While Internet penetration remains lower on the African continent than in other places around the globe, new religious movements born in Africa have been appropriating new media technologies, reported Afe Adogame (University of Edinburgh) at the conference of the American Academy of Religion in Montreal.
Use of media is not a new feature among African religions, but deliberate efforts by these groups to make themselves known on the Internet is also related to new social realities, such as their presence in Western countries, leading them to consider new strategies. In the Western world, the use of personal contacts for evangelizing is more difficult: it cannot be done as easily on the street or in marketplaces, as it would be in Africa. Such challenges have encouraged the creation of websites; originally, nearly all websites were developed in the diaspora, although they are now starting in Africa too.
Online strategies serve various purposes, including recruitment strategy (whether they are successful is another question, however) and maintaining links with members transnationally, but also expressing a group’s global nature. There are now even African groups offering online transactions for the payment of tithes and offerings. Adogame thinks the Internet should be considered as a complementary vehicle, not as a replacement for other media or church attendance, serving to reinforce commitment in religious groups.