity is the largest religion, and is also the other predominate religion on the continent. According to Wikipedia,

“Christianity existed in Ethiopia before the rule of King Ezana the Great of the Kingdom of Axum, but the religion took a strong foot hold when it was declared a state religion in 330 AD, becoming one of the first Christian nations. The earliest and best known reference to the introduction of Christianity to Africa is mentioned in the Christian Bible‘s Acts of the Apostles, and pertains to the evangelist Phillip’s conversion of an Ethiopian traveler in the 1st Century AD. Although the Bible refers to them as Ethiopians, scholars have argued that Ethiopia was a common term encompassing the area South-Southeast of Egypt.”

The Hanging Church and Christianity in Africa
The Hanging Church and Christianity in Africa

Traditional religions in Africa are difficult to summarize because the diversity of African cultures, but they do have some characteristics in common. According to Wikipedia, “Generally, they are oral rather than scriptural, include belief in a supreme being, belief in spirits and other divinities, veneration of ancestors, use of magic, and traditional medicine. The role of humanity is generally seen as one of harmonizing nature with the supernatural.”

Approximately 10% of the population practice traditional religions that have been passed down through the generations orally and can be found through art, rituals and festivals, beliefs and customs, names of people and places, songs and dances, proverbs, and myths.

Folk religion exists outside the official doctrine and practices and consists of ethnic or religious regional customs. It has been defined as “the totality of all those views and practices of religion that exist among the people apart from and alongside the strictly theological and liturgical forms of the official religion.”

 

Folk religions in Africa - Voodo Altar
Folk religions in Africa – Voodo Altar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juneteenth Official Holiday

 

Emancipation Day Celebration
Emancipation Day Celebration

Recently I learned something I was not familiar with,  the official holiday Juneteenth. Celebrated on June 19th, it marks the end of slavery in the United States.  It has been a tradition in the African American community since the late 19th century. Considered a state holiday or special day of observance in 42 of the states, the 8 states that do not recognize it are Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.

The popularity of the holiday has varied over the years.  In the early 20th century there was a decline in the Juneteenth celebrations because of economical and social forces.  During the Depression, many blacks were forced off farms and into cities to find work.  The employers in urban environments were less likely to permit leave for the celebrations. During the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the celebrations were considered a reminder of the historical struggle of their ancestors and declined because of this. In 1968, Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s Poor People’s March call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor.   Afterwards many of these attendees returned home and initiated Juneteenth official holiday celebrations in their communities. During the 1980s and 1990s  the Juneteenth popularity continued to grow.  African American communities and organizations throughout the country have an interest to see that the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten and recognize roots tying back to Texas soil from which all remaining American slaves were finally granted their freedom.

Ashton Villa, Galveston, Texas - where the proclamation was read from the balcony
Ashton Villa, Galveston, Texas – where the proclamation was read from the balcony

 

 

 

 

Education in Africa

Education in Africa

What are the challenges for education in Africa?  I have wondered about this and have heard of various charities, including Oprah, that are opening schools and reaching out to Africa to help establish educational priorities. Being a former educator, I was wondering what are the statistics and facts concerning this.

I was surprised to learn that Africa is the fastest urbanizing continent in the world and by the year 2030, half of its
population will be living and working in towns and cities. There are definite challenges facing Africa though. According to the International Development Research Centre (IDRC)1.UNESCO2 and World Bank3:

“Although literacy rates have greatly improved in Africa over the last few decades, approximately 40% of Africans over the age of 15, and 50% of women above the age of 25 remain illiterate.

Illiteracy among individuals over the age of 15 stands at 41 per cent; gender disparity in education prevails in 75 per cent of countries.In the period 2000–06, Seychelles had the highest adult literacy rate (92%); Mali and Burkina Faso had the lowest (24%).

 Early childhood development is, in most countries, left to private sector actors primarily working in urban areas in aid of more advantaged social groups. 

 Almost 50% of countries may not attain the goal of universal primary education by 2015; nearly 40 million children are not going to school.

 Liberia has the lowest primary student-teacher ratio of 19; in Mozambique the ratio is 67. Cape Verde has the highest gross enrollment rate in secondary education (80%); Niger has the lowest (11%).

 Enrollment in lower secondary school rose to 46% in 2003 from 28% in 1991. The gross secondary school enrollment rate exceeds 20% in half of the countries, yet remains below 8 per cent in in 10 countries.”

 

Amani School, Kenya Africa
Amani School, Kenya Africa

Approximately ten years ago, the daughter of a close friend of mine from high school started a small school in Dianti Beach, Kenya, Africa.  As it was explained to me, the Amani school was to meet the need for those children that had been kept out of public school because they could not afford the fees and were behind for their grade level. I became friends with Consolata Muysawa, one of the teachers and we exchanged our students art work.

The story for the Amani School has progressed with great strides.  In the last 10 year the school has expanded from very modest beginnings of a thatch roof on four poles to four permanent buildings that contain a nursery, two kindergarten classes, primary education up to grade 5.  There are adult education courses in the evenings. In addition to reading and writing in both English and Swahili, the students are taught math, social studies, art and physical education. The property is also home to Maweni Village’s only fresh water well, three sanitary latrines. There is a kitchen that enables Amani’s free lunch program. Just recently, a clinic was opened in the village which affords free medical care to all students of the Amani School. There is a continued need for support for the Amani School and other educational charities and programs in Africa, but you can make a difference by donating and helping spread awareness.

African Culture

Africa is a country rich in culture and natural beauty. Its’ history dates back over  5 million years ago as the birthplace of the human species. Diversity is widespread across the continent. Many different languages are spoken and there are hundreds of distinct religions.  People live in a variety of different types of dwellings and there is a range of economic activities.

African masks
African masks

According to Africaguide.com, “Over the centuries, people from other parts of the world have migrated to Africa and settled there. Historically, Arabs have been the most numerous immigrants. Starting in the 7th century AD, they crossed into North Africa from the Middle East, bringing the religion of Islam with them. A later movement of Arabs into East and Central Africa occurred in the 19th century. Europeans first settled in Africa in the mid-17th century near the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern end of the continent. More Europeans immigrated during the subsequent colonial period, particularly to present-day South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Algeria. South Asians also arrived during colonial times. Their descendants, often referred to as Indians, are found largely in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa.”

African shield
African shield

Cultural activity in Africa is centered around the family and the ethnic group. religious and social patterns are reinforced by art, music and oral literature. Although the westernized minority was first rejected by African traditional culture. a cultural revival occurred. There is support by most African nations for national dance and music groups and museums.  Artists and writers are supported to a lesser degree.