Friday, 23 March 2012

Burkina Faso - Religion and Religious Tolerance - Part VIII

Religious Tolerance – Burkina Faso; an Example for the World
There is saying that in Burkina Faso, there are 50% Muslims, 50% Christians, and 100% Animists. What this basically means is that regardless of your current faith, everyone pays homage and respects the ancestral spiritual traditions of animism. To not believe in God, is an anomaly, one that will conjure up mixed reactions from a number of people.
There are mosques and churches scattered prominently all over the city, and there are some in the most inconspicuous places. There is a grand/central mosque, located in the city centre, which is an establishment that receives a lot of the local people, particularly for the main prayer on the Friday. The central church, which is a catholic church, is located approximately 5 minutes from the central Mosque, and receives equal attention on their days of worship.There is a beauty that the world could learn from in the way that people of different faiths come together on the principles of humanity and are tolerant, as well as respectful of one another.             On special occasions or festivities, the members of the different faith groups will come together to celebrate. If it is Eid - the Muslim festival, the festivities are held with the priests, reverends and congregation of the churches. If it is Christmas or Easter, equally, the Imams and Muslims will celebrate alongside the Christians. Inter-religious marriages or unions are not forbidden, quite the opposite, it is very much the norm and happens on many occasions. I met a Muslim man who told me that he married his wife, who is Christian, and that he understands her faith is important to her, so he supports her in this. He will take her to prayer meetings and worships, and join in with her during the large festivities. I found this quite endearing.
Furthermore, you will see on many occasions, Muslims lined up in various locations during prayer times about to start a prayer. Sometimes they are stood adjacent to a Church, yet still there is no hostility, unlike that which I have witnessed in my hometown of London. You’ll also see, in random locations, an individual about to prostrate in prayer. The most captivating memory I have of this example was when I saw a young Muslim woman prayer alongside the motorway during the hustle and bustle of the evening rush hour traffic. In that sea of tumult and turmoil, she had found her island of peace.
The level of religious tolerance and inter-religious unity, is the highest I have witnessed anywhere in the world. Though this example has gone oblivious to the world, it is really one that the world could learn from.
It is often the case, particularly in the west – at least through my personal experience – that those of different religious backgrounds are often in competition regarding whose path or teaching is the “truth” and who are the “chosen” children of God. This is not the case in Burkina Faso, not even in the slightest. In my humble opinion, I think this is down to the homage and reverence those of all faiths pay to the animist tradition (in keeping with the earlier saying mentioned at the start of this piece), because one of the fundamental beliefs of the animist tradition is that of the harmony of nature and of unity all living things, including human beings. The animist tradition, nonetheless, is widely misunderstood, particularly amongst the younger generation, who hold the misconception that animists do not believe in God and practice witchcraft, which is absolutely not the case, in fact, it is quite the contrary. One must, however, understand how this misconception was formed, and history reveals this was as a result of the invasion that came with the religious conquests included in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the trans-Saharan slave trade, which did in fact convert thousands if not millions into Islam or Christianity, all the while demonising the earliest spiritualist animist traditions. The consequence of this is that as generations passed, the sacred knowledge became diluted and the fear and demonisation become more potent, which completely transformed the conception regarding the animist or spiritualist tradition, and made it seem as though animism is a practise of witchcraft or sorcery.
I will write in more detail regarding animism and traditional Afrikan spirituality, in part two of this blog piece. As well as looking at the Afrikan origins and influence of religion.


  1. This is a nice piece brother. Lookign forward to reading part two about animism. Are you religious yourself?

  2. I am fascinated by this piece JJ...I look forward to the next one already!
    It would be great to turn this into a book...for us, hungry for knowledge of this kind!
    Blessings from London,

    Ps. seems that people from Burkina Faso have understood life, religion and respect for different beliefs and practices...enough to put us at shame over here and most of the world. I am amazed!

  3. Very Interesting read JJ definitely sharing this...awaiting for part two

  4. Awesome J, will tweet this now... Miss you man. oi allow the religious integration man, come and integrate with some Cottage Chicken back in London innit bruuuvv!.. see you soon man :)

  5. Beautiful piece, if only Nigerians could take a cue and realise religion isn't to drive us apart but bring us together. Can hardly wait for the other part, definitely sharing this!

  6. Nice piece of writing, I'm definitively looking forward to your next part. Just few quick questions;
    For clarification: when you said that "The animist tradition, nonetheless, is widely misunderstood, particularly amongst the younger generation" 1) I take it that this does not include the Burkina young people?

    I honestly I'm struggling within myself to see how this functions, its probably due to my misconception of animist or perhaps my misunderstanding of the 2 religions. It almost sounds too perfect to me, too perfect people although a vegetarian can live with carnivorous. Please tell us more!

    2)Could you tell me how their judiciary system functions; does any of the religion influence it? if yes, Equally? And how? If no, I take it it's a complete animist system? Which will mean procedures are either passed on differently 4 either religion or they are completely objective? The reason why I ask this is because each religion will have different opinion on how to treat a person that steals 4 example. I'll ask u more abt the animists after u've told us more abt it.

    I know its difficult to write all the details, but could you please, include the opinion and view points (an interview my help) of both people from both religion as that will give me a more objective respective in regards to the Burkina people view on Animists.

    3)Now do they deal with homosexuallism? And those who practice them? Please also try to find me a story of any one converted believer from either religion to another and ask them the W questions; how, why and what was their family and friend reaction? I'm really interested in how they deal with difficult situations and their deep opinion. You could inbox me at coheritier@gmail.com.
    You know who I am, cedric.

    I hve to say though I find it hard to imagine the above harmony between d 2 religion; I have been looking at what Christianity really is in its purest sense, especially by observing Christ's life and wat I'm starting to believe is the two law that governs the principles of God, love God and and Love your neighbour as you love yourself. I found lot of manly made principles and law which are often influenced by culture and misinterpretation or misconception what is required from a Christian. This two law would perhaps validate such harmony from a Christian angle but people will have to be at least close to perfection.

  7. Thank you Nicholas. That's a good question. I'm not "religious" per se, as in I don't subscribe exclusively to a particular faith, however, I do believe in a divine higher order. Thanks for reading and feeding back.

    Rachelle, I know right. It was so inspiring to see. It really is an example that the rest of the world could learn from.

    Thanks Henny, part two coming next week.

    Ziad, you're a joka Thanks man, catch you in a little while.

    Judith, not even just Nigeria but the whole world! what's happening in Nigeria is really saddening, they could benefit to learn from this example. Thanks for feeding back and sharing.

  8. Coheritier,

    wow, thanks for feeding back, I wasn't expecting that much of a response and if I'm honest, having read through it, you've asked a lot of me. Those are the kind of questions that I'd be answer if I was here specifically to research animism, but to be honest with you I havent that much time. Though I'll try and cover what I can.

    Firstly, 1) that does include the Burkinabe younger generation.

    If you are struggling to understand how this harmony could exist, you have to be objective. Forget what you've been told about animism, and the religions, and do your own research. Or better yet, find away to visit.

    The principles of love your God and love your neighbour existed before Christianity, even in animism, those concepts are central. As the fundamentals of animism is to love and live with harmony with all living things.
    Christianity came into harmony began to existed, officially, from 325AD, and by then, these concepts had long existed in traditional African spirituality.

    I will try my best to answer some of the questions that you have asked, but bare in mind, It will be difficult and I probably will not be able to as I am not here specifically researching animism.

  9. Great piece JJ. Of course Christianity not only pitches itself against Islam as the "truth". Christianity does it within itself....Catholic v Protestant, and those have caused as much division in Europe and among missionaries in Africa fighting along religious and imperial lines.
    Also Britain's own ancient pre Christian past also has this connection with nature (druids etc). I'm no expert but again, Christianity has demonised that aspect of european history.

    The Ethiopian Christians (whose religion spread from the birthplace of Christ, not through European missionaries) united with Ethiopian Muslims to fight off Portuguese Christian missionaries, Again demonstrating tolerance to local difference.

    As I always say, the European version of Christianity is only prevalent around the world, because European "morality" spread through the invention of gun and sail.

  10. Thanks Rob. Very insightful response, and excellent points about Christianity within itself, i.e. catholic vs protestants and early europe versions of animism in the form of druids, really interesting.
    morality spread through the invention of gun and sail, the sad but true fact.

  11. Telling it how it is. Thanks you got me reminiscing.