African Immigration
The Waves of Migration
The Numbers
The Brain Drain
A Class of Entrepreneurs
Family Life: Continuity and Change
Religious Communities
Between Here and Abroad
The Question of Identity
The Future

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<  Family Life: Continuity and Change Between Here and Abroad  >

As communities grow and become established, they generally pool their resources to rent or buy spaces that can accommodate from a dozen to several hundred believers, in order to worship in familiar surroundings. Ethiopian immigrants have established Coptic Orthodox Christian churches. African Protestants of many denominations have done the same. There are now hundreds of Ghanaian, Nigerian, Kenyan, and Liberian churches across the country. In New York City alone, African churches number at least 110. Some African denominations have established churches throughout the United States.

The immigration experience has brought about a new situation: sometimes the national make-up of the congregation is more important than the specific denomination. For instance, the many Liberian Pentecostal churches across the country address a diversity of Liberian issues and attract worshippers irrespective of their religious beliefs.

The most recent development on the African religious landscape is the proliferation of mosques, which corresponds with the immigration from French-speaking West Africa, where a majority of the population is Muslim. More than twenty mosques have opened in New York City alone since the mid-1990s. There are also well-established Nigerian mosques in Chicago, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Services at most churches and mosques are conducted in a variety of African languages, as well as English, French, and Arabic.

The West African Paradox     , Chapter 10Muslims' Place in the American Public Square: Hopes, Fears, and AspirationsThe West African Paradox , Chapter 10 from Muslims' Place in the American Public Square: Hopes, Fears, and Aspirations by Sylviane A. Diouf

Regardless of the congregations they serve, African religious institutions have taken on new roles in response to the needs of an immigrant population. They serve as orientation focal points for recent immigrants, conference halls, community and counseling centers, religious schools, temporary shelters, and mutual aid societies. They have become job-referral centers, and imams and clergy often act as intermediaries between undocumented congregants and the authorities.

Weddings, baptisms, and holy days frequently take on more significance than they had in the country of origin. They are occasions for gathering and sharing news, discussing social and political developments at home, and passing on information that can make life here more manageable. They also are an essential instrument of cultural continuity. It is during these events that young Africans - many of whom were born here - learn firsthand about history and culture, as well as the proper way to behave - respect for elders, sharing, the importance of community.

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Between Here and Abroad  >