Monday, November 16, 2015

Bedik tribe dilemma: tradition or religion

Keep one foot in tradition so the other foot can wander.
Thomas Merton 

Christianity presents a soul-searching conflict for the Bedik tribe hidden in the most remote corner of Senegal. A Christian cross and view of the large church with a newly-thatched roof in the background are the first things visitors encounter in the Bedik tribe village of Andyel.

Bedik tribe village Andyel (sometimes spelled Andjel). Senega, Africa.

The chief of Andyel struggles with the tribe's dilemma: follow ancient traditional animist beliefs or the teachings of the Christian missionary. 

Chief of Andyel weaves a new basket, a typical job for the village men.

On the one hand, the chief stresses the importance of holding on to traditions. In fact, when I asked him what advice he would give world leaders, he replied: "Traditions. Tell them to hold on to traditions." 

But then there is the helpful generosity of the missionary. "He has helped build a school, and provided a machine to peel rice," reports the chief. "And with his own money and car, he takes our sick people to the hospital in Tambacounda and even Dakar."

So the Bedik balance on a tightrope between traditional beliefs and the new Christian teachings. And all of this cultural and spiritual battle in a very Muslim country, Senegal. (More about how Muslims attacked the Bedik to convert them in a future post.)

All photographs and text © 2015 Janis Miglavs

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