Pragmatic Sedăqâ in Nehemiah: Reconciling African Perspectives of Justice and Morality
It has variously been acknowledged that immigrant religions (Christianity and Islam) in Africa, rather than enhancing conscience and morality, have tended to merely exacerbate religious rituals and drive conscience and morality far away from the African society (Knitter & Muzaffar, 2002). The indigenous African society had been administered by instant justice, supervised by the potent and inherently ubiquitous, inescapable deities in the African milieu. This situation formed an incorruptible judicial system which planted a living, conscious fear of crime in the African and formed the basis for a deeply rooted morality. The immigrant religions present the idea of deferred punishment and reward (eschatology) which is completely alien to Africa, and which, in any case, dislodged the African notion of instant justice, until morality finally faded away from the African conscience and consciousness. The Book of Nehemiah presents a perspective of justice ( צ (ְד קָ הָ as response to the criminal obstruction of societal aspirations, which is in line with the African indigenous pragmatic orientation that yielded instant result and enabled the project of post-exilic reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem to be accomplished. This paper employs a phenomenological perspective in examining justice and morality in Africa in the pre- and postimmigrant religions dispensations, and attempts a reconstruction of the failing conscience and morality in the contemporary African society, using Nigeria in particular as the domain of the study.