African Religion: God and Afflictions

Most African people attribute afflictions to the wrath of God. This becomes clear as we take into account some of the many solid examples which support this fact. For instance, if a person from the Tonga tribe experiences misfortune they would usually trace the root cause of such misfortunes to God whom they refer to as ‘Tilo,’ it is not uncommon to hear them say that “God has forsaken them” or “Heavens has forsaken them.”

The Lugbara hold a belief that God sends affliction to people in form of mental instabilities and virulent diseases. And as much as the people of Turkana consider God to be a healer capable of healing any disease, they also hold a belief that he is also capable of afflicting a person or a group of people with disease and epidemics, especially those who contravene rituals considered sacred by the community.

When a series of misfortune befall a community, or a family it is seen as God’s doing. Even though sorcery, magic, or witchcraft are universally considered as the main causes behind misfortunes and diseases, especially epidemic diseases, it is not uncommon either, to also consider God as a likely cause.

Then there are those communities that believe God uses spiritual beings as agents to bring afflictions and calamities to men. Like for instance the Chagga who believe that God uses spiritual beings to inflict diseases and sicknesses upon people. Then there is the Basoga tribe that attributes plagues and diseases to a particular deity, rather, they have a deity responsible for diseases and plagues surrounding and affecting them. The Gisu and the Yoruba also have their respective deities to whom they attribute afflictions that have befallen them.

There are those tribes that don’t have deities to whom they attribute their afflictions to, but instead, insist that there is an aspect of God responsible for the calamities they face. Like for example the Ila tribe who hold that generally God is good but at the same time apportion blames of illnesses and other calamities on Him. The Agikuyu believe that God has three aspects, one of which is the cause behind misfortunes, but then again they accept theses misfortunes as divine will.
There are those tribes that believe calamities such as wars, famine, floods, and other afflictions are a symbol of God’s wrath. They believe that these calamities signify how unhappy God is towards a particular community or people or their leaders because of various reasons hence he uses them as a form of punishment against them.

The most mysterious and puzzling of afflictions according to Africans and which they attribute entirely to God is death. Most African tribes and communities paradoxically consider God as the giver of life as well as the One who takes it away (even though in some African tribes there is a tendency to blame the death of an individual on other agents; but the general belief is that God is responsible). At the Ovimbundu dances for instance, the women express through their songs that “God has cheated them of life,” to imply that God is responsible for the death of a member of the community. The Yoruba hold a strong belief that created death for the purposes of recalling a person whose time on earth has come to an end. There are communities that see death as a form of punishment from God, while others see it as a good thing by arguing that the God wants the deceased person to live next to Him.

The invocations and sacrifices made to God in times of sicknesses on a person is also a strong indicator of how seriously the African people associate God with death; by offering rituals to God implies that the Africans see Him as the cause of death and that by appeasing Him, He can either avert or delay death.

In a broad sense, God is not considered as the cause behind afflictions per se, but more of an explanation behind that which man cannot properly comprehend. An explanation that also serves as a comfort or a form of solace to those affected by the affliction, calamity or suffering.

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