Daily Archives: 9 February 2011

Naipaul on Religious Conversion in Nigeria

From The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief, by V. S. Naipaul (Knopf, 2010), p. 79:

Adesina’s father was born in 1904. To understand a little of his history was to understand the important history of conversion (to Islam or Christianity) in Nigeria. He did not go to school. He converted first to Catholicism, but he was unhappy with it. He didn’t understand the church service, which was in Latin. Later he met Arabs who had come to northern Nigeria with the trans-Sahara trade. These Arabs were teachers and missionaries. They translated the Koran into Yoruba, and they also preached in Yoruba. This was much easier for Adesina’s father and he converted to Islam. He always wished after that to be a good Muslim; he didn’t think Adesina was a good Muslim, and so he didn’t eat in Adesina’s house. But he was open-minded. He let people in the family read the Bible and he liked to debate with friends who were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It seems from this that religion had become a kind of intellectual activity, perhaps the only one, in the newly educated house. Adesina’s father’s younger brother stayed a Christian, while the third brother remained firm in the traditional African religion. Adesina, growing up, had the full range of available Nigerian belief to choose from. He was technically a Muslim, following his father, but he liked the uncle who practised the traditional religion because this uncle was a great one for sacrifices and in that house Adesina was always given meat from the sacrifices to eat. His parents disapproved and beat him, but still he went to the unconverted uncle’s house. He would go and watch the sacrifices, eat his meat, and come home to a beating.

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Christianity Growing Fast in Africa

Last Sunday’s Charlotte Observer reported on A religious revolution in Africa described by Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom: The Rise of Global Christianity, who spoke at Westminster Presbyterian Church there. Here are a few statistics from that talk.

In 1900, Europe and North America accounted for about 85 percent of the world’s Christians. By 2050, that number will have shrunk to about 25 percent.

During the same period, he said the number of Christians in Africa have, well, skyrocketed seems too tame a word. In 1900, there were 10 million; in 2000, 363 million. By 2015, Jenkins expects 500 million. And, by 2050, he predicted that Africa would become the first continent to have 1 billion Christians. Put another way: One of every three Christians in the world will be African – and that’s not counting the Africans who will have moved to the United States or Europe.

In the 20th century, about half of the people on the African continent moved from a tribal or pagan religion to either Christianity or Islam. And, Jenkins added, “Christians outpaced Muslims considerably” – by a margin of about 4 to 1.

The Welsh-born Jenkins, a professor at Penn State and Baylor whose books are lauded by both conservative evangelicals and liberal scholars, was brought to town by Union Presbyterian Seminary at Charlotte….

In 1900, Jenkins said, Europeans outnumbered Africans 3-1. But by 2050, he said, there will be three Africans for every European.

Meanwhile, in Europe, population is stagnant. In Italy, the median age is 40, Jenkins said. In Uganda, it’s 14.

And any growth in the ranks of the religious in Europe – the continent that was the capital of Christianity for millennia – tends to come from migrants: Muslims from Turkey or Pakistan and Christians from Africa or the Caribbean.

via RealClearReligion

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