African-Caribbean Youth Identity in the United Kingdom:

Article excerpt

A CALL FOR A PAN-AFRICAN THEOLOGY

Jambo (greetings), ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters from the African continent and its "diasporan" communities and to fellow Africanists, i.e. those with a deep interest in the people and affairs of the African continent and its peoples.

It is a privilege to be a part of a community of African Christians in Europe. The conference theme "Open Space: The African Christian Diaspora in Europe and the Quest for Human Community" has wide-ranging implications for Christians in Europe, Africa and the Americas.

There now reside in the United Kingdom four generations of African-Caribbean people since the early mass migration of the 1940s and 1950s. The black Christian institutions, i.e. churches, supplementary schools and other auxiliaries, have been an oasis of affirmation and capacity building for those youngsters who came and stayed within their influence.

However, a phenomenon that has not be adequately researched reveals that between twenty and forty percent of Christian young people leave the orbit of these churches during their mid-to-late teens. Many reasons have been given for this phenomenon, which may have been covered by others in this conference. I wish to speak to one of the reasons, viz. the quest for African-Caribbean youth identity and culture.

One thing is certain in recent times. The issue of identity among Caribbean youth has become a major priority within their hierarchy of needs. The black Christian community has not adequately addressed this need and in several cases does not even recognize it as an issue. They therefore continue to lose many of their young people from their worshipping communities. This attitude exacerbates the idea, which many young people hold, that the church is irrelevant to them and their needs, and that Christianity is a white man's religion.

I therefore welcome this conference for two reasons: It attempts to read and understand the times, and it desires to avoid piecemeal solutions by having a pan-European approach to the challenges before us.

I believe I am right in saying that this is a millennial conference. In other words, we believe that it will have significance for the future. Today, we are 112 days away from the year 2000. It is noteworthy in our desire to harness the future that we can so easily lose sight of the past. This would be contradictory to our African worldview, our ancestors and our traditions. I believe that this is a crucial issue for Caribbean and African youths in Europe.

Millennialism in the black religious experience

My point here is that we seem unwilling to use the past as a tool for engaging and wrestling with the future. There was little or no reference in the conference brief to the idea of millennialism in the black religious experience, whether in the black churches in the Caribbean, United States of America, United Kingdom or in the indigenous religious communities in Africa. In order to entertain the future and to speak of African-Caribbean youth identity in the United Kingdom, I ask your indulgence and to take a look at the past.

Millennialism, is the belief rooted in Christian tradition and thought that history will be fulfilled in a golden age based on Revelation 20: 1-7. It has been observed that millenarian sects or movements always picture salvation as collective, terrestrial, imminent, total, miraculous. [1]

Black millennialism of the 19th and early 20th centuries identified this golden age with ancient Israel and the hope of entering the "Promised Land" of Canaan. Black millennial thought can be categorized into three types: cultural millennialism, millennial Ethiopianism, and progressive millennialism. [2]

Cultural millennialism denotes the ideology of blacks working out the millennium through the forces of Western civilization, education, Anglo-Saxon culture, American democracy, and republicanism. …

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