Elizabeth Sperber, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University and one of the most creative young scholars today in the study of religion and politics, posts on the political dynamics created by Born Again Christians in Nigeria:
When western journalists cover religion and politics in sub-Saharan Africa, they tend to focus on politicized Islam. News about Boko Haram’s violence in northern Nigeria, for instance, has dominated recent reporting on religion and politics in the region. Yet, in Nigeria as in other sub-Saharan countries, Christians and adherents of African traditional religions are also engaged in dynamic and increasingly politically relevant movements. In fact, the region’s fastest growing religious groups are born again Christian (see an influential Pew Forum study). These movements are increasingly visible in the public sphere.
Moreover, in many parts of Nigeria, religious conflict has arisen not as a result of conservative Muslim movements, but rather due to the aggressive evangelization of Muslim areas by ‘militant’ Nigerian born again Christians. Siyan Oyeweso (Osun State University) presented an important paper on this topic at the Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association last weekend. He was joined by Insa Nolte (University of Birmingham) and Olukoya Joseph Ogen (Osun State University), who presented preliminary findings from a joint, five-year study of religious encounter in southwest Nigeria. Nolte and Ogen’s findings explore the infuence of local Pentecostal movements on “traditional” religionists in the region. Taken together, these papers underscore the complexity, dynamism, and political significance of religion in Nigeria, even in areas far from the headline news of Boko Haram.