‘African cultures still neglected’

2010-10-21 11:21

Traditional African cultures are practised to their minimum due to “neglect and suppression ” by colonial and post-colonial regimes, Constitutional Court Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke said today.

“The African renaissance has done much to restore African traditional religions and cultures.

However, the inequality between African religions and cultures and mainline religions such as Christianity and Islam still persist,” he said at the University of Johannesburg.

He was speaking at the public endorsement of the South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms.

The current state of African cultures and religions was understood in context of the colonial and post-colonial history. Power relations in the colonial state did not foster observing indigenous African religions and cultures.

“Thus a conversion to the Christian faith became a predictor, if not a marker of upward social mobility.”

Quoting academics, Moseneke said that due to foreign perceptions religion on the African continent had largely been “generalised”, thus minimising indigenous systems to “animism and ancestral worship”.

Attempts to restore respect for African beliefs had been made by academics through writings and reviews of traditional leaders.

Moseneke said academics explained why African religions had “fallen easy victims” to other religions. Rapid urbanisation was one reason.

“Urban life makes people to be withdrawn from their past.

Those who are resident in the cities are prevented by law, which bars them from practising certain rituals such as slaughtering of livestock or even keeping them in their homes for such proposes.”

Another explanation was that traditional religion had in the past been classified as “improper” and this was contributing to their demise.

Moseneke fell short of endorsing the charter, saying it may one day be argued before the court in which he presides.

However he welcomed the initiative, saying it was “vital” to give the country’s Constitution life.

“This implies a certain level of public ownership of our democracy and the protections, freedoms and rights it promises all of us.”

Moseneke said despite the country’s “historical deficit”, the current rights to freedom of religion and culture implied protection from unequal treatment by the state.

“Any public validation of one religion or religious community to the neglect and detriment of others is not to be countenanced by our current constitutional arrangement and present day social norms.”

Representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and African traditional faiths all publicly endorsed the charter, which had been some five years in the making.?

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