Religion in Senegal

This week’s study theme is Religion in Senegal.  Beyond the bare numbers (estimated 92% Muslim, 7% Christian (mostly Catholic) and 1% traditional) there is the fascinating detail, complexity and diversity.  Each religion comes in many flavors, and families often have members of different religions.  You will not find Senegalese who would claim to be atheists or agnostics.  These are people of faith and they are very clear what that faith is.  Yet to an astonishing extent,  tolerance of ‘the other’ is woven into the very fabric of society and is a significant part of national pride.  To be sure, not everything is sunshine and butterflies.  With all their shared culture and history these religions are very different in both theology and practice and there are places in both personal lives and politics where things rub the wrong way.  Part of our task is to try to understand just how religion works here and the roles it plays in personal, cultural and political life.

The students are in language class this morning as I write this.  Later this afternoon we will have a lecture on religion and on Friday on Muslim-Christian dialogue. Tomorrow we will have a field trip to Touba, the holy city if the Mourids, and we will have a tour of the Great Mosque.

Sunday was Pentecost and Monday was a holiday (case in point:  a Christian Holiday which is also a national holiday here) and we woke in the morning to singing on the road by our house.  As far as we could see there were Catholic young people in groups of 40 or 50 walking by on the pilgrimage to Popenguine about 50 km away.  There were 35 groups, all organized and spaces between them and they would stop every little bit for scripture, prayer and singing.  Any Catholic in Senegal who can get to Popenguine are there that day.

Monday students met at our house to kick off our discussion about Religion, and we met the Imam of our neighborhood mosque that is (literally) right next door to Chez Goshen.  (There is never really a question if we hear the call to prayer!) We were warmly welcomed into the Mosque courtyard and the Imam patiently answered any questions we wanted to pose about his work, the mosque and Muslim worship here.  We did not enter the Mosque — as we are not Muslim and had not come to worship — and did not take pictures there.

But we did want to share a few pics today.  One of the projects students were given last week was to explore and map some part of their environment.  Ellen is wonderful artist and chose to illustrate her project and we thought this would give you a peak at how she sees her world!  There are a couple pics of the pilgrimage and from the Baptist church and from our time at Chez Goshen.  (The students are singing hymns from their ipads and phones.) Then a bunch from Caleb of his time in Sant Louis as well as at home and on his host father’s farm.