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Religious Studies

The Influence Of Christianity On Atr In Ika North East Lga, Owa-Alero

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Abstract

Emergence and missionary activities of Christianity in Ika LGA, Delta State, Nigeria, resulted in the conversion of the indigenous people, from African Traditional Religion (ATR). The religious beliefs, practices and the provision of social services of this immigrant religion have impacted on the religious and cultural life of the Ika people. Yet, the indigenous religious beliefs and cultural values have served not only as the mediation of expressions for both indigenous Christians in this area; they have, also, shaped, the forms of Christianity that developed as well as the relationships between members of the diverse religious groups. This project is an attempt to examine the impact of Christianity on the traditional religious beliefs and cultural pluralistic context of this Owo-Alero Ika North East LGA Delta State Nigeria. Through this process, the extent of that changes that have resulted from the interaction of Christianity with the indigenous context, are, also, assessed. This research becomes more relevant as the potential for losing this important aspect of the people’s narrative history increases, with the older generation passing on from this life and the reality of the main stream of the historical account coming from European sources. For the success of this academic work, the primary and the secondary sources have been adopted. The employment of the phenomenological, sociological and historical methods is to encourage authenticity and originality. The central argument of this research work is that although a larger percentage of the indigenous population of the said people are converts to Christianity, it is the indigenous beliefs and values which, mainly, serve as the mediation for their religious and cultural expressions.

CHAPTER ONE

Background of Study

1.1 Introduction

Religious and cultural pluralism has been a prominent feature in human societies and this became intensified with the impact of modernity. The phenomenon of such pluralistic experience presents opportunities as well as challenges, particularly, for religious traditions and cultures today. H. Byron Earhart (1985: 5) states in his foreword to E. Thomas Lawson’s book Religions of Africa that one of the most fascinating aspects of our history is the richness and varieties of its religious traditions. This has tremendous impact on human relations in view of the resurgence of religion and its growing role in both public and private life. The social and political processes of secularization, which were thought to supplant religion and its influence, have, in fact, served to strengthen it. In the age of globalization, religious traditions and pre-modern cultural forms, which used to be localized, have now become global phenomena.

One may argue that in certain instances religion plays a major role in instigating violence, social unrest and cultural tension. Some scholars have gone so far to assert an essential connection between religion and violence. Rene Girard’s “mimetic desire” theory in Violence and the Sacred posits that religion is intrinsically related to violence (Girard, 1977: 21).

Furthermore, Appleby affirms that religion invariably plays a role or roles in violent situations. These assertions indeed hold to some extent in view of the tremendous influence of religion in the lives of many people. It has been observed that in Ika of Delta State, the sources of social conflicts, and even wars, cannot be restricted to (among other things) ethnocentrism or dictatorship. Inter-religious relations, especially, among the said people.

The African traditional society is a homogenous and close one with its unique characteristic features that set it apart from other cultures of the world. For many Africans and Nigerians, in particular, it is religion more than anything else that shapes their worldview and participation in social life. The African traditional religious belief is that human beings do not live in this world alone; there is a sense of human beings close relationship with nature. Humanity, animals and plants have “their own existence and place in the universe as independent parts of a whole.”  There are also spiritual beings that are more powerful than humankind and this opens up the African to the divine and to seeking affinity with these spiritual powers. Religious belief is thus diffused in all spheres of life filling them with meaning and significance. In almost every form of activity such as family gathering, child-naming, funeral, fishing and trading, there is a religious observance. To be born into African society is to be born into a culture that is intensely and pervasively religious and that means, and requires, participating in the religious beliefs and rituals of the community. This understanding of the pervasive influence of religion on humanity from cradle to the grave, the consciousness of God is considered inherent in the child from birth. The quest for relevant patterns and forms of inter-religious relations rooted in the Nigerian religious and cultural experience for fostering peaceful co-existence becomes, therefore, an imperative. The researcher believes that such a paradigm could be explored with regard to the engagement of African Traditional Religions with other religions, especially,

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1.2 Statement of Problem

The Ika traditional people are highly religious; religion is seen in every aspect of their life.

Christianity came to Nigeria which Ika of Delta State is a part of in the 15th century through Augustinian and Capuchin monks from Portugal. The first mission of the Church of England was, though, only established in 1842 in Badagry by Henry Townsend. In 1864 Samuel Ajayi Crowther, an ethnic Yoruba and former slave, was elected Bishop of the Niger and the first black Bishop of the Anglican Communion. Lagos became a diocese of its own in 1919.

Leslie Grordon Vining became Bishop of Lagos in 1940 and in 1951 the first archbishop of the newly inaugurated Province of West Africa. Vining was the last Bishop of Lagos of European descent.

On 24 February 1979, the sixteen dioceses of Nigeria were joined in the Church of Nigeria, a newly founded province of the Anglican Communion, with Timothy O. Olufosoye, then Bishop of Ibadan, becoming its first archbishop, primate and metropolitan. Between 1980 and 1988, eight additional dioceses were created. In 1986, he was succeeded by J. Abiodun Adetiloye who became the second primate and metropolitan of Nigeria, a position he would hold until 1999. In 1989 the Diocese of Abuja was created on the area of the new capital of Nigeria with Peter Akinola as first bishop.

The 1990s was the decade of evangelization for the Church of Nigeria, starting with the consecration of mission bishops for the mission dioceses of Minna, Kafanchan, Katsina, Sokoto, Makurdi, Yola, Maiduguri, Bauchi, Egbado and Ife. Between 1993 and 1996 the primate founded nine dioceses; Oke-Osun, Sabongidda-Ora, Okigwe North, Okigwe South, Ikale-Ilaje, Kabba, Nnewi, Egbu and Niger Delta North. In December 1996 five more mission dioceses in the north; Kebbi, Dutse, Damaturu, Jalingo und Oturkbo. In 1997 and 1998 four more dioceses were established; Wusasa, Abakaliki, Ughelli and Ibadan North. In 1999 the Church of Nigeria added 13 new dioceses; four in July (Oji River, Ideato, Ibadan South and Offa), eight in November (Lagos West, Ekiti West, Gusau, Gombe, Niger Delta West, Gwagwalada, Lafia and Bida) and Oleh in December. So, within 10 years there were 27 new regular dioceses and 15 mission dioceses created. The Archbishop of Canterbury declared the Church of Nigeria to be the fastest growing church in the Anglican Communion.

In 2000, Archbishop Peter Akinola succeeded Archbishop Adetiloye as primate of the Church of Nigeria. One of his first actions as primate was to get together 400 bishops, priests, lay members and members of the Mothers’ Union to elaborate a vision for the Church of Nigeria under the chairmanship of Ernest Shonekan, a former President of Nigeria. The vision elaborated was:The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) shall be; Bible-based, spiritually dynamic, united, disciplined, self-supporting, committed to pragmatic evangelism, social welfare and a Church that epitomizes the genuine love of Christ.

The program of action included among others additional translations of the liturgy, establishing a lay fundraising team, establishing a legal support to ensure freedom of religion and worship, establishing theological colleges and universities, internet access for all dioceses, training evangelists, priests and their wives, social welfare programs, hospitals, secondary schools, literacy courses and setting up cottage industries.  The Ika traditional communities before then they did not experience the present situation of rapid and intense religious and cultural encounters, which have, sometimes, brought in their wake tensions and violence.

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1.3 The Relevance of the Research

I propose in this regard, to study the influence of Christianity in ATR relations in the Owa-Alero Ika North East LGA Delta State Nigeria. This study has become important in light of the following developments:

Inter-religious tensions and the consequent community divisions are, gradually, creeping into the Owa-Alero Ika society. Though the country has been witnessing peaceful co-existence in the midst of religious plurality, this harmonious relationship is now being threatened due to the emergence of religious extremism and fundamentalism. Both the Christian legacies of European cultural forms and American evangelical Christianity seem to have marginalized and undermined, to a significant extent, some of the African religious and cultural values of Nigerians, which emphasize family unity, community participation, love and sense of family belonging.  This puritanical attitude that frowns upon and condemns incorporation of any indigenous religious and cultural expression into Nigerian Christian life tends to undermine those positive values which have fostered social cohesion and understanding over the years.  The present situation does not only marginalize local cultures, but, also, create fertile grounds for religious intolerance, conflicts and violence in society.  Nigerian, and for that matter African religious and cultural values rooted in the extended family system and the sense of community belonging, love and unity held members together. They participated together in events such as child naming, baptism, marriage/weddings of family members, funerals as well as festivals, irrespective of their religious differences. The African religious experience of Nigerians does not define religion in terms of doctrinal formulations, which tend to draw lines of distinctions among religions. It is in observing this life-affirming traditional heritage and the above-mentioned disruptive changes in the Nigerian society that this research work has been undertaken.

Some of the indigenous beliefs and values which helped hold communities together as one people were looked down upon and even branded as paganism by European Christian missionaries who came to evangelize the people. F.L. Bartels gives an account of this negative attitude towards the local cultures, at this time, by the early Methodist missionaries: “It seemed as if they could not accept the Christian faith and remain “good” citizens. The church’s rule on marriage was already causing much pain and creating dissension of a new kind. There were age-long customs and practices which they could no longer follow…” Such was the tension between Christianity and African religious beliefs and cultural values at that time. At one point when members of the Methodist church in Ughelli wanted to know if they could carry out their obligation of contributing to the funeral expenses of a deceased member in the family, who was not a Christian, Revd. Wrigley, the missionary, replied in the negative. Among the Owa-Alero people, similar rifts between Christianity and ATR and its cultural values were reported. Chiefs in the Owa-Alero soon realized that spiritual and traditional laws that bound the people together were being broken and disregarded by some community members who claimed to belong to the church. Unfortunately, that legacy still persists, to some extent, in the Nigerian society, sometimes, posing a threat to the peace and harmony of Nigerian society. This situation calls for an in-depth study into the relationship among the three major religions in the country, with the intention of exploring those relevant religious and cultural systems which are crucial for fostering peaceful co-existence in a pluralistic setting.

Again, there have been some misconceptions the religious dialogue has to do, primarily, with intellectual and theological discussions of the faith of various religious traditions or their interactions at an institutional level.  These miss the important and dynamic dimensions of inter-religious dialogue, which touch on the day-to-day human relationships of members of diverse faith traditions living in a sacred text or the tenets of beliefs of a religious tradition differ in some respects from the religious practices expressed in daily lives by the members of that religious community. In other words, official religion and popular religion are not, exactly, the same. In most African communities, a majority of Christians, for example, apply the official teachings of their respective faith traditions through the mediation of the indigenous religious and cultural symbols. Unfortunately, religious scholars, sometimes focus too much on institutional aspects of religion to the neglect of its popular dimensions. Yet, a lot of issues relating to conflict and peace bear on the daily responses of members of religious communities to real life situations and relationships. This dialogue of life which serves as the very foundation of African traditional community relationships and, which plays a vital role in the Nigerian society has not received the academic discussions it deserves.The study intends to draw attention to this important dimension of inter-religiousrelations – dialogue of life – which sustains community relationships, but, unfortunately, overlooked in scholarly discourse.

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Finally, the OwaAleroarea in Delta State has been chosen for this study. Christians and indigenous religious worshippers have stayed together for quite a long time, yet no official report of inter or intra-religious violence has been made. The Anglican Communion, with its missionary emphasis, especially, on evangelism, education and health services, as well as concept of community life for members, adds other dimensions to the inter-religious engagements in the area. This, together, with the Anglican Communion missionary success story in this area and Delta State, as a whole, also, serve as part of the motivation for this study.  The purpose of this research is, therefore, to examine the inter-religious relations among Christianityand ATR in order to explore how Christianity has impacted on ATR relations in the area, and how the latter has, also, been affected by the former.

1.4 Scope of the study

The research work will focus on Owa-Alero Ika North East LGA Delta State Nigeria.  This area has been chosen for the following reasons:

  1. i) African Traditional Religion and Christianity have co-existed in this area for quite a long time. Yet, incidence of violent clashes among them has not been, officially, been reported.
  2. ii) The area is accessible and can, therefore, be covered without much problem by the researcher.

iii) The dominant presence of a different brand of Christianity- The Anglican Communion in the area.

1.5 Methodology

  1. This work will adopt a multi-faceted approach, which will draw such disciplines as anthropology, sociology, psychology, etc. This will however be done using these two main approaches:
    1. Historical method
    2. Phenomenological method
  2. Information will be gathered from both the primary and the secondary sources; therefore, literature written on the subject under study as well as any work done on ATR and Christianity in Ika of Delta State and Nigeria will be read to gather information.

1.6 Definition of terms

Christianity the religion based on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, or its beliefs and practices.

Religion is derived from the Latin words as: Ligare (meaning to bind), Relegere (meaning to unite, or to link), and Religio (meaning relationship). Thus, the etymology of the word ‘religion’ shows that it is essentially a relationship, a link established between two persons, namely, the human person and the divine person believed to exist. It is something that links or unites man with transcendent being, a deity, believed to exist and worshipped by man. Religion is essentially a bipolar phenomenon.Religion is also construed as a belief in and worship of a Supernatural Being, the creator and the controller of the universe through an intermediary.

ATR is an abbreviation of African Traditional Religion which refers to the indigenous or autochthonous religions of the African people. It deals with their cosmology, ritual practices, symbols, arts, society, and so on. Because religion is a way of life, it relates to culture and society as they affect the worldview of the African people.

Influence means the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways.


Pages:  47

Category: Project

Format:  Word & PDF        

Chapters: 1-5

Material contains Table of Content, Abstract and References.

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