In this episode we travel to Western Nigeria, to a festival of the Yoruba religion. With 100 million worshippers worldwide, it's one of the world's 10 largest religions. Although under pressure in its homeland by Christianity and Islam, it is experiencing a renaissance among American descendants of African slaves, who are drawn to it in part as an exploration of their roots, a movement that began with the Civil Rights movement.
The episode follows two women who are making their first trip to Africa, to be initiated as priestesses in the faith. "I consider myself to be an American African because it wasn't by choice so much of our knowledge was taken away, our religious faith was taken away our names were taken away," explains one of the women. "There is no power in not knowing where you come from. This journey means taking back that power and taking back that identity." Another describes the experience as "Becoming myself."
The festival is an opportunity for connection, says one of the pilgrims. Not just for American believers to connect with their ancestral roots, but also for traditional believers in Nigeria, under pressure by the growing faiths of Christianity in Islam, to be connected to the diaspora of believers elsewhere in the world, to realize that the traditional beliefs continue to thrive in the descendants of people taken to the Americas as slaves. As Feiler puts it, "The festival one part sacred rite, one part carnival. It's a homecoming for the Yoruba people."
Identity is important in many faith traditions. In our Episcopal tradition, we encourage teenagers to participate in the sacrament of Confirmation as a means of claiming their Christian identity, an identity conferred by baptism, when they were "marked as Christ's own forever." What role has faith played in your understanding of who you are? Do you follow the same faith tradition as your parents, or did you choose a different one? How does it shape your identity?
Please add your own thoughts, reflections, and questions in the comments below: we look forward to a lively discussion!
A few guidelines for respectful dialogue:
• Speak out of your own experience: in other words, talk about what you believe, not what others believe, and share what *you* think. Don't put words in others' mouths.
• Try to see from another's point of view. "Try on" new ways of thinking!
• If something makes you angry, take a few minutes before you respond, until you can write without anger. Write about your own reaction, not someone else's presumed intentions.
• Above all, honor the dignity of all persons, and treat everyone as you would like to be treated. Speak respectfully towards the views of others, even if they are at odds with your own.
If you didn't have an opportunity to view the episodes during this episode's premier on Tuesday, Dec. 16, you can find additional broadcasts here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/sacredjourneys/content/schedule/
If you missed last week’s episodes, you can view them on demand here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/sacredjourneys/content/video/