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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
The Moral Traditions of Abundant Life
Orbis 09/97 Paperback $18.00
African Religion by Laurenti Magesa, a Catholic priest in Tanzania, offers a substantive and far-reaching overview of a belief system. According to the author, all principles of morality and ethics are based on preserving and enhancing life and its "power" or "force." He makes a strong case for recognizing African Religion as a world religion with its own distinctive view of the abundant life.
The moral universe for black Africans is built upon reverencing God, honoring the ancestors, and dealing with good and bad spirits. Elders deserve the highest respect for their longevity and their mystical powers. The earth is treated well because it is the sacred abode of God. Private ownership of land is looked down upon since the earth "placed by God's will in public trust for the public good."
Magesa points out that in African Religion, kinship constitutes life and its mystique. Marriage and having children are essential parts of contributing to the health of community. Keeping the ancestors in good humor is an integral element in the task of living. The enemies of life are wrongdoing, illness, and witchcraft. They bring disharmony. On the other hand, prayers, sacrifices and offerings, protective and curative medicines, therapeutic dances, and reconciliation rituals are available to restore the force of life and the well-being of the tribe.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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