History: Femi Kolapo on Women and Pentecostalism in Africa
by Teresa Pitman
Which Christian denomination holds the most appeal for people in Africa? It’s not mainstream in Canada, but Pentecostalism is the largest and fastest-growing denomination of Christianity in Nigeria – in fact, it’s ranked number one in all of Africa and in much of Asia and South America as well. “Some estimates show that globally, it’s surpassed the Catholic Church,” says U of G history professor Femi Kolapo.
Why has this particular branch of Christianity become more popular than the evangelical mainstream in North America? Kolapo explains that “Pentecostalism easily adapts to the cultures and traditions of different people; it validates their traditional world views. Nigerians who believe in demons, spirits and the evil eye find that these beliefs are accepted in Pentecostalism.” Even better, he adds, this brand of Christianity offers a “superior God” who can deal with the demons and witches and the problems believed to be caused by various supernatural beings.
Also, Pentecostalism comes with offers for every adherent, lay or clergy, of charismatic gifts not unlike traditional religions espouse. These divine abilities include healing the sick by laying hands on them and praying for them, speaking in unknown tongues, having divine dreams and visions, and prophesying. Stressing the indwelling of the believer by the Holy Spirit, the Pentecostal face of Christianity brings God close to the African devotees, making God out to be very personal to them and giving the devotees a powerful sense of identity and confidence.
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