The effects of Colonialism on the Religions of Africa (RELS 348)

A professor of African History, Dr. Ochonu has recently documented his thoughts for the Global Post (“The roots of Nigeria’s religious and ethnic conflict,” Dr. Moses Ochonu, March 10, 2014) by discussing the history of colonialism in Nigeria. The British colonized Nigeria by the early 1900s. There was always a divide between the North and South. What the British decided was to bring them together for their own economical benefit. This resulted in a century long dispute that has continued to this day. What was then just a colonial battle has now become a political-religious feud. Northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim, while the South is mostly Christian. The fight for resources, political power, formation of laws, societal rulings have been under immense scrutiny over the years. Thousands of innocent Nigerians have been killed in the midst of the many disputes between these two religious groups. The leaders of both groups have come together many times to resolve and discuss options for the future. Yet, to no avail does the future look any brighter than it was before. The Muslims have gained control over many aspects of the Political decision-making and this has continued to aggravate their Christian counterparts. The Muslims had enforced sharia law over all of Northern Nigeria. This sprouted fear within many Christians living there at the time. Those Christians ended up being tortured. The Christians tried to do the same thing down South as a retributive strategy.

Dr. Onchonu’s article on the roots of the Nigerian colonialism has affected my thinking of how a society should handle religion within their socio-political realms. I agree with Dr. Ochonu’s thought that colonialism did not create this dispute between the Christians and Muslims it only made it worse. It added fuel to the already fierce fire. Before colonialism, Christians and Muslims in Nigeria raised questions over leadership in the political context. This continued well past the colonization of Nigeria. Prior to colonialism, Nigeria was divided into countless ethnic and religious tribes. Each tribe had a way of life, quite distinct from one another. The tribes would get into conflicts with one another due to cultural and religious differences and they would have no higher enforcement to bring these actions to a halt. ( Post-colonialism, the tribes were crumpled together to create two distinctive groups in Nigeria. In my opinion, a society should not be run on the basis of religious beliefs. The British left a mark on Nigeria, something the oppressed will remember for ages to come. Colonialism should’ve helped improve the socio-political status of Nigeria, but this was not the case. I think that if religion were not a factor, Nigeria would have become a powerful state like of what the British had thought to initiate. Colonizing a state is one step. Creating a civilized colony with a proper political influence is another. When colonizing a society, it is important to have set the proper foundations for the people to abide by. Mixing religion with politics can lead to some fierce arguments. And with a dose of colonialism, you are now creating something mystical. Yet, even in today’s society we do not learn from our past and continue to do what we think is best. For example, the current dispute of Sharia law and its implementation within the United Kingdom has raised many eyebrows. Now, in the UK, it was implemented only within the Muslim community. According to the article by Divya Talwar of BBC UK, Muslims in the UK fight for justice in their own religious way. Yet, in Nigeria, Sharia Law ended up being imposed on even the non-Muslims (Christians). Nonetheless, this battle still seems endless. Now you may ask why I bought Sharia Law into the context. Well, Dr. Ochonu mentions that sharia law was implemented only to a certain extent within Nigeria for valid reasons. Yet, I ask why they were imposed on Christians? So now the question is: to what extent do we let our religions control the fate of contemporary post-colonial societies?

This article ties in really well with the University of Calgary’s Religious Studies 348 class. Dr. Hexham enlightened us within the lecture of colonialism can affect a society. It is a make or break moment. This is due to the fact that the infrastructure, resources and political system of the country are reliant on it. For the Nigerians, not only did colonialism prove to be lethal in their historical context but it also solidified their belief that when it comes to religion: mine is always above yours.



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