McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Elochukwu E. Uzukwu
Igbo, Chukwu, Chineke, Anyanwu, Logara, Eziama, Ala, Osebruwa, Amaechi, Ugochi
Prior to the advent of Christianity in Igboland, the people practiced Igbo Traditional Religion. They believed in a Supreme Being (Chukwu/Chineke) who has other smaller deities as messengers including Ala/Ani the most powerful deity on earth. They revered their ancestors, who, they believe, still relate to and communicate with the living. Thus, the concept of God as ultimate reality is a dynamic existential aspect of Igbo world-view. Categorically speaking, it was short-sighted for the European missionaries to claim that Igbo people had no knowledge of God or lacked religion before the introduction of Christianity in Igboland in the nineteenth century. The missionaries presented Christianity in Igboland as a superior religion, presuming that the concept of God had previously been absent from Igbo culture.
This dissertation investigates the European missionary claim to have introduced God and religion into Africa, and into Igboland in particular, and to argue that the missionaries who came to Igboland to introduce a foreign religion failed to dialogue with the existing Igbo Traditional Religion and culture. Theologically, when the Christian faith interacts with culture so that the message of the gospel becomes incarnated in that culture, the result is inculturation. This process of inculturation has its foundations in the Incarnation of the Word of God as described in the Gospel of John. Hence, the bishops of Africa and Madagascar, during the Synod of 1974, wisely opted for the incarnation model as opposed to “adaptation,” which they termed outdated for evangelization.
This dissertation argues that the praxis of inculturation in the Church in Igboland today is yet to be realized, as Igbo cultural values began to fade away when Christianity entered the country. The Church in Igboland wears a foreign look and has yet to develop its own liturgical rite. Existentially, liturgical celebration in the Church in Igboland today retains most of the European ways of worship brought by the expatriate missionaries. The cultural and religious practices in Igboland before the advent of Christianity were negatively labelled as pagan, diabolic, superstitious, and satanic by the missionaries. Thus, interreligious dialogue between the incoming Christian religion and Igbo Traditional Religion was neglected. However, the dynamics of a given faith meeting a new culture or another religion require interreligious dialogue between the two. The result of dialogue is mutual understanding, which is strengthened through respect for each religion and culture.
With a thorough examination of several documents from Vatican II and from Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, this dissertation maintains that the Church at Vatican II opened up to inclusiveness more than ever before. This openness of Vatican II reflects the fact that religious liberty and pluralism are existential facts, though salvation in Christ is for all peoples. Igbo Traditional Religion is a religion like others and should be recognized as such. Several practical proposals are presented that could help the process of inculturation in Igboland: a) interreligious dialogue must be employed between the Church and Igbo Traditional Religion; b) the sacred objects and cultural values of Igbo origin could be used to facilitate an Igbo Church; c) the Church in Igboland could understand the values Igbo people attach to their culture and make use of them for proper inculturation; d) the Igbo traditional pattern of prayer be considered for possible inculturation into the Church in Igboland to suit the people’s cultural context; e) that the African mode of worship, which is dynamic and expressive with bodily movements that express joy, be incorporated in developing a distinctively Igbo liturgy. Further research is recommended to ensure a continuous process of learning. Hence, this reshaping exercise should be evaluated periodically to ensure that full inculturation of the gospel message into the Church in Igboland becomes a reality.
Anyanwu, C. (2019). Reshaping The Theology and Praxis of Inculturation through Interreligious Dialogue Between The Catholic Church and African Traditional Religion in Igboland, Nigeria (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1781
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