In Defense of African Spirituality

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 22, 2008 — 2 Comments

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, writing for Modern Ghana, explores recent comments made by Major Courage Quashigah, Ghana’s Minister of Health, that urged Christian clergy to stop stripping Ghanaians of their cultural heritage. Akosah-Sarpong decries the suppression of traditional African religion, and supports Quashigah’s call for Christian clergy to emphasize the love of Jesus instead of demonizing traditional spirituality.

“Nowhere in the world is ones traditional spirituality either bastardized or demeaned or kicked around badly as if it has no innate traditional spiritual soul so much than the African’s. The African spirituality, which is non-violent and with no problems of fundamentalism compared to other worldly religions, is so demeaned that even in the eyes of a good number of Africans they see it as “heathen,” “pagan,” “evil,” “fetish,” or “primitive.” And this has impacted negatively on Africa’s progress in all sort of developmental ways to the extent that its elites, who are supposed to know better, are dazed.”

Part of the problem, according to Akosah-Sarpong, isn’t simply Christian (or Muslim) hostility, or post-colonial reverberations (though he certainly acknowledges those elements), but the failure of African religions to modernize and combat associations with malicious occultism. He endorses the advocacy group Afrikania Mission as a way forward for traditional spiritualities in Africa.

“Afrikania is a concept of life and more importantly, a spiritual revolution that aims at creating a new world order based on Amen-ra, positive consciencism and spiritual equilibrium. It is called Afrikania because it is rooted in the Afrikan experience. Its foundation and its goal is the creator. It is the restructuring of the Afrikan traditional concept which is the first recorded religion of mankind and the mother of all religions. This Afrikan environment is the father of science, the cradle of civilization and the place where man first saw light. The Afrikan heritage is a gift for the whole world, after all the races of the world spring from the afrikan race, which began in east Afrika. The experience gained over the years, taught mankind the virtues of love, faith, prudence, justice, courage, temperance, honesty, good citizenship and above all; nation building as a spiritual duty. This is the Afrikan concept. It is neither fetish, pagan, idolatrous animism, ancestor worship, or superstition, but an honest approach to Amen-ra and we are proud to improve upon it for the benefit of Afrika and all mankind.”

In the end both Kofi Akosah-Sarpong and Major Courage Quashigah agree that “no country in this world can develop outside its culture,” and that indigenous religion is an integral part of that culture. Attempts by the dominant monotheisms (both internally and externally) to demonize and eliminate these traditional spiritual paths may in turn hinder the growth of African nations wanting to emerge from poverty and social problem.

Whether clergy in Ghana listen to Quashigah’s pleas for a change in attitude remains to be seen. According to press accounts his exhortations were met with “shrugs of uneasiness”, which doesn’t seem to be a good omen for future cooperation and tolerance.

Jason Pitzl-Waters