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July 31, 2021
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The Spanish Flu and the awakening of indigenous spirituality in African Christianity – OZY

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The Covid-19 global pandemic brings to mind how a similar global pandemic sparked off creative reception of Christianity that altered the direction of development of both christian and religious history of sub-Saharan Africa built on a continuity of African spirituality in African Christianity.

A century ago, Daddy Ali had a vision. The sexton of the Anglican Church in a small village of predominantly Yoruba people in Ijebu-Ode in today’s southwestern Nigeria told church authorities he had seen his parish divided into two disproportionate parts — a small one in the light and a larger one in darkness. A voice had told him that the small part was illuminated because of its adherence to prayer.

At the time, darkness had spread across the globe due to the Spanish flu that infected a third of the world’s population and killed 50 million people. In British-controlled Nigeria, gatherings were banned and places of worship shuttered — conditions much of the world faces today with the coronavirus pandemic. As the faithful were disconnected from their spiritual homes, the pandemic unexpectedly created schisms in the blossoming Christian faith on the continent.

In 1918, Ali co-founded a prayer group called Egbe Okuta Iyebiye, or the Precious Stone Society. Another founder was a young schoolteacher named Sophia Odunlami. While in a trance during a mild case of the flu, Odunlami claimed to have been instructed to use sanctified rainwater and prayers for divine healing. The group saw it as further evidence of its calling to spiritual awakening, and Odunlami became a traveling evangelist in the province, urging local Christians to rely exclusively on prayers.

Read the full article titled, How the Spanish Flu Fractured African ChristianityOZY | A Modern Media Company

Eromo Egbejule contributed this article to OZY.

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