The people who put together the MandinkaPeople.com website really piss me off. I was looking up information about them for a story I'm working on, and that particular site seems to be the font of all Web wisdom concerning these people. (Many sites link to this one.)
The site is run by Christian missionaries who just cannot get into their heads the idea that there might be more than one path to God.
The site poses a question: Why do the Mandinka remain unreached by the Gospel? The answer that the site gives is essentially that the Gambia region has poor infrastructure, so most villages are isolated. Natural barriers also isolate things, and oh--the people are superstitious and believe in talismns and amulets.
It never seems to occur to these people that perhaps the Mandinka are happy as Muslims and see no need to change their religion.
Another irritating thing--they constantly refer to the Mandinka as 'MNK's' rather than as Mandinka. How degrading is that?
Anyway, my main gripe is, I think, with this particular missionary's attitude. In a way, it's almost medieval in the depth of conviction that the missionary's belief is right, and the Mandinka beliefs are wrong or at best misguided. I think this person believes that, because the Mandinka have very little in the way of written knowledge, that they are religiously handicapped and cannot understand the true depths of religion--which is bullshit. You don't have to be literate to be able to understand the depths of faith. Yes, literacy helps, but it's not essential. Can this missionary walk into the Mandinkas' minds and know what they think of their god and their religion? No.
I find the whole website--though informative--just...icky. It's someone trying to impose their beliefs on a people who are doing just fine with their own beliefs, thank you very much. Why force them to change? Why automatically presume that their faith isn't good enough? Would this missionary appreciate being preached to by a Muslim missionary? I doubt it.