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Religion Struggles To Find Middle Ground During Traditional August Rituals

Christianity is challenged to find tolerance and incorporate native spiritual practices

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Tafadzwa Mwanengureni
Tafadzwa Mwanengureni
I am a student journalist at Harare Polytechnic majoring in print journalism

ZIMBABWE. Harare. Under normal circumstances, many religious organizations in Zimbabwe hold ceremonies in the month of August. This is a time in which the country commemorates the heroes who died during the liberation struggle. Culturally, it is a time when different tribes conduct rituals to appease the spirits of death after a year. This process is called a crossover ceremony in the traditional context.

The Christian approach

Christians believe that the ceremony is meant to bring the spirit of the dead back home to the family. Most Christian denominations hold three days to one-week prayer camp meetings, in an attempt to fight the traditional August rituals.

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Unfortunately due to COVID-19, all the ceremonies have been canceled.

Some Christians did not abandon their cultural roots

In a Transcontinental Times interview, United Methodist Church Minister, Reverend Desmond Mundondo said Christians are still following their traditional practices. “August is about bad luck, evil spirits as well as misfortunes due to traditional activities practiced.”

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“As rituals take place, the spirits are sent to another clan. Hence evil things and misfortunes occur to another clan”, the reverend explained. “Christianity came to people who already had their own traditions, so it’s quite difficult to wipe away this belief. Even if you teach against this, people keep believing it because they grew up experiencing and taking part in the rituals.”

Traditionalists summoning their ancestors through drum beating, shakers, and mbira. Photo Credit: Google Images

Pastor Munyaradzi  Huni of the Mugodhi Apostolic Church said his traditional roots derive from people who believe in their ancestors. “Our country celebrates Heroes Day this month. Thus, rejuvenating the souls of people who died during the liberation struggle. It’s a time of summoning the dead back to the family. A lot of blood spilled in August due to accidents and unholy activities”, Pastor Huni elaborated on Facebook.

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Prophetess Alima Blessings of Kneeling Woman Interdenominational posted,” l believe traditional crossover is satanic and demonic. As a reason, it´s inviting of familiar spirits.”

A greater understanding of the meaning behind the rituals is needed

In a more traditional religious context, this practice is a belief that when a person dies, the ancestors should become aware after the rainy season. During the ritual, traditionalists pour beer on the ground as a way of communicating with their ancestors.

African spiritualist and traditionalist Pearson Takaingei Marinda, who goes by the spiritual name Moyondizvo Rudzani Nembira, told Transcontinental Times that Christians do not understand what is meant by the crossover. “It is important for people to understand why we conduct these rituals. The spirit of the dead is not at rest until the crossover ceremony has been conducted”, he elaborated. “During the process, we escort the spirit to the ancestors because if it’s not at rest it haunts people. That’s what Christians do not understand.”

He also attributed some Christian practices as being responsible for the unrest of the dead. “Memorial services that Christians conduct contribute to the unrest of the dead since the ancestors did not receive the spirit. That is when you see the spirit of the deceased haunt the living. Christianity has caused the death of our ancestors Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi.” Marinda also claimed that Musikavanhu (God) gave this tradition to the people, so it should not be abandoned.

The rise of propaganda gospel

Traditional rituals aside, Christianity is also becoming political. Leaders are fighting over congregants, so the rise of propaganda gospel has become the word of the day. This mainly occurs between Apostolic sects and Pentecostal Ministries.

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