Passing on skills for a better understanding of African Traditional Religions

Fourth day of the Working Session on African Traditional Religions at Kungoni Centre, Malawi

Understanding African Traditional Religions (ATRs) entails willingness to be with people. It also calls for rigorous academic work, with acknowledged scientific methods.  Research methods and modern technology are necessary tools to explore and understand better ATRs. Which type of skills?

Our today’s discussion was on how to make use of practical skills, research methods and modern technology. We need such skills to discover, understand and make known the cultural heritage imbedded in ATRs. Practical skills focus on people’s (human) actions, i.e., their behaviour and actions that affect or are affected by great passages of life such as practices at the time of birth and death, observing religious and cultural expressions during happy or sad moments, etc. Research methods investigate patterns of African thinking and understanding of good and evil, cosmology, hermeneutics, theodicy, what it means to be a “human person” (‘Ubuntu’ concept), etc. Rigorous methods point to research gaps – what have not been discovered, answered or explored – in the realm of ATRs. Modern technology helps in creating a repertory of African cultural heritage. There are so many materials on ATRs that need to be well preserved according to modern standards. Technological is tool to preserve what we already have. It is also used to discover what we do not know yet.

Early missionaries had awe-inspiring skills. They left us a legacy. We learnt a lot from them. It is time we gradually pass on to younger generations what we received and know about ATRs. «Happiness is not perfected until it’s shared.» Let us share what we have, know and cherish about the African heritage. Those being born in our times crave for identity and authenticity. Are we ready to help them discover who they really are?

By: Prosper Harelimana, M.Afr.