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Soccer, Islam, terrorism and church growth in Africa

Tragedy in the African nation of Uganda marred the final game of the 2010 World Cup — hosted for the first time on African soil.
By now you’ve probably heard about the bomb attacks in Kampala at a rugby club and a restaurant on Sunday.  At least 74 people died, the BBC reports, some as they watched the Netherlands play Spain on a live broadcast from Johannesburg.
At least one American died in the attacks. Nate Henn, 25, was in Uganda visiting friends he had worked to support through the nonprofit Invisible Children. The group makes documentaries about war-affected children in east Africa and tours them around the world.

Chad Lindsey, a minister for the Rochester Church of Christ in Rochester Hills, Mich., joins the Global Night Commute for Uganda’s Invisible Children in 2006. (Photo provided)

Churches of Christ have close ties to Invisible Children. In 2006 we reported on the nonprofit’s Global Night Commute, an event designed to draw attention to the abduction and abuse of children in Uganda by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Students from Abilene Christian University, Lipscomb University and Oklahoma Christian University participated, as did members of the Rochester Church of Christ in Michigan.
Connie MacLeod, the mother of an ACU student, played a role in bringing the original Invisible Children film to the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who later interviewed the filmmakers.
Are you involved with the Invisible Children movement? If so, how?
The Somali Islamist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attacks that claimed Henn’s life. Somalia, separated from Uganda by the nation of Kenya, has experienced ongoing turmoil for more than 15 years — before and after the U.S. relief operation that led to the events of the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.” Al-Shabab opposes Uganda’s support of Somalia’s current governing coalition.
Recently we asked the question, “Can Christians and Muslims coexist?” focusing on the African continent. The story was part of our ongoing Global South series.

Dyron Daughrity’s new book, “The Changing World of Christianity” goes country by country, detailing the new demographics of the faith. (Click on the book cover to find it at Amazon.com)

I interviewed Dyron Daughrity, assistant professor of religion at Pepperdine University, who has traveled the globe and teaches courses on world Christianity. I just posted the complete text of that interview, in which Daughrity offers some insight that seems especially relevant to the attacks in Uganda:

Globally, Islam is at a crossroads. Will it be a reactionary religion of violence or will it be a religion of peace? Many Muslims give lip service by saying “Islam is a religion of peace,” but this position is untenable.
If Islam truly wants to be a religion of peace, its leaders will need to step up and clearly advocate peace. In some places this is happening in fact. I’m afraid it is exceptional, however.

Daughrity was responding to findings from a study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life. The study, titled “Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa,” was based on more than 25,000 face-to-face interviews conducted in 19 countries of sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition to attitudes about religious conflicts, the study detailed the beliefs of African Christians and Muslims on matters including divine healing and demon possession. I wrote a story detailing reactions to these findings among church members in Africa.
I also asked Daughrity if he thought that Churches of Christ in Africa are equipped to help people reject traditional powers and accept the sovereignty of God. Here’s a snippet of his response, which I found particularly thought-provoking:

Yes indeed the Churches of Christ are up to the task. This is why the Churches of Christ have grown in Africa. However, we must point out that the African Churches of Christ might begin to look more “African” in the decades ahead. In the year 2050, a Church of Christ member from Texas might have a hard time recognizing a Church of Christ congregation in the Congo!
Similarly, Churches of Christ in America have changed throughout the years. The American Churches of Christ that came out of Cane Ridge would probably be surprised if they walked into one of our large Churches of Christ in Tennessee or Oklahoma!
But in all seriousness, as Christianity changes globally, there are some things that remain: 1) Jesus Christ is Lord; 2) Salvation is found in no other name; and 3) Jesus calls us to go and make disciples.
These are things that we as Church of Christ members are committed to, and it matters not whether one is from North America or South Africa. These are the essentials that unite us as one body.

Agree? Disagree? Thoughts?

  • Feedback
    Brilliant analysis of prevailing situation of the Church of Christ in Africa. The growth of Muslim fundamentalist is growing geometrically in Africa and especially the most populous nation of Nigeria. Christians should not just fold their hands while a physical and spiritual sledge hammer is rocking their heads. Let us turn tor God to arise and fight the battle for us in His own ways. He has done it before and He can still do it again. Prayer is the answer.
    Wale Fatolu
    July, 15 2010

    The white missionary brought his christianity, with bible and gun. It was an invasion. So too did Islam.
    The Afrikan is made to believe his traditional powers are evil, even in his own country, this is white supremacy dominating Afrikan supremacy.
    Like happened in the story of Tecla, my sainted namesake, the lion and the bear sent to take her out ended up eating each other instead. So too these two nations should take their fight out of Afrika, and let the Afrikan be free. We see the west has fallen. Europe cannot help America.
    Tecla John
    July, 15 2010

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