Tuesday, August 23, 2005

7th Annual Traditional African Religion Conference

NARC Prepares for International African Religion Conference


The National African Religion Congress (NARC) is preparing for their seventh annual international conference which will be held Thursday August 25 through Sunday August 28 at the Hilton Garden Hotel 1100 Arch Street. The planners are expecting representative from traditional African and diaspora African based religions to attend this year’s conference and ceremony. Practitioners of traditional African religions of: Ifa, Akan, Voodoo, Sanateria, Candomble and the Orisha Tradition of Trinidad and Tobago will travel mostly from across the United States and Nigeria to attend the conference. The theme of this year’s conference is Healing the Mind Body and Spirit The sessions are open to the public and the $230 registration fee includes: readings from certified priests and priestesses, Reiki therapy, massage and body work, diabetes and blood pressure screenings, dream interpretations, legal advice prayer therapy and workshops on the influence of the African drum in Hip Hop, drum workshop, literacy competency testing, art workshops and more. Conference planners expect about two hundred fifty priests and priestesses and approximately five hundred attendees for the Ceremony of Ceremonies and awards banquet dinner. The National African Religion Congress is a certifying organization that strives to maintain the integrity and authenticity of traditional African religions and provide a global directory of priest and priestesses and also serves as an advocacy umbrella organization to protect the rights of practitioners to observe and practice traditional African religions.
George Ware a Philadelphia resident is the president of NARC. During the past seven years he has seen a marked growth and acceptance of traditional African religions and his organization has helped overcome barriers of ignorance and prejudice directed at practitioners by governmental institutions. “In the seven years since NARC has existed we’ve made great strides especially with institutions because the first level of fighting against prejudice against these religions was bodies that had the power to interfere like police departments and city officials. We’ve worked across the whole United States to change the perceptions of what these priests and priestesses were doing and also showing them the limits of their powers in terms of the law (to interfere). We’ve made a lot of progress in that area. In a lot of instances it’s not so much fighting as it is keeping people abreast of what the realities are.” In addition to safeguarding the rights of individuals and priests and priestesses to practice African religions NARC also serves as a clearinghouse for information, the organization certifies priests and priestesses and publishes an up to date annual world wide directory. “The theme of this yea’s conference is Healing The Mind Body and Spirit. One of the primary programs we have begun to pursue on behalf of priests and priestesses is the recognition of the role of priests and priestesses in the healing of physical illness which is something they have been doing since day one but it’s not something that is known by people outside the religion. So we have begun to contact the health authorities the insurance companies, medical school to raise awareness of priest and priestesses role in alternative healing.’ Explained Ware. “We’re meeting with some success but there is some structural work that we have to on our side because there are protocols that have to be dealt with for instance accreditation and continuing education because not all priest and priestesses are involved in healing. So we have to accredit priests and we have a program in place for that and we have a continuing education program where we have workshops where priests and priestesses share their methodologies, their rituals and their techniques with other priests and priestesses which is broadening the scope of the healing powers because now the people from Santeria are sitting down with the people from Voodoo who are sitting down with the people from Nigeria and sort of getting their heads together and really broadening the healing power of the priest and priestesses through the education program. Those are the kinds of questions the insurers and medical schools are asking because they are getting a lot of feedback from the public that has turned its attention towards alternative medicine and is spending millions and millions of dollars on herbs, ginseng and all types of alternative approaches. Now you have George Washington University and the University of Pennsylvania medical schools developing departments of alternative medicine and they are trying to find ways to understand and include what it is.”
Ware also stresses traditional African religions offer means to heal and resolve some of the pressing social and economic problems facing people today. “We confront all kinds of problems we find are responsive to African religious practices both in terms of people who join the religion and as clients. People come to us to find solutions to problems of drug addiction, problems of broken families to problems of shattered economic life and we find a way to put their lives back together and heal them in those areas in the social arena. So we believe these religions need to be preserved but also made available to people because the problems that I’m talking about are not meeting with much success in terms of the way American society tries to solve them.” More African-Americans and continental Africans appreciate the rich cultural traditions of which traditional African religions are a part. Many are returning to their traditional religions. “Them looking at what we were doing here in America made them (continental Africans) more proud of their indigenous religion and in some instances feel more guilty of having abandoned it.” Shared Ware. The conference also offers opportunities for vendors in their International World Market. For a full conference schedule and itinerary visit www.narcworld.com or call (215) 455-0815

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