Wetenschap - 1 februari 1996

Traditional religion a factor for change

Traditional religion a factor for change

During the process of colonisation in Africa large parts of the population were converted to Christianity. The oppression of traditional religion and the abolition of its symbols and rituals had far-reaching effects, including the destruction of existing organisational structures of kinship and leadership. This led to repercussions in the organisation of agricultural production. The role of traditional African religions in the development of Africa was the main topic of a discussion evening on January 25th, organised by Studium Generale.

During this second evening of a series of three lectures on African concepts of development, Toni Kofi presented some common concepts of traditional religions in Africa and their role in society. Kofi, an former minister in Ghana, illustrated the importance of traditional religion in agricultural production. Rituals accompany events like ploughing, sowing and harvest, thus regulating daily life to a high degree. Kofi stresses that it is not a matter of good or bad that old religions are replaced with new rituals and symbols. However, it takes a long time for them to take root, and for people to adapt and incorporate a new religion. According to Kofi, traditional African religion could be a contributing factor to development and this should be taken into account by development workers. A critic in the audience argued that, on the contrary, traditional religion forms a hindrance to change.

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