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Indigenous African Religions (IARs) and the Relational Value of Tolerance: Addressing the evil of violent conflicts in Africa

Jonathan O. Chimakonam


This essay argues that the inherent value of Indigenous African Religions (IARs), which ensures that the belief in different gods does not eclipse the fact of common humanity might be of importance to contemporary Africa plagued by ceaseless conflicts. The IAR ideology contrasts, for example, with that of Christianity which views the Christian God as the one true God and regards those who worship a different God(s) as pagans and gentiles. It also contrasts with the ideology of Islam, which views Allah as the one true God and regards those who worship different God(s) as infidels. The essay claims that social orientation in contemporary Africa is mostly influenced by the divisive ideologies of these two foreign religions that have come to dominate. These divisive ideologies are to a large extent, indirectly responsible for some of the violent conflicts on the continent. This divisive religious orientation bifurcates humanity into in and out-groups that are extended to the social sphere where people from different religious, ethnic and linguistic groups are treated as outsiders and are made targets for attacks like in South Africa and Nigeria today. Further, if we interpret such violent conflicts as evil and consider its source in light of the perennial problem of evil, what would be our response? Using the conversational method, the essay argues that both good and evil are part of the universe, and that if we want more good, then a change from a divisive to a complementary orientation based on the relational values of the IARs is imperative.