Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Theological Education for a Religiously Radicalized World: An African Pentecostal Assist

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Theological Education for a Religiously Radicalized World: An African Pentecostal Assist

Article excerpt

Abstract

The resurgence of Pentecostal Christianity at a time of increased religious radicalization in Africa is a disconcerting development. This problem is further compounded by the dearth of analytical research that explores the role theological education should play in preparing Pentecostalism to engage a religiously radicalised Africa. This paper offers a response in three ways: first, it reviews the legacy of missionary theological education and offers an overview of religion and state relations in Africa. Second, it discusses theological education and the implications of the rise of Pentecostalism in a context of religious radicalization. Third, it outlines how theological education could be reinvigorated to enable Pentecostalism to confront the challenges of religious radicalization in Africa. The paper concludes that theological education is a compelling stimulus that enables African Pentecostalism to promote peaceful coexistence and tolerance in ways that bear witness to the gospel of peace as well as reflect the African agency of faith. (1)

Religiously inspired radicalization, with the potential to lead to violent deaths, continues to be used by unscrupulous elements to commit acts of terrorism around the world. The tragic occurrence of deaths mediated by home-grown religious radicals has received international notoriety after this monster reared its ugly head in major European cities. (2) However, while much of western Europe is now being confronted by the effects of religious radicalization at its doorstep, for a long time the merciless murder of innocent civilians at the hands of religious radicals has been a persistent problem confronting a sizable chunk of the population of sub-Saharan Africa. (3) This development is worrisome because in Africa, religion is not only an important aspect of social identity, (4) but Africans are regarded as a people who are "notoriously" and "incurably" religious. (5) The epitaph of an African continent that is profusely religious means that any outburst of religiously motivated violence meted out on Africans by Africans threatens the fundamental essentials of tolerance and peaceful co-existence which are consistent with the African communal spirit. This is because "it is un-African to undermine someone or harm them because of the religious views they may have." (6)

Apart from confirming an upsurge in religiously motivated violence, (7) such events may be construed as undermining human rights conventions that governments have set out to guarantee when they signed on to the African charter on human and people's rights. (8) In the wake of religious radicalization, there are calls to re-examine the separation of religion from the state, which has long been considered an essential element of democracy. (9) Thus, governments have been forced to regulate religion in ways they argue will protect the welfare and safety of all citizens, whether or not they subscribe to any religious convictions. In extreme cases, governments have resorted to the use of military force to clamp down on the activities of religious radicalization. (10) As a result, governments in Africa, like those elsewhere, are increasingly exerting regulatory control over the activities of radical religious groups, whose actions are believed to contravene the peace of the state and embody a travesty of justice that undermine human rights. While African governments have taken lead roles in establishing policies that aim to regulate religion, the theological academy seems to be lagging behind in preparing personnel to effectively engage with Africa's new context of religious radicalization.

It is now widely accepted that the demographic hotspots of Christianity have not only shifted to the global South, but that in the southern hemisphere, the buoyancy of the faith is to be found among Christians who clearly espouse Pentecostal and Charismatic types of spirituality. In Africa, while Pentecostalism and religious radicalization are surprisingly growing at the same time, little research has been done to analyze how theological education could prepare Pentecostal clergy so that their church and pastoral ministries can effectively engage with an increasingly radicalized Africa. …

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