Opinion

My Dream for the Future of Christian Fiction in Sierra Leone

24 July 2013 at 02:49 | 1927 views

By Bakar Mansaray, Ottawa, Canada.

Christian Fiction is considered as ‘Inspirational Fiction’ that “accepts the infallible authority of the Bible”. (1) It is characterized as literature that promotes strong Christian values with a happy ending where good prevails over evil. In this narrative, my dream for the future of Christian Fiction in Sierra Leone is based on its past and present foundations.

In the 1700s and 1800s, Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone was a safe haven for so-called Liberated Africans. These were poor black people freed from the shackles of slavery in the Americas and Europe. Sierra Leone became an independent nation in 1961 after being a protectorate of the British Empire for 153 years. (2)

In pre-colonial days, Christian Fiction in the country was truly a dream; a rare bird if not a nonentity. In those days, the Christian doctrine was largely disseminated by oral means of communication, pictures, symbols, and chaplets. While it brought the joy or serendipity for some people, others like Bai Bureh the anti-colonial activist, considered it as foreign domination. His dogma-demolishing mind of a logician waged war against Christian missionaries.

By then, there was little or no room to split hairs, as the church was accepted as one. Even animistic believers threw in the towel. Hence, in the midst of illiteracy, there was less competition to win souls. However, as the past dwindled into oblivion, and like a bolt of lightning, Christian Fiction in Sierra Leone strikes out of nowhere.

Today, such fiction in the country reflects a brisk, energetic beginning that puts its readers directly in action. In other words, it takes possession of current affairs and reconstructs them into a biblical context that illuminates. It triggers the loaded imagination of one and all, making Christians of the past look like backsliders. Sierra Leone’s Christian Fiction addresses the serious consequences of religious doubt in a war-torn nation that is one of the poorest in the world yet endowed with natural resources.

Present day Christian Fiction in every nook and cranny of the country serves as a catalyst for spreading the religion. It is a money-making enterprise featured by a much marketed assortment of books. However, publishers complain of the lack of an environment favourable to writing, reading and publishing. In comparison to Nigeria and Ghana, there is no plethora of people in Sierra Leone who claim to have the calling to write Christian Fiction. This does not mean that writers and publishers are sitting in limbo like the stone of Sisyphus.

Nevertheless, the literature’s influence on the population is so powerful that converts are even won among those who reeked of fish and alcohol. It has become a literature full of distracting thoughts, if not claptrap, flitting through Christendom like clouds of gnats. Even those without in-depth knowledge of the Bible take advantage of the situation. Furthermore, with the proliferation of churches, Christian Fiction in Sierra Leone portrays healing, miracles, prosperity preaching, rather than deliverance, holiness, and sanctification.

The main challenges facing the country’s writers of Christian Fiction are that of finding editors and publishers. Writers find salvation in organizations like Christian Aid for Under-Assisted Societies Everywhere, Provincial Literature Bureau, Forum of Sierra Leonean Youth Network, Sierra Leone Diocesan Bookshop, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Sierra Leone. (3) Similarly, publishers face scarcity of editors, distribution outlets, and difficulty to break-even in a business of low profit margin. It is in the chaos of such situations that Christian Fiction in country is looking not only for a meaning but our sympathy and approval.

The future of Christian Fiction in Sierra Leone will be greatly influenced by information technology, making it frighteningly vulnerable. Writers and publishers will have to perform their work geared towards users of the electronic medium. Downloadable electronic books, iPhones and iPads will be used with undeviating certitude in propagating the literature. Cheap and easy access to Christian Fiction will prevail. It will be more difficult for those in the business to break-even, and even lethargic to writing and publishing. Others will be forced out of business in anger; anger that will be transformed by time into sad bewilderment.

In my dream for the future of Christian Fiction in Sierra Leone, I see the literature maintaining its stance of putting godly words into sequence that charm, chill, and illuminate. I see writers and publishers of Christian Fiction in the country spending more time and energy promoting deliverance, holiness, and sanctifications, rather than healings, and miracles.

I dream of a literature that will intensify its fight against illiteracy, and show writers and publishers the way forward in solving their problems. I see the literature in blossom like flowers in springtime. Hence, for Christian Fiction to continue drawing from the replenishable aquifers of the psyche both writers and publishers will have to maintain a stubborn perseverance.

References:

1. Bryan, Deborah, ‘It’s Not Your Grandmother’s Christian Fiction Anymore’. Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. Retrieved on July 12, 2013 from http://www.pptuu.com/show_195614_1.html

2.World Council of Churches – Sierra Leone. Retrieved on July 12, 2013 from http://www.oikoumene.org/en/member-churches/africa/sierra-leone

3. Evangelical Fellowship of Sierra Leone (2009) ‘The History of the Evangelical Fellowship of Sierra Leone’. Retrieved on July 12, 2013 from www.efsl.evang.org/about

Editor’s Note: Bakar Mansaray is currently attending a Writing That Matters Christian Creative Writing Workshop.

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