The traditional religions of most Africans altered significantly as a result of colonial rule. Colonial rulers interfered with the African way of worship. Where the modes of worship conflicted with those of the colonialists, restrictions were placed on religious practice. African cultures were seen as primitive and were gradually impoverished through neglect and suppression by colonial hooligans.
As the Roman empire expanded into Africa, the conversion of Africans to follow a monotheistic faith such as Christianity started as far back as AD 300 under the rule of Constantine, the Roman emperor. Christianity was to become a dominant religion during the Roman empire, spreading across the North of Africa and the rest of Africa.
Polytheism, which was at the core of African faith, was beginning to be undermined by the spread of Christianity; Islam was also gaining traction and spreading in North Africa and Asia at an alarming rate. This made the Romans edgy as they saw the new religion about to displace them from their still tenuous position.
Many of those converted to Islam were not only those of indigenous beliefs but Christians. This gave rise to the crusades in AD 1096, a series of wars by Christians to win back “their” holy lands from Muslims; such crusades were brutal acts by greedy religious leaders of the West.
Later the Christian missionaries travelled through Africa, working tirelessly to replace, by hook or by crook, both indigenous beliefs and Islam with Christianity. They came to Africa armed with Bibles in one hand and lethal weapons in the other. Christianity thrived under colonialism and, together with Islam, became a dominant religion in Africa.
Colonialism succeeded not only in intruding the religious beliefs of Africans and replacing them with a foreign religion of Christianity, but also — as we very well know — both the politics and economics of Africans were hijacked and looted through colonial thuggery.
When Africa gained independence from colonial tyranny, it was political independence and as Africans we remained largely economically dependent on former colonial ruffians. Scores of years later that has not changed significantly. On the part of religion there has been no movement to liberate ourselves from undue foreign influences. Africans appear to have completely abandoned their indigenous religions, although to a limited to extent many practice certain cultural beliefs — these, however, play second fiddle to Christianity and Islam.
What defies logic is the choice of Africans to continue following Christianity in the modern day, when in fact Jews — who we would have expected to be Christians, since Jesus Christ was a Jew — largely follow Judaism. Of about seven million Jews in Israel, only just more than 2% are Christians. Why do Africans follow Christianity when a significant number of Jews themselves do not follow this religion nor see Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Messiah?
The rebirth of Africa has become even more urgent under growing recolonialisation of Africa under the false guise of globalisation. Africans need to reclaim their religion and culture, and discard many of those which were imposed on them, by embracing Afrocentricism as the essential element of the African renaissance as popularised by President Thabo Mbeki in recent times.
Mbeki remarked: “An essential and necessary element of the African renaissance is that we all must take it as our task to encourage she [Africa] who carries this leaden weight to rebel, to assert the principality of her humanity — the fact that she, in the first instance, is not a beast of burden, but a human and African being.
“An entire epoch in human history, the epoch of colonialism and white foreign rule, progressed to its ultimate historical burial grounds because, from Morocco and Algeria to Guinea Bissau and Senegal, from Ghana and Nigeria to Tanzania and Kenya, from the Congo and Angola to Zimbabwe and South Africa, the Africans dared to stand up to say the new must be born, whatever the sacrifice we have to make — Africa must be free!”