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Faith moves mountains—and cultures. For the West African Aladura Christians, spiritual things—whether holy or, in the case of native religion, hostile—are as tangibly real as the landscape, and those who pray in faith can expect tangible, sometimes startling results.

The name Aladura, Yoruba for "Owners of Prayer," is proudly worn by a family of churches that sprang from the ministries of charismatic prophets in Yorubaland (Nigeria) after World War I. These churches have since spread far beyond their West African roots. After the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970), Aladura churches emerged in that country, and through the West African Diaspora they have become firmly established in Britain, North America, and other parts of the world.

Fervor and generosity in congregational life, strong devotion to prayer and fasting, openness to dreams and visions, the frequent use of prayer for the healing of mental and physical illness—the Aladura share all of these thoroughly biblical traits with the Zionist churches of South Africa. Both groups are part of a larger family of prophetic African initiated churches that flourish in some African countries—such as Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Ghana—but are much less common in others.

Members of Aladura and kindred groups often wear a distinctive dress, such as white robes, to symbolize their separation from the world. They are uncompromisingly hostile to African traditional religion, and this contributes greatly to their appeal: they offer their followers protection against witchcraft—which still strikes fear in the hearts of many postcolonial Africans.

The most prominent Aladura churches are these:

The Christ Apostolic Church grew out of an Anglican Bible study group founded in 1920 and was ...

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