“Rejected Religion” Lives in the Minds of the People: Current Practice of African Religions in Mbeya, Tanzania
Mbeya region is among the regions in Tanzania with many Christian churches. People in Mbeya identify themselves as either Christians or Muslims. Not many freely and openly introduce themselves as followers of African religions. Nevertheless, African religions seem to be practised by a fairly large number of people, some of whom are regarded as pagans and others who profess the new religions [notably Christians and Muslims] in this southern region of Tanzania. This work examines the practices of African traditional religions within Christianity in Mbeya. With the help of the colonial government and missionaries, Christianity expanded in the whole region. In the post-colonial period, Christianity continued to grow with the effort of Africans themselves and those of their Western counterpart. Drawing on oral interviews, archival documents, and secondary sources, this paper examines current practices of African traditional religions in the region. It argues that many post-colonial Christian followers in Mbeya have, to a large extent, remained dual worshippers practising Christianity along with traditional religions manifested in disease healing system, use of charms and witchcraft, birth and naming, handling of a dead body and related burial rituals, respect for the lineage, taboos, non-circumcision for males, drumming and symbols. Regardless of their rejection and regarding them to be sin among Christian followers, such practices have existed for a long time and continue to the present. The tendencies of hiding African religions in Tanzania are also seen in the official declaration demanding religious affiliations and status. The paper notes the need for accommodation and tolerance among the different religions.
Keywords: Rejected Religion, Practice, Traditional African Religions, and Mbeya.