2nd Folorunso Alakija Distinguished Lecture on Religion and Public Life in Africa with Professor Simeon Ilesanmi


Thursday, November 12, 2020, 10:00am to 12:00pm


Virtual Event - Details Below

Alakija Lecture Poster with Speaker Photos

The Harvard Center for African Studies Africa Office will host this year's Folorunso Alakija Distinguished Lecture on Religion and Public Life in Africa featuring Professor Simeon Ilesanmi, Washington M. Wingate Professor of Religion at Wake Forest University. Professor David Hempton, Dean of the Harvard Divinity School will provide welcome remarks, with responses to the keynote address from Professor Jacob Olupona, Professor of African Religious Traditions, Harvard Divinity School and Professor Elizabeth Foster, Associate Professor of History, Tufts University. Mrs. Folorunso Alakija, Vice Chairman, Famfa Oil Limited, will provide closing remarks.

November 12, 2020
10:00am - 12:00pm EST
5:00pm - 6:00pm CAT

The topic of the lecture is Legal Regulation of Faith: the Limits of Religious Freedom and the Challenge of COVID-19 in Africa.


The unexpected outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic early this year has posed serious challenges to the constitutional protection of religious belief and practice, a feature of the legal veneer that many African countries often dubiously flaunt as an emblem of their liberal political outlook and democratic aspiration. To curtail this global public health crisis, nearly every African government instituted certain restrictive measures to which religious communities responded with varying degrees of compliance and sometimes outright contempt. My talk will examine the confluence of legal, political, and cultural issues that these restrictive measures raise, and their implications for understanding and predicting the future trajectories of religion-state relationships in Africa. What, for example, are the religious liberty implications of the pandemic-related restrictions on assembling for religious purposes? How far can a government limit religious freedom in the name of fighting the coronavirus (COVID-19) under municipal and international law? Are there other contextual reasons for religious opposition to or skepticism about government pandemic-related restrictions? To what extent does the integrity problem of many African governments explain the pervasive lackadaisical attitude of the people toward these restrictions and other public health measures?



ORGANIZER: Harvard Center for African Studies Africa Office

CO-SPONSOR: Religion and Public Life at Harvard Divinity School

REGISTER HERE: https://harvard.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_z0aSjERlRZy18kkKOz2Wzg



Keynote Speaker:

Simeon Ilesanmi Photo
Simeon Ilesanmi
 is the Washington M. Wingate Professor and Convener for the JD/MA in religious Studies dual-degree Program at Wake Forest University. He received his PhD from Southern Methodist University and his JD from Wake Forest University School of Law. His numerous publications include Religious Pluralism and the Nigerian State (1997), The Rule of Law and the Rule of God (2014), Journal and Law Review articles and book chapters on topics that reflect his broad research interest in Comparative Ethics, Just War Theory, Human Rights, and the intersections of law, religion, and ethics. He had been a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting fellow at Princeton University, a member of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, and a faculty fellow of Aspen Institute. He serves on the editorial boards of several academic journals.


Elizabeth Foster Headshot

  • Elizabeth A. Foster is Associate Professor of History at Tufts University. She is the author of African Catholic: Decolonization and the Transformation of the Church (Harvard University Press 2019), which garnered Honorable Mention for the International Studies Association's Religion and International Relations Book Prize and Faith in Empire: Religion, Politics, and Colonial Rule in Senegal, 1880-1940 (Stanford University Press 2013), which won the Alf Andrew Heggoy Prize of the French Colonial Historical Society. She has published in the Journal of African History, The Journal of Modern History, French Politics, Culture & Society and French Historical Studies and is currently co-editing a collection of global scope on Decolonization and the Re-Making of Christianity. She is the recipient of ACLS, NEH, and Fulbright Fellowships.


Jacob Olupona Photo

  • Jacob K. Olupona is Professor of African Religious Traditions, Harvard Divinity School and Professor of African and African American Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He studied at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Boston University where he received his PhD in Comparative Religion in 1983. He is currently working on a new ground-breaking study of the explosive growth of evangelicalism across all branches of Christianity, expanding the current discourse that is largely focused on Pentecostalism by identifying its affect on and place in the larger context of Nigerian Christianity and society. Most recently, in 2018 he received the Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion.

Alakija Profile Photo

  • Mrs. Folorunso Alakija, is a dynamic businesswoman and philanthropist with a sincere desire to help the needy. She is the Vice Chairman of Famfa Oil Limited, which is a successful oil exploration and production business, and oversees her philanthropic endeavors, such as the Rose of Sharon Foundation which empowers widows, their families as well as orphans through educational programs and scholarships. She is on the Center for African Studies Africa Advisory Board. 


This Folorunso Alakija Distinguished Lecture on Religion and Public Life in Africa provides a platform for the Harvard University Center for African Studies to connect faith leaders with the Harvard community and beyond in a conversation about the constantly shifting and contested boundary between the secular and the sacred, the public and the private.