Ethical Responsibility in the Diaspora
In the diaspora, it’s often difficult enough just figuring out whether or not someone is actually a legitimate priest if they themselves were initiated abroad. But once you’ve verified that they’re a priest, what recourse do you have if you realize they’re not behaving ethically?
A basic tenet of all the Yoruba religions is that we behave ethically; that is, we speak the truth, we behave with good character, and we refrain from casting judgement. Most times, we’re able to spot unethical behavior before making any commitments with a priest. Unfortunately, however, sometimes things sneak up on us and we missed some signals. Before we know it, the person we trusted to care for our spiritual well-being is taking advantage.
Thankfully, most priests carry themselves as priests should. They run their iles respectfully, they’re honest, they’re kind and caring. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you believe you’re being taken advantage of or are being abused, do not feel that it’s your role as a “good godchild” to endure such behavior. In Candomblé we say the mouth that blesses doesn’t curse.
In other words, your priest should not mistreat you. This is very different than you not always getting your way, or not having questions answered when you think they should be. This is about actual circumstances of abuse and disrespect; priests who make their godchildren believe that performing sexual favors is a part of the religion, or that they have an obligation to enter a romantic relationship with their priest, priests who physically abuse their godchildren, priests who are substance abusers or are involved in illegal activity. You do not have to stay in a situation where you are compromising yourself. You can speak out. You can seek support. You can leave.
On May 26, 2017, a group of priests and olorisha decided to speak out against abuses in the North American Orisha community that were committed by ordained priests of Yoruba Traditional Religion as it’s practiced in Nigeria. They met with Araba Ifayemi Elebuibon and crafted a petition to raise awareness and ask for accountability. You can read more about the charges and sign the petition.