The Dongola Times

(Anachronistic) Dispatches from the Kingdom of Makuria.
18th of June, 2013

The Not-So-Subtle Sub-Plot to the Country’s History

Think about the implications of it, if one country has all the diversity of Black Africa (and then some).
And the modern state, which is 85% Christian, was founded as a result of religious war. (Almost parallel to the case of the rest of Christendom, the Muslims arrived and sought to convert the king; and they succeeded, even against royal taboos that essentially forbade the circumcision of kings. Then the Christians struck and routed the Muslims, and deposed the king they had installed. And then among the Christians a drawn-out struggle ensued, where the Protestants came out victor, having kept the one last son of the king, raised entirely by Protestant regents, and to this day that dynasty is Protestant.)

In all this fighting, the country produces—on two separate occasions—martyrs for the Christian faith who are renowned all over the World and who also happen to be unique among their people of Black Africa. This makes the country the biggest supplier of martyr blood since the wars had ceased elsewhere in Christendom. —And they sang until the fires consumed them. There is a fire lit in the country.

The modern state begins its descent by turning into a republic and the gun was unleashed on the country’s politics, from where it has only barely receded. The republican revolution was conducted by a Muslim general, who later on becomes President when he overthrows his leader.
This President outlaws all religions other than Islam, Roman Catholicism, and Anglican Protestantism. In this time, the underground movement of the Pentecostals takes root among the poorer classes. (It will come back later to sprout a flower.)
But in the meantime, the country is made a member of the Organisation of Islamic States, even though it always had a very small minority of Muslims. And for good measure, it lines up behind the enemies of the State of Israel, and takes part in live action against them, becoming a hero country among the Muslim states. (The President at the time was actually a veteran of a war in the Golan Heights. In the present era, the country is in keeping with the general Christian—and especially Protestant, especially Pentecostal—tendency of a rather reflexive support for the State of Israel which has at some points been even controversial.)

In due time, the exiles of the country work with a neighbour and return in victory. Now, once again, the Christians have defeated the Muslims. Then a war ensues, once again, among the Christians. The Protestants take control of the country, and the current dynasty begins. The dynasty is given disinterested mandate by the forgotten movement of Pentecostal Protestants, and because of the evangelising potential of the Pentecostals, the new dynasty has to treat them well. Suddenly it was safe to be of even these extreme Protestant faiths. The children of the dynasty are later revealed to subscribe to such faiths, as are many of the very highest governing officials. In all this, Pentecostal faiths become trendy among urban Protestants, both the poor and the rich in their separate places. It continues to be a strong political factor, in spite of lacking any direct political organisation (or even the competency for it).

In the time of this dynasty, there have been all sorts of different rebel groups, but they all share one thing: they are all religious. The best-known has the name “Lord” in its name, but even others of its predecessors and contemporaries had very direct—even over-riding—religious agendas. The country goes on foreign war adventures where it regularly shatters its enemies with the confessed aim of annihilation, and the religious basis of these foreign conflicts are never ever discussed, even though the enemy side has no other agenda other than Islamic Sharia. The country is free of official religion by law, and this may even by why the religiousness of everything is easy to miss.

And the country remains a focus of attention that seeks to influence, for better or for worse, the values of the country that are generally founded on religious affiliation. (I mean, when the country does wrong by some political ideal, foreign watchers may even be understanding. But when it choses an unpopular stand on homosexuality, for instance, the battle lines are drawn in the concrete. Or take for example how the rate of HIV infection is reported to follow sexual abstinence campaigns. —Because abstinence should prevent HIV infection … but apparently doesn’t. —And yet now a well-funded campaign to circumcise the males in under way … with the claim that it will reduce the HIV infection rate.)

If you understand that such a country cannot suddenly have a religion-free politics, you don’t have to look hard to find the trends that speak of this ancient concern. That it is the youngest country in the World—the second-highest fertility rate in the World—and the country that has seen the most-ridiculous population growth in the last fifty years: more than a 600% increase in 50 years. Even the socio-political fates of the areas and populations has followed a general trend that respects certain co-relations with religion, which themselves reflect the country’s own fate during the different religious phases of its leadership. See poverty levels, for instance. This is all quite easy to see if you know what not to look for.