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Of God and the African Indigenous Beliefs
by Hilary Odion Evbayiro 

Two weeks ago, Christians all over the world celebrated the Easter. In
short, it was a very important weekend to them because of the salient
nature of the Easter Sunday. It is salient because it commemorates the
very day Jesus Christ was thought to have risen from the dead thousands of
years ago. That event was and still is a miracle that has never been
duplicated. But whether it actually happened is another thing. Personally,
I cannot vouch for its occurrence because I did not live at that time and
did not witness the miraculous event. I was only told, and perhaps
brainwashed, when growing up as a lad in the Roman Catholic Church, and
forced to believe by faith, without opportunity to even reflect or make
inquiry. There is no question that indoctrination and fideism remain the
very nature and soul of the Christian as well as the other alien religions.

As we know, Christianity is not the only religion in the world. Many
religions abound, just as there are many different people and cultures.
And whether these religions are speaking or preaching anent the same God is
yet to be known. To bring it closer home, we have our own religion. Our
forefathers used it to worship the God of nature, the God of the universe,
and the God of creation. Our forefathers worshipped God before
Christianity and Islam were even brought to us, but the mode of worship of
our ancestors has been reduced to and dubbed a “traditional” religion, a
cheap and denigrating way of describing anything not western or that is
considered contemptibly inferior.

The world has wickedly downgraded and classified the African indigenous
belief as Paganism, Satanism, Occult, Cult, Idol worshipping, and others.
It is only recently, thanks to the work of the Organization of African
Traditional Healers (OATH), that Amazon has agreed to expunge its negative
classification of African traditional religion. In a similar development,
the US Library of Congress has agreed to stop classifying African
traditional religions as cults. The implication before these development is
that the west, especially the Europeans and North Americans, have worked
resolutely to put down Africa and African spiritual worships with highly
degrading ascriptions. The denigrating terms that have been ascribed to
the African religion are not even the issue. The concern is whether the
religious belief of our forefathers is about God and good versus devil and evil.

Every religion is about the worship of the living God, but when it comes to
the African belief system, people hold the annoying conviction that it is
about evil or diabolism. Why should it be this way? Why do Africans have
to embrace alien religions when the people do not see anything good about
ours? What makes Christianity, Islam, or whatever the true religion? In
the bible, God said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the
God of Jacob.” That God did not say, “I am the God of the universe or the
earth. Why should the God Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshipped be
transformed into the God of the whole universe? Why should the God
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshipped has to be the God every person on
earth has to worship?

It is not surprising to know that our problem has been and will continue to
be our inveterate yen for those things that are exotic to the untold
disparagement of the African cultural system. We tend to be ashamed to
worship the way our forefathers did. Some of us are even fiercely and
vehemently opposed to knowing something about our indigenous religion just
because some strangers came from far a field and condemned everything about
us. As a testimony to the unspeakable loathing we have for our indigenous
beliefs, about two or so years ago in the wake of an order of the Oba of
Benin, Omo N'Oba N'Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, that a ritual be performed to
appease the gods and avert the needless accidental dead of people at the
Ikpoba River bridge in Benin City, most people, especially the so-called
African Christians, went hysterical. They called the action barbaric. In
short, the ritual was met with vicious condemnation from some elements
among the Christian community, who think they are
 the only ones with the keys and passports to heaven. They claimed the
ritual was a firm declaration of idol worshiping and that the only way to
peace and tranquility is through Jesus Christ.

Why must we continue to spurn the way of serving God that our ancestors did? Even when Pope John Paul II have found reasons to publicly apologize to Africans and wrote to accept that African indigenous beliefs are not cults or idol worshiping, some of the African people, especially the
so-called Christians, still think and believe otherwise. They think thus because they are still heeding the deceptive teachings of the early Christians missionaries who attempted to destroy our religion and imposed
theirs on us. They claimed we were worshiping idols and asked us to do away with them. They claimed we were worshipping man-made objects and asked us to throw them away, but turned around and gave us a crafted cross of silver or gold for us to worship and wear around our necks and claimed it is symbolic of Jesus Christ on the cross. They asked us to cast away our traditional religious garments and gave us their colored robes to wear instead.

They claimed that our various religious
 practices or liturgies are fetish, yet they will always sprinkle drops of
holy water and spread the smoke of incense or something, just as our
fathers used to do to invoke the good spirits or drive away the evil ones,
around their places of worship. They are yet to prove whether they fetched
the so-called holy water from the Sea of Galilee or River Jordan in which
Jesus Christ was putatively baptized by John the Baptist. They forbid us
from consuming the flesh and blood of animals we use for worship, yet they
will give us bread and wine in church and claim they are the “flesh and
blood” of Jesus Christ.

They painted in the bible the idea of a perfect, loving God, yet they wrote
in the same bible that the perfect God is a jealous God. They wrote in the
bible too that the same perfect God chose only the nation of Israel, of all
the nations of the earth, as his favorite. The same people wrote in the
bible that the same perfect God asked the Israelites to go and dwell in the
promise land he chose for them. We are told in the bible that the same
perfect God helped the Israelites to destroy every living thing in their
path as they proceeded to settle in the promise land. The remnants and
fallouts of that sojourn are what we are still experiencing today in the
unending confusion surrounding the nation of Israel and its neighbors. The
interesting questions in all of these are: why would a perfect God be so
destructive? Why would a perfect God choose only one of the nations of the
earth as favorite? Did the perfect God not know that would breed jealousy,
animosity, or enmity? If there  were reasons for the perfect God to have a
favorite among the nations thus created, what then was, or is still, the reason
for the creation of the other nations in the first place? Why not create only the favorite?
Why would a perfect God who, as we are told in the bible, created
everything in the universe be at the same time fervently destructive as
exemplified in his extermination of people by the Israelites in the bible?

Our indigenous belief system or religion is not about evil? There is
nothing wrong with the African way of serving God? The Christian or Moslem
way is not the only way of knowing and serving God? We should not be
afraid or ashamed to serve God the way our forefathers did. I am not
against whatever religion anyone wants to belong, but I am violently and
vehemently opposed to the worshippers of alien religions impinging on our
right to see and worship God the way we deem fit.