Land and spirituality in Africa
A Christian Science perspective.
Africa is reconfiguring itself rapidly. Its cities are growing at an astonishing speed. And change in any society isn’t always smooth and can also cause discomfort. As the old patterns change, they demand corresponding adjustments in socioeconomic, cultural, and spiritual aspects of life.
Land remains one of the most explosive issues anywhere. Since most of the sub-Saharan African population still live in rural areas and not in the cities, land is tied directly to food security and livelihoods. But even for those in the cities, there is still a strong spiritual connection with the land.
The link between people and land is not only an African issue but one that cuts across most societies. It has often been so highly charged as to be at the root of most of the wars and conflict that have plagued and still plague large parts of Africa, as in other parts of the world. The very first book of the Bible speaks of strife over land between Lot’s and Abram’s herdsmen, and how it was peacefully resolved on the basis of honoring their brotherhood (see Gen. 13:1-11).
Because land in many parts of Africa is seen as a spiritual holding both by the ancestors and the living, attempting to convert land into a commercial asset in modern economics meets with opposition. We would do well not to dismiss outright this ancient African spirituality in negotiating for a modern solution to feeding the hungry both in Africa and the world.
Living in Nairobi, Kenya, I’ve found that Christian Science brings to Africa a much needed shift from the belief in limited, finite resources to the knowledge of God as a present help, especially in times of instability.
Most Africans are very spiritual. It is a spirituality that pays homage to ancestral spirits. These spirits are believed to have a stake in the land. From my study of Christian Science, I’ve found new light on the meaning of Spirit. I’ve come to see that God is infinite Spirit; that He is also divine Mind, the source of all intelligence, and that each of us is created in the image of this Mind, reflecting divine intelligence.
When thinking about solutions to land issues, I find guidance in Jesus’ statement “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). When we seek to understand the things of Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit in our lives will appear naturally in all their perfection.
As I pray for my country and for the rest of Africa, I’m seeking to feel the power of God as infinite Spirit, infinite Mind, as guiding our steps and providing the intelligence to make decisions that contribute to more peaceful, more sustainable livelihoods.
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.