The Public Health Significance of Religious Imposition: The Experience of Oromo People in Ethiopia

  • Begna F. DugassaEmail author
Original Paper


Knowledge and power are intertwined. To validate their illegitimate colonial occupation, the colonizers have imposed their knowledge—as expressed in such things as religion—upon the colonized people. Religions are instrumental in setting values, moralities and influencing the types of sciences, laws and arts developed. They govern human behavior, inform researchers on the questions they ask and foster certain types of knowledge. Religion also guides policymakers where and on what they need to focus. In this paper using a logic model I investigate (a) the theoretical reasons for imposing religion; (b) whether imposing religion widens people choices in life and produces a healthy body and community or limits people’s choices and impacts the development of public health in Oromia. Religious impositions are driven by epistemic racism; they twist the paradigm of the thinking of a society. This constitutes a kind of epistemic violence. Epistemic violence discredits the experience and interests of the Oromo people. It denounces Oromo accumulated wisdom, its institutions, and it constitutes the textbook definition of disempowerment. In many ways, it hinders development of critical thinking and limits people’s choices in life. Christianity and Islamic religions have been forcefully and methodically imposed upon the Oromo people. Religious impositions are the seeds that colonizers plant to make the colonized people intellectually dependent on the imposers. The imposition is meant to occupy the mental universe of the people. It twists how people perceive their past and present. Occupying and controlling the mind disguises the exploitation of the human and natural world. The imposition of those religions is responsible for many social problems such as an unjust social hierarchy, intolerance and environmental degradation. To promote health, prevent diseases and reduce health disparities, we need to promote the empowerment of people, validate their knowledge and experiences and widen their choices in life. In the efforts we make in preventing diseases and promoting health, we need to take into account the issue of religious imposition as one of the social forces. We cannot transform the world unless we understand what makes it work.


Religious imposition Public health Colonial education Oromia Ethiopia 




Conflict of interest

There is no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Requires no informed consent.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

The research did not involve humans and/or animals.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MississaugaCanada

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