May 2019: The Cross and The Crescent

May 2019: At 36 Essex St, London Ontario.

On April 4th, 2019 Quartz Africa reported: “Africa is set to be a global centre of Christianity for the next 50 years.”[1]  Yomi Kazeem,[2] Quartz’s reporter, insisted that, “there are already more Christians in Africa than any other continent – that’s not going to change soon.” It’s all happening so fast, and it is scary. Mostly, it is the demographic projections from the Pew Research Center that scared the bejesus out of me!

Quartz report reads:

By 2060 six of the countries with the top ten largest Christian population will be in Africa, up from three in 2015, according to a new Pew Research Center report.[3] The projections are in line with the gradual shift that has increasingly seen Christian populations live outside the historical-cultural enters of the religion.

The size of the Christian population in Nigeria alone—already the largest on the continent—is projected to double by 2060. In addition, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya are projected to join the list of countries with the top ten largest Christian populations, replacing Russia, Germany and China.In total, the Christian population in the six African countries on the list alone will account for just under a quarter of the projected global Christian population of three billion people. The upsurge in the African Christian population matches general population growth projections; while around 2.2 billion people could be added to the global population by 2050, more than half of that growth will occur in Africa.[4]

Meanwhile, the decline of Christian population in Europe is especially notable in Britain, where, last year, a survey showed “an unrelenting decline in Church of England and Church of Scotland” numbers. Only 14% of Britons identified as members of the Church of England—a record low. Similarly, Church of Scotland numbers dropped to 18% from 31% in 2002.[5]

In contrast, the spread of Christianity is clearly visible in several African countries with an explosion in the number of church denominations and structures across urban centers and even in rural areas. In some cases, mega-church sites are morphing into cities, complete with housing estates, banks, grocery stores and police stations.[6] Beyond dominant architecture, the prominence of Christianity is often visible in other ways: in Ghana, for instance, small and medium scale businesses are often named based on biblical verses.[7]

The rise of Christianity in Africa is also captured outside the continent. In a reversal from nearly five centuries ago when Christian missionaries first brought the religion to African communities, African preachers, led by “reverse missionaries,”[8] are increasingly taking charge of the gospel in England, as Quartz Africa has reported.[9]

In comparison, while there were three African countries (Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria) among countries with top ten largest Muslim populations in 2015, that number will be reduced to two (Nigeria and Egypt) by 2060.

Nigeria’s religious fault lines are also highlighted in the report as, by 2060, it will be home to the third largest Muslim and Christian populations globally and will be the only country on the list on top ten largest populations for both religions.

Actually, by 2060, that is, if I live that long: to be there really, I will be approaching my late 60s. And, as I type these words, I can’t begin to imagine what the world of “Africa” will be then. “Mbaza Nawe Wibaze?” As the Rwandan saying goes, “Ask Me, then Ask Yourself?” “THINK!” What dangers lie waiting in this future? In the words of journalist Shannon Doyne: “What will become history, and what will be forgotten?”[10] You don’t need formal education or statistics to see and feel the violence that plagues our world today. It has become a self-evident reality of modern life: “the political institutions and religious organizations that are supposed to bring unity are currently the cause of so much fighting across borders and religious lines.”

In his book Violence in Nigeria, the Crisis of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies, Toyin Falola explains that: “It is not difficult to find believers, especially among a number of Islamic sects in dying for one’s religion and for just cause. Arguing self-defence, northern Nigerian Christians have begun to justify their use of violence to protect their lives and defend their faith. Militancy is expressed not only in physical violence but also in strong words.”[11] Fanatics do not bother to reflect upon the implications of foreign religions, traditions and practices for their communities. They accept everything as preached, instructed and taught, and accuse believers of other faiths for not conforming to their faith.

To them the belief in a religion other than theirs runs foul of the injunctions handed down by God through a messenger or a prophet as the case may be. The fanatics see other “believers” as those who have gone astray and who need some sermon or preaching to make them fall in line with their doctrine, which to them is always the best and most reliable basis for redemption on the judgement day … They believe rather wrongly that those who do not share their mode of worship or doctrine of their religion are better dead than alive.[12]

Post-colonial societies without Christianity, therefore, encapsulate the colonial influence on the systems and structures of contemporary Africa. Through these non-Christian states, I will explore opportunities for Africans to push back against 21st century Western influences (on culture, knowledge, norms and standards of living) in support of a project of liberation that involves delinking, or separating from, coloniality and the status quo of modernity. Walter D. Mignolo calls this project “decoloniality” in his article, “Delinking: The Rhetoric of Modernity, the Logic of Coloniality, and the Grammar of Decoloniality.” Mignolo’s aim in the article is a kind of call for awakening for post-colonial societies to reflect critically on the experiences of decolonization and anti-colonial struggles, as well as the “experiences of the damned, the wretched of the earth, into a new epistemic frame.” Mignolo argues that the ex-colonized should reflect on what they were taught, told and instructed to believe in by their former colonial masters[13]. He encourages former colonized people to evaluate and re-evaluate; examine and re-examine; to think and think through; to consider and reconsider the epistemic structure used by the colonizers to encourage feelings of inferiority (self-judgment and self-criticism, which leads to rejection of the self,) and to cultivate subordination, and subjectivity of the colonized populations. While I agree with Mignolo’s generalized aims and his objectives for the project of de-coloniality, I digress from his theories in some respects. I believe, and I insist here, that all arguments for decolonization by scholars and modern intellectuals are powerless if the ongoing impact of colonial religions – such as Christianity – is overlooked. Focusing solely on the specific projects of coloniality and modernity indicates a failure to acknowledge and account for the root causes of Africa’s systemic difficulties in the present day.[14] Imagine the religious wars that will be fought by fundamentalists and fanatics of colonial religions on African soil. Powerful nation states, governments, political institutions and religious organizations will be fighting to protect and expand their hegemony. What will be left for Africa and Africans?

The conflict within my family is evidence of a deepening divide along religious lines that threatens to preserve colonial Africa’s legacy of turmoil and suffering. Demographic projections have already begun to contribute to this religious tension[15]

While longer-term projections are important for governance, they can have dangerous effects when their purpose is misunderstood or misrepresented. Brain-washed, ignorant Christian fanatics toast and drink to the “good news” that Christians outnumber the Muslims. To them, this means that the “gospel of the Kingdom” is spreading to other parts of the world—that the once-lost hearts of non-believers are opening to the grace of “the good Lord” for salvation. On the other hand, Muslims may become alarmed by the prospect of a Christian majority. Consequently, religious fundamentalists are further radicalized in defense of their “threatened” values.

[1] Kazeem, Yomi. (April 4, 2019) “Africa is set to be a global centre of Christianity for the next 50 years”

[2] Kazeem, Yomi is a reporter at Quartz, covering Africa-specific stories on politics and how it intersects with business, innovation, startups and culture.

[3] Jeff Diamant, “The countries with the 10 largest Christian populations and the 10 largest Muslim populations” Pew Research Centre. April 1, 2019.

[4] Kazeem, Yomi “More than half of the world’s population growth will be in Africa by 2050” Quartz Africa. June 29, 2017

[5] Holden, Michael. “Church of England numbers in Britain are at record low: survey.” Reuters. January 15, 2016.

[6] Maclean, Ruth. “Eat, pray, live: the Lagos megachurches building their very own cities” The Guardian. September 11, 2017

[7] Kazeem, Yomi “In rural Ghana, there’s a thin line between your business and your faith” Quartz Africa. June 2, 2016

[8] Kuo, Lily. “Africa’s “reverse missionaries” are bringing Christianity back to the United Kingdom” Quartz Africa. October 11, 2017

[9] Kazeem, Yomi “African-led churches are taking charge of the gospel in England” Quartz Africa. February 4, 2019

[10] Doyne, Shannon. “Thinking like a Historian about current world events” The New York Times, August 26, 2013. Accessed May 23, 2019

[11] Falola, Toyin. Violence in Nigeria: The Crisis of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 1998. (pg. 17)

[12] Saliu Aruna, “Religious Fanaticism,” Times international, 19-25 March 1995, 5. As cited in Falola, Toyin. Violence in Nigeria: The Crisis of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 1998. (pg. 17)

[13] Mignolo “Delinking: The Rhetoric of Modernity, the Logic of Coloniality, and the Grammar of Decoloniality.”

[14] Devaney, Jacob. “White Buffalo Day 2012: A positive Sign” HuffPost, August 27, 2012. Updated

December 6, 2017. Accessed May 23, 2019.

[15] Jeff Diamant, “The countries with the 10 largest Christian populations and the 10 largest Muslim populations”

Published by Gabriel Ndayishimiye

Gabriel Ndayishimiye lives in London, Ontario. He is a writer with a passion to contribute to Black history and literature; and the author of “Run Elvin” (forthcoming), a memoir written for youth from marginalized backgrounds. This book tells Gabriel’s academic/life experiences from refugee camps in East and Southern Africa and now from the metropolis of the western world. The story aims to inspire and motivate such demographic of youth to take up given opportunities to be creative, achieve success, and develop resilience to fight the challenges of life.

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