When Sacredness Becomes Exploited
As I sat and contemplated the state of the world, there were many things that had me concerned.
1. The violence in our inner cities in America.
2. Income inequality throughout the world
3. The unrest throughout Africa.
4. Islamic extremism and the fighting in the Levant (Middle East).
5. Migrants who are dying trying to get to Europe to obtain opportunity for a better life.
6. The destroying of our planet and the shrinking of rainforest.
All of the above is disturbing. Each one caused by greed. Each one exploiting poor people and each one the majority suffer and the few wealthy benefit.
As I continued to contemplate this, more and more my thoughts went to the environment, number six (6) on my list. I started focusing on this one, because it’s affecting earth, and its animals.
Indigenous cultures and animals in the wild have had their way of life destroyed or altered. This is caused by so-called more civilized cultures in the name of progress. I call it sinister.
Because of outside forces, we are constantly adapting or changing our way of life. This can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances. Many of the things we take for granted are brought about at the expense of the environment, and the culture that is being taken advantage of. When a foreign agent comes, there is good chance your way of life is going to change.
With the coming of the Europeans to West Africa, many things changed. Things that were regarded as sacred to the native culture, was looked on how it could be exploited for colonial gain. In West Africa, in the late 19th century, the thing to exploit was the forest. In Nigeria, the British saw opportunities to help fuel their industrial revolution with the West African Oil Palm. The British loved the Oil Palm so much that they exported it to Southeast Asia.
To People Who Practice an Indigenous African Religion and Culture
If your entire spiritual system is built around the sacredness of trees and forest, what does that mean for your spiritual system, and your culture, when trees are being destroyed, and certain animals on earth are being eliminated? What does that do to wildlife whose environment is being destroyed? What does it mean for the orangutan in Borneo and Sumatra whose habitat is being obliterated because of the deforestation being done on behalf of the palm oil industry? (1)
“In total, 50 million tons of palm oil is produced annually, supplying over thirty (30%) percent of the world’s vegetable oil production. Palm oil is found in approximately forty-fifty (40-50%) percent of household products in countries such as United States, Canada, Australia, and England. Palm oil can be present in a wide variety of products, including: baked goods, confectionery, shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning agents, washing detergents and toothpaste.” (2)
What is sacred in many spiritual systems (religions) in West Africa is now being exploited for capital gain. Palm oil is used all throughout West Africa for cooking and for indigenous spiritual practices. Oil Palms (Palm trees that produce oil) originated in West Africa. In the early 20th century, Oil Palms were exported to Southeast Asia by the British. It was used to fuel their industrial revolution. But now with mass global production of the palm oil (50,000,000-60,000,000 tonnes of palm oil annually), forests are being cut down to clear the way for oil palm plantations. On the global level, palm oil is being overused. The production of palm oil on this massive scale contributes to deforestation, animal cruelty, and climate change. (3)
Nigeria was the leading producer of palm oil in the world until the late 1960’s when it was overtaken by Malaysia and Indonesia (4). In the early 20th century, 250,000 tonnes of palm oil was exported annually from Southeast Asia… today 60,000,000 tonnes annually. (5)
Now, what do you think this is doing to the environment?
Palm oil is sacred to the Ifa practitioner. What was once used by people in few environments have been hijacked by multinational corporations, and used on a global scale. This will bring about serious consequences to the environment.
WHAT DO WE DO if we practice Ifa (an indigenous spiritual system from West Africa)? Do we turn a blind eye, and continue doing what we’re doing, and stay in our bubble, knowing the current situation? Or do we take an alternative approach to our spiritual practice?
Christopher W. Brown