Thirst for faith in Angola, but which kind?

November 21, 2008
“Those who are thirsty need to seek the right fountain: the one without the spoilt water” — Angolan Cardinal Alexandre do Nascimento

There seems to be quite a thirst for faith these days in Angola, which abandoned Marxism in the 1990s after three decades of civil war and is now experiencing a boom in religious sects that often mix traditional African belief in witchcraft with elements of the Christianity brought by the Portuguese colonialists.

Some 900 religious groups are waiting for the official registration required by the government, which has launched a campaign to stamp out illegal sects in the capital Luanda and provinces bordering Democratic Republic of Congo where witchcraft is believed to be widespread. Last week, an ailing 28-year-old woman died when her sect barred her from seeking medical treatment and 40 children were rescued from two other religious groups that accused them of possesing evil powers.

Cardinal Alexandre do Nascimento, the leading Catholic cleric in this mostly Catholic country, told Reuters in an interview (full story here) that he saw a bright side to the sect boom: “The positive side of this phenomenon is that it shows there is an increasing thirst for God. But those who are thirsty need to seek the right fountain: the one without the spoilt water.”

The Roman Catholic Church has also grown since in the early 1990s, but is increasingly being challenged by evangelical churches and these syncretic sects, often supported by poor people lacking jobs and education. Maybe the cardinal shouldn’t be so optimistic after all?


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It is clearly the case that in countries like Angola people are often lured to religious sects in hopes of improving their lives. It is up to the catholic church to reach out to these people and guide them in their search for God. Authorities should also act to prevent such sects from taking advantage of people.

Posted by sean hughes | Report as abusive

God/religion is the wrong outlet completely. Its a shame that people think that their lives and their prospects for ‘eternal redemption’ can be improved by joining a ‘Faith’. Which one, it does not matter. With at least 20 fairly major religions to choose from, in this era of science and unprecedented access to information, it is beyond reason that anyone could weigh up the facts and join some sect or other. I say, let’s push access to information, not religion as a step forward rather than a step backwards. None of the religions can possibly have it right (Catholicism – dead, unbaptised babies to remain in eternal limbo.. or did the Pope change his mind on that one[!]; contraception forbidden…??!) and the tendency of religion is divide rather than to unite universally. To turn to religion is to lead your life according to texts of dubious origin, based on real people whose teachings are far from relevant today. Why take a step backwards? Why not promote awaremness and tolerance but not blind faith.

Posted by Paul Fish | Report as abusive

The Catholic church has lost the trust of the population long time ago, when the refused to marry black, and denouce the insurgents of the colonial regime whom confesed to the priest their intents, and also the old association to slavery trade. But I still have faith in that god and the church because it is a great aducator of a population that thinks that children can be witches.
The Angolan government can not ban chuches,it is a complexe problem which ahs no answer but I hope it will not turn into a war.

Posted by Denise Silva | Report as abusive

to paul fish, tolerance as a word ,is used mostly by people who unless you believe,or support their point of view on their sexual preferences or leftist politics ,or abortion on demand or union activity,or many more fringe activities,will be use to try to pursue their agenda.being spit on anti war protesters,pushed and shoved gay marriage supporters ,yes a wonderful example thank you.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

Correction: Cardinal do Nascimento is not dead…

My blog readers will be interested in your post so added a trackback to it on CatholicTide…

Posted by Catholic Tide | Report as abusive