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Friday, June 6, 2008

The religious grey zone-a-paradox

Do not refuse a wing to the person who gave you the whole chicken.

R. G. H. SIU

Can anyone please show a little love and understanding for the African peoples in the global village when it comes to the delicate matter of God and religion? By this I mean that historically, every other conceivable race on earth was blessed with some distinctive religion that they can consider their own. We all as you know clamor for some type of belief in a higher being during times of struggles. What is the religion for African peoples scattered across the globe? In Africa the problem is simple to analyze as over 85% of them combined are Christians and Muslims. [1] Both are religions of conquest either by the invading Arabs that introduce slavery, or European colonizers that suppressed, divided, and exported them for profits to the colonies in the West Indies and North America. Not surprisingly, Africahas witnessed some of the worst atrocities by the hands of Africans on Africans, be it white or black. Political ideology could not bring the many tribes together as it often did in similarly fragmented continents. It is why today fellow Americans should find it in their hearts to give a bit of breathing room to Obama our future Commander in Chief. He has successfully meandered his way around several silos that were headed his way on many issues, but one more persist in representing his Achilles heels for the next five months before his swearing ceremony. His acceptance or not of Black Liberation Theology principles as practice by arch guru Rev Jeremiah Alvesta Wright, Jr. of the Chicago Trinity United Church.

I do understand the paradox of religion as it relates to the lives of African Americans. You can bet your life that most Americans that graduated beyond high school also understand the powerful influences of the church for a people that sees themselves as oppressed and are striving for a piece of the American pie. Even if some respond in disbelief, America as a nation of immigrants has always treasured its diverse religions and the freedom to so practice. I’ll reiterate again, religion brings people together, gives them a sense of connection and history, keeps them focus on goals and helps them handle the daily earthly struggles they encounter each day. It was European religious persecution and pride that help create America over 200 years ago. It was that connection and consciousness that helped saved countless Jews and millions of Europeans during and in the aftermath of WW11. Need I say The Marshall Plan, forty years of political protection from communism, and the formation and support of Israel, and creation of the United Nations? Can any one remember the protestant ethics and its links to American and European capitalist rise by Marx Webber? These are all noble things that one can point to and give credit to religion as an influential catalyst .I need not say more.

To African Americans however, the Euro centric religions contributed to their plight and ensured their perennial state of second class citizenry.[2]Many today look with mixed feelings at the roles of Malcrom X, Elijah Mohammed, Farrakhan, and the likes of Martin Luther King, and yearn for a religion that can do for them in similar fashion that Judaism did for its main advocates, and what Christianity did for Europeans and Europe. They therefore ask what about me? Why were 800,000 Christian Africans allowed to die in Rwanda, millions of Christians and Muslims Africans in Sudan, Thousands of Nigerian Christians and Muslims devour each other and Kosovo and the Middle East receive the entire spotlight?

Can you begin to understand the dilemma for a young Obama and millions of ex African slaves dispersed across the globe from America to Europe and the Caribbean? Those two religions in their purest forms just won’t cut it for Black people. Like sheep lost in the wilderness they tend to experiment and dabble with every conceivable form of religion, but nevertheless emptiness and disconnect exist and perhaps more than anything can explain the multitudes of social, economic and political problems that is encounter everywhere.

To illustrate my point as to some of our problems, let me give an example. Approximately thirteen years ago I was fortunate to be part of a security detail for a UN Peace negotiating team in Afghanistan. The objective then was to spearhead the peaceful handover of power from the dreaded Mujahadeen that chased the Soviets out, to a new mutually acceptable government. At the same time the UN contingent had to keep a close eye on the then mysterious Taliban tugs or scholars – depending on who is doing the defining- that were successfully fighting to overrun the country. An amusing story was one day told to me about an unfortunate Sudanese Christian man that served in Afghanistanat one time. He had tried for some time to pass himself off as a Muslim to one of the former Prime Minister and a major Commander Gulbadin Hekmatyar . One day he was requested to lead a meeting in holy pray but was detected as an imposter. His folly and fraudulent ploy was discovered as he tried to mimic the traditional Islamic rituals which he knew nothing about. This action nearly cost him his life as he was beaten mercilessly to almost an inch of life, and then eventually kicked out of the country. So much for solidarity, but some people, particularly Afghans Warlords, take their religion very seriously.

I as a result of this story made sure to set the record straight for any of the hundreds of Kalashnikov carrying young men that approached be to ask if I was Sudanese. My answer was always an emphatic no, but a Buddhist and man of peace. I simply had no intention to experience a similar fate. So these are some of the predicaments face by people of African descent due to the absence of a concrete religion of their own. Surely we can now almost have some sympathy -thanks to what I have now alluded to- for the Democratic Presidential nominee Barrack Obama on his religious associations’ foibles. Both him and his wife take great pains to remind every that he was that skinny mulatto kid from Hawaii with the large ears, Kansan adventurous mom, absent father that did well by hard work and education. He found his way on the South side of Chicago and ran smack in to charismatic Black Liberation Theology advocate Rev Wright. The man was able to offer spiritual and social guidance to a young man suffering an identity crisis. He could have made millions in the corporate world, but decided to follow a different cause of service in much the same way as others before him.

To address matters of alienations, poverty, despair, and hopelessness and not be affected in some fashion is akin to making an omelet without breaking an egg. Priest, Reverends and participants in the social and political struggles, have no choice but to roll up their sleeves, get into the trenches, and dirty their hands. A funny kid with an exotic name, raise by Caucasian grand parents has political ambitions as well. They do not however have the luxury to marry elite girlfriends from the North Side of Chicago and chart an easy part to the White House. They cannot use the power of ex Presidents to charm themselves into receiving millions, and help propel billion dollars philanthropic enterprises into the American consciousness. Instead they have to use what is available to them the power of spirituality as it is unique to a people. Yes, Black Liberation Theology gave Nobel winner Desmond Tutu the power to help focus on and eventually end barbaric Apartheid in South Africa. Haiti’s Father Aristied withstood Pope John Paul and the Vatican establishment until he was overthrown from power. For a moment the struggling people of Haiti that started this movement some 207 years ago as the first liberated slave colony thought they could find their own promise land on earth.

Yes the Black Liberation Theology principles and concerns are alive and well in America today as they were in Martin Luther’s time. For the record, millions of passionate and patriotic young black men have joined the Black Muslim faith in America. More than half including Malcorm X was as a result of incarceration. Contrary to fervently held media portrayals, they do love their country and would do nothing to harm it. However like others in the Christian realm they too want to see positive things done both for themselves and communities. We have therefore seen manifestations of black pride, consciousness, giving, and caring for their fellow human within their milieu, and globally people’s struggles are in existence. It is what all good decent Americans would like, and have done through the decades. The now respected pro- Vietnamantiwar proponent, Mohammed Ali would agree. The torch has now been extended to this Immigrant descendant Barrack Obama. It is left to be seen, if Americahas matured as a nation. They did not allow phobia of Catholicism to prevent them from electing another descendent of Immigrant in JFK. Let’s enter the Religious Grey Zone that has repeatedly manifested itself in the fabric of American politics. We will observe where it leads as matters of character, vision, change, strength and security are resolved. The world I believe is desperately waiting for leadership and the results of collectively progressive forces.




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Uniondale New York, NY, United States
Speaking truth,as one major prerequisite, to concrete justice. A novel form of social advocacy.