The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city (Genesis 11:6-8).

Tribalism was instituted by God. “Are you surprised?” Oh yes! God instituted tribalism. But for a grave reason. In fact, God was the first to promote tribalism. He did that when He said, “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

God instituted tribalism at the Tower of Babel, where He confused the language of the people. With the confusion of language, which led to many languages, everyone turned to his/her own language, and from languages, tribes were formed. From those tribes, nations emerged. With the emergence of nations, each nation, from tribes developed its unique culture, laws, religions, and other institutions.

In Genesis, chapters 12-17, from among the numerous tribes, God chose a particular tribe, from which He formed a nation, and looked upon that nation as His chosen people, through the covenant He made with Abraham.

In forming a new nation, God separated the nation from other nations, by giving them their unique identity through laws to guide and foster unity among them, and to make them remain loyal to Him forever (cf. Exodus 20:1ff, and Deuteronomy 4:7-9).

By God’s action, Israel, God’s chosen tribe (language), became a race (nation), and looked down on other tribes and races. The Israelites saw other tribes and races as inferiors, because they were chosen by God.

With the fall of northern Israel which saw Samaria captured in 721BC, and her people deported to Assyrian empire, with people from other places resettling in Samaria, a serious displacement took place. From there, the northern tribes that were left over in Samaria intermarried with the foreigners who were brought, and settled in Samaria; a situation that deepened disunity between the northern and southern tribes.

The implications above are endless. But for the sake of precision. Let us define tribalism.

Tribalism, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, “Is a tribal consciousness, and loyalty; exaltation of a tribe above other tribes” (“Tribalism,” Merriam-Webster dictionary). Put differently, “It is a strong feeling of loyalty to a group, ideology or tribe” (“What is tribalism?” Open bible info).

From the biblical historical exposé, and dictionary definitions above, the question comes to mind, should God be blamed for instituting tribalism?

If one is not careful, one may hastily blame God for this cancerous ideology called tribalism that has eaten so deep into human existence, and has given birth to racism that now seems more cancerous from the surface.

Now, before we blame God, let us examine the root cause. In Genesis 1:26-27, God said, “Let us make man in our own image, according to our likeness….” From here, one discovers that it was not God’s original plan to institute tribes. God’s original destiny for man was to make man for Himself, which He did. But the actions of man, through man’s abuse of God’s preternatural gifts, led firstly, to man’s expulsion from man’s original home (cf. Genesis 3:1-24). And secondly, by man’s growing pride and folly, there emerged the institution of tribes at the Tower of Babel (cf. Genesis 11:1-9), which led to nations and races.

Nevertheless, God’s institution of a special tribe from among the numerous tribes, was a way of leading man back to Himself. That is why in the fullness of time, He sent His only Begotten Son, to reconcile man back to Himself (John 3:16).

The reconciliation reached its zenith on the day of Pentecost, where a new and original language was birthed. That was why, “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia,Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome, Jews and proselytes alike, Cretans and Arabs, all spoke one language.” (Acts 2:9-11).

Consequently, we say, what was lost at the Tower of Babel, which led to tribalism, was restored at the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost, where different numerous tribes from the surface of the earth were united under one language. A return to man’s original state as the Imago Dei.


But sadly, till date, the black race has failed to come to full realization of the reality of being made in the “image and likeness of God.”

The black race has failed to come to terms with the fact that everyone is created in God’s image, no matter the person’s family, community, town, or state of origin.

The black race has failed to know that man is first and foremost God’s image, before being called a tribal man.

The black race is still failing to know that God’s instructions of, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion…” (Genesis 1:28), is not for a particular tribe to dominate others, but for everyone to make the world a better place.

If the black race had not failed in the above original destiny of humanity, the tribal discriminations that cut across politics, religion, and other institutions may not have arisen.

If the black race has not failed in the above original destiny, presidents, governors, ministers, legislators, etc., of the black race will not place people of their own tribes in positions that they are not qualified to occupy.

If the black race has not failed to realize her original destiny, blacks will not be killing fellow blacks on a daily basis, without other blacks carrying placards to protest in the streets of major cities like Johannesburg, Lagos, Douala, Juba, Nairobi, Accra, Kampala, Freetown, etc.

If the black race has not failed to know that black lives matter, nepotism and corruption in our political systems, religious bigotry in our political and religious institutions, human rights violations by security personnel and hoodlums, through brutality, sexual violence, rapes and gruesome killings of fellow blacks will never see the light of the day, let alone walk freely on the streets.

If the black race has not failed to know that we are all created equal in God’s image and likeness, Xenophobic attacks in South Africa, unending unrests and killings of fellow blacks in South Sudan, Northwest and Southwest Cameroon, Central African Republic, Southern Kaduna in Nigeria, etc., will never happen.

Let me tell us, if George Floyd was killed by a fellow black, I do not think anyone would have taken to the streets to protest.

Fellow blacks, why do we hate ourselves so much, but pretend to the rest of the world whenever a black is abused or killed by a white person?

In the words of Reno Omokri in his recent article titled, ‘George Floyd, The Black Race, and The Greatest Love of All’, “As black race, let us do locally what we expect others to do globally. So that we can have the moral strength to condemn racism.”

Take it or leave it, tribalism is more cancerous than racism. Racism is a cancer of the surface, why tribalism is the inner cancer. And it is only when the inner cancer is cured, that the outer cancer will be cured.

Believe me or not, black lives will matter only when fellow blacks think, feel, and see one another as one.

Let us remove the planks from our eyes, in order to see clearly the dust in the eyes of others. For charity they say, begins at home.

© Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, MSP, June, 2020.

Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI is a Catholic Priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is currently on a mission in the Archdiocese of Douala, Cameroon.

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