I’m not religious but I believe religion has enriched my life.
I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria in what might be considered a typical African family home. It was a two story house with a three-bedroom flat on the top floor, and another similar flat on ground level. In the back compound there were two one-bedroom flats, one which with time became an office. All spaces were connected by a spiral staircase in the centre of a compound around us.
My family, which consisted of my dad, my mum and I, lived on the top floor. Below us, lived my dad’s elder sister and two of my cousins, her son and daughter. The one-bedroom flats were inhabited in turns by various young uncles and aunties and their families. Eventually when one of the flats became my aunty’s office, the other became the dwelling of grandmama.
The house was also cohabited by workers. Our nightwatch, Moussa, slept on a mat, in a small cubicle which also was his shop, from where he sold everyday groceries, and which was perfumed with incenses from Northern Nigeria. Behind the office there was another small room for grandmama’s caretaker. There were drivers, carpenters, apprentices, house-helps…
In other words, the house was always full of people, and everyone single one was religious.
However, hardly anyone shared the same religious faith. My dad is a Muslim just like grandmama was, with beliefs slightly different from Moussa’s, who also was Muslim. My Aunty was raised Catholic Christian. My mum was raised Protestant Christian. I was raised to build my own relationship with God. I will never forget the precious moments during evening prayers when I would ask my mum the meaning behind our words and she would let me in on her personal interpretations, and why it is important to have those.
All these religions are just metaphors for the strategy of man coping with the vast unknown ~ Wole Soyinka
When I was seven years old I asked my dad if I was Muslim because he was. He explained to me that Yoruba tradition was one of acceptance, and that the main thing in life was to have faith. I later learned that in the corpus of Ifá (the Yoruba doctrine), there are verses which deal with Islam and those that deal with Christianity. There is for example the ‘myth of Moremi’, where a mother (Moremi) sacrifices her son to save her village. Moremi, is in fact a derivative of Mary, and a lovely anecdote of the accommodating nature of Ifá. Anyway, after my conversation with my dad, I decided that I wanted to be Roman Catholic. The following Sunday, I arrived at the breakfast table wearing my church dress, and announced that I would like to follow my dad’s sister to her church.
I can’t remember how many church sessions I attended, but needless to say my childhood surroundings planted a connection with faith in me making me everlastingly interested in the spirituality of the human individual. Perhaps also because of the many layers of religion present in my young life, at an adult age I reclined from them all, whilst still maintaining respect for religion.
As part of my ongoing quest to build my own relationship with God, I’ve chosen to learn about the big religions, as well as the ones that have been labelled by the West as ‘evil’.
Ifá Orisha tradition, which gave birth to Santeria, Candomble and Voudoun and is practiced by millions all over the world still, bears many truths as does the philosophy of Buddhism, and Islam, Judaism, Christianity etc. Choosing one religion feels to me like choosing to build a house with only a hammer.
With religious intolerance shaping current times, I return to consider my own religious background. The world is changing metaphysically. Countries that used to be powerless are becoming influential and access to information is blurring borders. Those who have held power for centuries are unwilling to accept this natural progress and I believe that there is a link with this sense of loosing power, and anti-Islamic sentiment.
In my childhood home we embraced and learnt from each other’s religions. Eid el-Fitr was as much of a celebration for my Christian family, as Easter was for my muslim family.
The Yoruba’s say ~ A lion does not face peril from a leopard. That is to say, if you come from a place of strength, then why be fearful of that which you consider weaker.
The fear that leads people to want to burn Quran’s, where is that rooted?
this was a powerful and wonderfully written story. you are so blessed in that you experienced so many unique and wonderful faiths, characters and cultures as a young child. it is during these years that seeds are planted and allowed to flourish and grow.
i’m so glad to know you
As a child I never questioned all the cultures and traditions around me, the questions and confusion came as a young adult. Now however, gratitude 🙂
Thank you for your comment, the feeling is mutual kind friend.
ps did you get my email? I wasn’t sure it went through..
I did. I sent you a reply 🙂
Oh no, I think I missed that one. I’ll check through my emails or pls resend if you’ve still got it. Either way, have a fab weekend sis!
Very interesting read. I really like the Yoruba quote at the end. I’ll use it someday [;o)
God keep blessing you!
That quote is wonderful – it applies to so much in life! Use it!
thank you for reading and blessings to you as well.
I love the way you write Mimmi 🙂 and this picture of you is adorable lol much luv to you sis muuaaa 🙂
Marita, so nice to see you here 🙂
thank you, kisses and tight hugs
Totally powerful post here. Thank you, I needed to read something like this on a Sunday.
I must say my experiences with religion have led me to somewhat reject it in favour of finding my own personal path to God. But that has actually meant reading more of my bible and other religious texts than I ever did before, so I agree, its a powerful binding force.
At the same time, the leaders and power hungry (media hungry in the case of our Qu’ran burner) zealots at the head of these religions do not have my respect at all, which is a shame.
Thanks for popping by my blog. 🙂 I also think we have some ‘real world’ friends in common, quelle surprise!
I shall send you an email so we can evaluate our 3(naija) degrees of separation.
thanks for stopping by as well. It’s wonderful to read that you found your personal path to God, that’s what I think matters.
Lovely post! I agree with everything you have said. I was just thinking today about how I grew up hearing 3 languages in the house after having a convo with my best friend yesterday about how I dpn’t think anyone has found the blueprint for living life and he said I think like that because I have had a life of exposure both on the continent and abroad. You would think with the current plethora of media and its affordances people would be empowered with knowledge. Unfortunately studies have shown that people look for information to further justify their beliefs therefore making them more narrow-minded :(. It is so sad that people are not taking advantage and learning to understand and accept/ agree to disagree.
that’s a thought – the more access we have to information the more narrow minded we become because we can tailor-make our experience almost..
i think that’s very true in way too large of an extent
thanks for sharing
this is moving. isn’t it ironic that the more ‘free we appear, the more intolerant we actually are.
take America for instance where Freedom of Religion is clearly written into the consitituion yet intolerance abounds. I suppose what existed before 9.11 was passive intolerance where muslims were ‘allowed’ to be muslim as long as they kept it seperate from the mainstream. After 9.11. the passiveness became sheer hatred and will never relent .
that is my issue with ‘tolerance’ i feel like in alot of ways it becomes a PC substitute for our ‘real’ feelings. it is as if you are simply ‘tolerating’ the person until they mess up.where did all this hate come from right? that’s b/c it was there the whole time but no one wanted to tackle it. most people wld rather be ignorant than talk honestly about religion and their beliefs. how can you die for somethign when you can’t even talk about it?
what is lacking really is an honest conversation about what it is that we are mad about. when it comes to religion, what do most people think? We are socialized to ‘tolerate’ instead of ‘understand’ and ‘respect’. you can’t tolerate what you don’t really understand is how i see it.
the burning of the koran have little to do with ‘GOD’ or even religious beliefs, it has to do with the repressed hatred that for centuries and decades have been passed of as tolerance. ppl hate that which they don’t understand.i wouldn’t be even mad if his reasoning was sound.Sure people renounced his actions in public but deep down how did they really feel about it? the collective consensus seems to be anything that is not christian is wrong.
think about the fact that in a recent poll most 1 in 4 still believe that Obama is a muslim. while everyone is wasting their breathe arguing about whether or not he is, no one seems to want to deal with the real issue. What if he was a Muslim? then what? every time the issue is brought up that question is noticeably absent. what would be the worst thing if the leader of the free world was indeed muslim. that Americans could displace their ignorance about a few fringe muslims toward an entire people seems ridiculous right? but that is the American reality and sure ppl laugh at the ignorance but most people are really that close minded or even worse. it is a typical ‘us’ v them mentality. the same way that the muslims in Jos have been slaughtering christians for ages now, i bet you if this wasn’t the ‘free’ world that shit will be happening in the US except in reverse.people seem to forget that America is essentially a Christian nation pretending to be tolerant. When even politicians can’t seem to seperate their faith from their political view ,you know things will get out of hand.
i wish people will stop trying to speak for God and let Him speak for himself. i wish those who ‘know’ better will stop using the ones who don’t know to further their cause. our socialization has become so intertwined with our religious indoctrination that most people can’t seem to tell the difference.everyone thinks they have the right religion at the end of the day, someone’s holy book will have to get burned. it is a battle that can only be worn with reason and sometimes religion requires a complete suspension of reason. in the name of religion, men will continue to justify hatred and kill each other, forgoiing their own humanity for the supposed glorification of something else.
As loNG as we continue asking the wrong questions, nothing will ever change, the problem will merely get displaced. the only thing is when Muslims do it , it is EVIL, when Christians do it it is a SIN.
there is a stark difference here the ‘Devil’ is in the details
This is SO true. AMEN! It’s as though the word muslim is synonymous with terrorist, as much as they try to deny that.
Again, I could almost just post this as a new post. Hmm, would you like to guest post? Email.
A wonderful testimony.
For a country founded on the precept of religious intolerance, there is much ignorance in the United States emanating around religion.
A co-worker the other day told me re: incidences of people of the Muslim faith being openly harassed in their places of employ. Have the harassers not heard of hate crimes legislation? Unless they’ve been living under the proverbial rock, one can go to jail for such offenses.
Absolutely! It’s amazing that all legislation seems to be down the drain whenever it comes to the anti-islamic sentiment. Even the very founding of the muslim prayer near ground zero room should not even have been discussed at a political and legislative level! sigh. thanks for the comment
Another thought provoking post Minna! And that’s such a sweet photograph!
It is great that you were exposed to so many different religions as a child 😀 My parents studied other religions but viewed themselves as Christians even though they didn’t go to Church when we were children but instead sent us with a neighbour. Over the years, we all started going to Church together and though I feel like I’ve always been a Christian, now that I consciously choose my religion, I genuinely believe it’s the right one for me 😀
I haven’t studied much about religion, just a bit of Islam in addition to Christianity but the general belief I have garnered from that and conversations with people from other religions is that most religions advocate peace, love and tolerance but unfortunately most religions are also prone to extremist practitioners.
If there’s one good thing to come out of this Quran burning fiasco, it’s to show that it’s not just Islam that has it’s extremists but Christianity does too. But that’s all terrorists and Quran burning churches are; extremists, not a representation of the religion.
You know, this is a fantastic blog. you really have built up a fantastic set of followers. Well done.
Regarding religion, it never ceases to amaze me the sheer amount of people who believe in some God or another. In this day and age when we have so much scientific knowledge, people still look to the gods.
Thank you, I appreciate that so much!
I don’t think science can replace spiritual needs, nor can faith explain many existential questions the way science can.
What amazes me is the notion is that one must be wrong for the other to be right, personally, I think science and spirituality sit together superbly
annie q. syed says
I am loving how your blog is growing since I first found you, dear friend.
Absolutely wonderful post and equally lovely comments. I will share soon, staying unplugged as I am writing and in between I take breaks on my favorite blogs, this being one of them.
If nothing else for twitter, I am grateful even if it has brought me closer and in touch with 10 amazing people like you.
My favorite sentence is this, yes, even more than the quote at the end which I love, “I was raised to build my own relationship with God.” May you always recognize the power of that sentence and I pray as do others and that we help nurture this in future generations.
Really enjoyed learning more about you and your family and how funny that we ‘lose ourselves’ in the young adult stage. For the longest time I thought it had something to do with skin color and being a minority, but I really don’t know anymore, hey. I am sure it has one thing to do with it, but not all.
Anyway, gratitude for this delightful break.
Judy Lucas says
Thank you for your words here. I cannot imagine how freeing it would be to have this kind of childhood
experience. My family members were all Christians who allowed differences in their tenets of faith to take up too much “family time”. It sounds like your parents and extended family were made richer for their shared differences and mutual respect.
I am compiling a peace anthology and would love to include a quote from you on peace. 50-100 words about your vision of peace. You may have written something about it already; if so, would you show me where and do you give me permission to use it in this calendar-style anthology? If so, I need your birthday as well, please. http://www.PatchForPeace.com, my website shows the details of 1,000 Pieces of Peace.
Peace be with you, Minna, Judy in California, USA
So cool that you had Islam, Catholics, & protestant christians all around, & yet there was no anger/figting.
i wish this was true all over Naija & the world.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…”
Is the real question about religion or about a personal relationship with Almighty God?
It is true that there are many faiths. But, are they all true? Will they all lead us to God in the afterlife? Jesus contradicts this view. Either He was insane or totally correct. Which do you believe? He does not mix His words regarding the way to everlasting life. “No one comes to the Father except through me”. This is unambiguous. So, from His perspective, there is NO other means to everlasting life but through Him. This means to believe in Him, to recognise His divine Kingship over ALL humanity and to acknowledge that salvation is through Him and Him alone. Not through, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Paganism, New Ageism or any other minor or major faiths.
For over 10 years I followed the oldest African Religion documented. I actively practiced it. And I deeply believed in it. This was until I had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. And on that same night, I had a visitation from a demonic force and at the mention of the name Jesus he fled. If the gods that our ancestors worshiped are powerful, why do they fear Jesus? Even demons acknowledge that Jesus is real. So, why do you struggle to believe in His divinity and total authority over us all?
I really enjoyed reading your post. Your parents inspire me in the way they didn´t try to make you chose between Islam or Chrisitianity. I find it very brave of them, as it gave you the opportunity to explore and find yourself in as what is best for you.
In my family (Ghanaian) and in general many African families. When our parents are Christians, we as their children get baptized straight away as a baby and have our holy communion as a younger child. I do respect that too and do not see anything wrong with that either. But one thing, I became to realise as an adult is that: “Alright I am Christian, as I was baptized and had my holy communion. But is that enough? Parents try to lead us into the right way but the more I think about it now, I do not really know what to do if I had a child. The baby gets is blessings which is good but unfortunately will by that stage has no full understanding of how complex Christianity is and religion itself. A baby cannot appreciate to be “Born Again” or baptized, as it cannot really understand and value to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. I am still grateful to be baptized and raised in a Christian home, but now as an adult I am more aware and happy to connect with God personally and to understand why I am getting baptized in the first place.
I would love you to write a post on a question I have had on my mind a very long time. I do struggle at times to form an opinion in short, but I hope you will understand what I mean with my question.
Question: Why do Africans fear Voodoo? If the majority of Africans are Christians then we should fear. After all, there was no Christianity before slavery time in Africa. We are saved now but what would have happened to us if we had not heard of Jesus? Would we still be worshipping Gods and believe in black magic?
My question is heavy and my apologies in advance for not forming the question clear enough. I do hope you understand the direction my question is taking. Would be great to read something like that on your blog in the nearest future.
I feel honoured to know you personally. You are blessed abundantly. Thank you for sharing your life experiences with your readers, followers and friends. I learn so much everyday from your posts and can further my knowledge. Keep it up.
Thanks for the lovely comment, Anita.
I’m proud to be your mentor. You’re such an inspiring young woman.
& your topic suggestion is great, and relevant for this blog, I’ve put it in my notes to address in a future post.
I love this! I was raised so devout Roman Catholic, everyone else was doing it wrong according to them. I’m now at the corner of searching and wary after completing a degree in theology. I love how you’ve articulated this so clearly. Thank you!
Kuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe says
thanks for sharing!