African Independent Churches in Zambia (Lusaka)

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The African Independent churches (AICs) in Zambia, as elsewhere in Africa, from their very beginning formed a protest movement against the cultural imperialism undertaken by the missionary representatives of the historic mission churches and also played an important role in the anti-colonial political struggles. In Zambia, the early AICs were closely related to witchcraft eradication movements such as the Mchape, or socially and politically oriented prophet-healing churches such as The Lumpa church of Alice Lenshina. Since the 1970s and in particular in the 1990s the Christianity in Zambia has been significantly marked by the proliferation of the African Independent Churches - both of Pentecostal and prophet-healing type. These churches that started mushrooming particularly in urban settings became part of the strengthening charismatic movement, particularly within Protestantism. A typical feature of AICs is focus on spiritual healing and religious syncretism - the local traditional customs and beliefs in dangerous ghosts, ancestral spirits, or witches are placed within the biblical religious framework where the Holy Spirit (Muzimu Oyela) is considered to be the only source of healing whereas other ‘inferior spirits’ are labelled as demons. The traditional methods of healing are creatively combined with Christian healing by means of prayers, spiritual blessings, laying on of hands on patients and demon exorcism - it is believed that only a body rid of bad spirits can receive the Holy Spirit, and thus be healed. The paper draws on both secondary literature concerning African Independent Churches and primary data issued from fieldwork in Lusaka (2008-2009).

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