“Chrislam,” a hybrid movement of Christian and Islamic teachings and practices, is gaining adherents in regions of Africa where these two religions are in proximity and conflict, particularly in Nigeria, according to Corey Williams of the University of Edinburgh.
In a paper presented at the late November meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Baltimore, which RW attended, Williams noted that groups blending Christianity, Islam, and native African religious traditions have been growing in the past three decades in southwest Nigeria and areas of Ghana, most recently the Ogbamoso Society of Chrislam (OSC), which started in 2005.
The OSC group that Williams studied, with about 250 members, mesh prayers and liturgy based on Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Yoruba religion. During services members may cross themselves, engage in “salat” (Islamic prayer), and engage in traditional herbal healing.
Chrislam adherents, of which there are about 20,000 in southwest Nigeria, also engage in cleansing practices that draw on both Muslim and Christian tradition (such as in the form of baptism), go on pilgrimages to Mecca and Jerusalem, and fast during Ramadan and Lent. Participants tend to have multiple religious identities within their families and social networks. Individuals may attend Pentecostal services, Muslim Friday prayer and engage in traditional African rituals.
In interviewing OSC members, Williams found that they did not engage in such religious blending unthinkingly or for convenience sake; they had reasons for their syncretism and explained that they were trying to resolve conflicting beliefs.