I remember wondering if I was going to find “god” in Samoa. What I found was oppressive Christianity, or as I like to refer to it, the last bastion of colonialism. That doesn’t always go over well with my friends in/from the Pacific (or my family for that matter), but it is how I feel. I can’t reconcile the critique of the colonial agenda and not include the church in those accusations and responsibilities.
I did what I needed to “fit in” in Samoa… and actually grew to love, okay, like, church. Mostly because of the choirs. (That’s where the single folk hung out and had fun in the village – and it was a good opportunity for me to practice my language.) It was THE most beautiful singing I’ve ever heard. Listen for yourself.. ignore the synthesizer, but listen to those voices.
During my time there, I was Catholic, Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist and most recently, Congregational. It all was fairly the same. Wearing white and being scared I might sweat all the way through my puletasi. I think part of the reason that religion felt so oppressive to me was because there was only one major faith (and because it was so hot out). Tanzania has a little more religious diversity, which I am looking forward to experiencing and learning more about.
The stats seem to vary, but the CIA fact book (oxymoron? you decide) says that the division is: Christian 30%, Muslim 35%, indigenous beliefs 35%, with Zanzibar (the island off the coast) being 99% Muslim. I’m excited to learn more about the indigenous beliefs and see what the Muslim experience is like there. I’m always interested to learn about traditional epistemologies/healing/worldviews – something Samoa and Hawai’i have both taught me a lot about – and oddly enough, in both places, it’s not too big of a deal to “do” christianity and some of the traditional stuff. I appreciate that flexibility.
Hopefully I’ll find a good choir to hang out with in Tanzania. This one looks fun.