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COMMUNIQUE OF 1ST AFRICAN INDIGENOUS RELIGIONS – AIRs – SYMPOSIUM, OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY, ILE-IFE, NIGERIA (AUG 8TH-13TH 2016)

BACKGROUND:

Indigenous African Religions are fundamental to Africans having a positive cultural identity. Indigenous African Religions collectively face crises of existential proportions, and with the crises arises a fundamental challenge to the humanity of Africans globally. Many aspects of indigenous African religions have become extinct, succumbing to centuries of concerted external and internal pressures to undermine them. Iconoclastic and epistemicide posturings have been the most effective ideological tools used throughout Africa to dispossess Africans of their religious heritage, indigenous knowledge systems, scientific and technological heritage, cultural identity and value systems. At stake is the preservation of the indigenous religions of Africa and the cultures they encapsulate, thereby making an Afrocentric connection to the natural world, in the most sustainable way, a necessity. To be complacent in the face of these endangerment and orchestrated demonization is to actively encourage a potential disaster awaiting global African Religions. There is no doubt, therefore, that these indigenous religions have been primary targets for destruction in order to dehumanize and derogate the identity of African peoples worldwide. Forces from the East and West were in full understanding of the direct relationship between a people and their religions, as they translate the way the people felt about, saw and related with themselves, with others and the universe.

OBJECTIVES
Objectives of the Symposium include:
• Appraising the term ‘indigenous’ in light of the theory and history of world religions.
• To explore various approaches to the study of African Indigenous Religions, with an emphasis on Africa and its Diaspora.
• To look at the methodological challenges of studying religions that were not originally based on oral textual traditions. Some of them became known as ‘religions of the book’, because through history, their traditions have been transformed into sacred scriptures.
• To examine African Indigenous Religions and see how they can be codified from the largely oral traditions and informal texts into written sacred texts, to be used in the practice, teaching, research on AIRs.

KEYNOTE and LEAD SPEAKERS.
The Keynote Speaker, Professor John Ayotunde Isola Bewaji’s [Carnegie/CODESRIA Visiting Professor of Philosophy, University of Ibadan, Nigeria and University of the West Indies, Jamaica] address was titled “Religion, Leadership and Society – a critical perspective in Yoruba indigenous social engineering”.
Professor Afe Adogame, endowed Professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, USA, presented a Lead Paper on “The glocalization of indigenous African religious traditions and spiritualities”, while Professor Ibigbolade S. Aderibigbe of the University of Georgia, USA, presented the second Lead paper on “Contextualizing Candomble and Catholicism: Rituals of Venerations of Divinity and Saints”.

OBSERVATIONS
At the end of an engaging three days of paper presentations and contributions from several participants, the following observations were made:
• Several aspects of the African Indigenous Religion have been lost because of its purported oral and informal textual nature, in addition to arguments as to whether it is one monolithic African Indigenous Religion, with the same unwritten Foundational Doctrines or Religions with separate Doctrines
• Practitioners who benefit from the present fluidity, prefer the status quo, as they are backed by some scholars pretending not to see any theological weakness in the absence of formal comprehensive sacred texts (as in other religions), in AIRs. 
• Most Africans, with their Diaspora, being colonized into the two Abrahamic Religions, find most practices of AIRs ‘primitive’ and backward, because of their alleged secrecy and mystery. As a result of their own ignorance and the success of epistemicide, attitudes stemming from European and Arabian colonialism in Africa, they neglect their own cultural heritage.
• Most of these traditions of AIRs are being passed down from generation to generation without any agreed learning by codified courses and practices and with different interpretations.
• World religions, such as Christianity and Islam, have clearly overshadowed ATRs, because of the codified nature of their theologies, liturgies and doctrines. Moreover, they are backed by infinite financial resources, research, colonial propaganda, will to subjugate and Mass Media power.
• Till date, there is no Centre dedicated to the Study and Research into African Indigenous Theologies and Spiritualities, with their Aesthetics as evidenced in Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Music, Dance, Dress and Hairdos, as well as Governance, Social Engineering and Ethos of Conflict Awareness, Prevention, Management and Resolution

RECOMMENDATIONS
Drawn from the observations above, the following recommendations were made:
1. To declare a Decade of Action (2018-2027) for Global African History and Culture – for the promotion and teaching of all aspects of African history and culture in educational curricula from Primary to University levels.
2. To establish a Biennial Symposium to provide a platform for rigorous discussion of African Indigenous Religions, Spiritualties, Theologies, Documentation and Practice both in Africa and in the Diaspora.
3. To urgently explore and collaborate with hosting Institutions in Global Africa for Institutes/Centres for the Study and Research on African Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Theologies, Spiritualities, Music, Dance, Aesthetics before the middle of 2017.
4. Such Institutes/Centres will conduct and engage in collaborative research between AIRs scholars and practitioners towards codifying and propagating AIRs beliefs, practices, knowledge systems in digital form, etc.
5. To develop methods, tools and resources, to strengthen the capacities for building knowledge, trust and solidarity amongst Global African communities, especially women, youths, researchers and practitioners, for the sustainability of African Indigenous Religions.
6. To network with and encourage Governments and Tourist Companies to build partnerships with host communities through research and tourism for the protection, management, preservation and promotion of African Indigenous Religions.
7. To sustain plans and programmes, with Volunteer Coordinators, for the Inaugural Symposium and Festival of AIR Spiritual Music, Dance, Dress and Hairdos (SYMPOFEST) in Dec, 2017 scheduled for Yaounde, Cameroon, and the 2nd AIR Symposium scheduled for Lisbon, Portugal 2018.
8. To realise the above recommendations, African Governments, civil society and other stakeholders are called upon to invest financial and other resources necessary to achieve the set objectives.

CONCLUSIONS
The historic Symposium, which brought together Presenters, Practitioners and Participants from USA, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, agreed that the initiation of the Symposium has appropriately created an Interdisciplinary (History, Archaeology, Philosophy, Cultural Studies, Anthropology, Sociology and African and Modern Languages and Linguistics) Global African Platform for Academics, Researchers, Post-Graduate Students, Students, AIR Clerics  and Adherents for the continuous discussion and action, in filling the gaps for enhancing the position of AIRs on world stage.

APPRECIATION
The Participants expressed their appreciation to the Local Organising Committee, especially Prof. David Ogungbile, Head of Dept. of Religious Studies at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and West African Rep of the AASR, Dr. Oladosu of the same Department (who was responsible for Symposium transportation), Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the Executive Governor of Omoluabi State of Osun and the State of Osun Government, Prof. John A. I. Bewaji of University of West Indies, Prof. Afe Adogame, the Sec-Gen of IAHR and Prof. Ibigbolade Aderibigbe and the ASI of the University of Georgia, Athens, USA, General Ishola Williams (Rt.) and PANAFSTRAG for initiating and organizing the Symposium.

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