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RECONCILING CHRISTIANITY WITH THE CULTURES AND TRADITIONS OF A PEOPLE. By comrade Chinedu N. Nwobodo ( jp ) M. sc , B. sc At the CWC meeting of Awkunanaw Enlightenment Foundation, 4 th November, 2012 at Obuofia Okunano . INTRODUCTION :.

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reconciling christianity with the cultures and traditions of a people



comrade Chinedu N. Nwobodo (jp)M. sc , B. sc

At the CWC meeting of Awkunanaw Enlightenment Foundation,

4th November, 2012 at ObuofiaOkunano.


When the president of Awkulite told me that I would be making a scripted speech on the above subject, he certainly threw me into a state of dilemma, whether or not to accept, because this is one topic I hate to discuss or argue about in all fora, especially in our society, where ignorance holds sway, which makes our people equate anything that is customary with the devil and/or satan.

introduction continues

Okunano clan is a vulnerable society, where intellectual discourse, based on religion would create more problems than creative thinking.

However, after a critical consideration of who the members of Awkunanaw Enlightenment Foundation are, I concluded that I would be discussing with enlightened minds, who are not and cannot be considered vulnerable, among whom issues should be discussed the way they are, without endangering their understanding and the way they ought to reason.


Having said so, let us begin this discussion from the introduction and definition of the key words of the topic sentence, to suit the context in which we will be talking. Such words to be defined which are critical to understanding the entire presentation are:

- Reconciling

- Christianity

- Culture

- Tradition and

- A people

Reconciling: This is the present participle of the word-Reconciliation, which, according to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary means

definition continues

“to find a way to make two or more ideas, situations, etc, agree with each other when actually they seem to be in opposition”. The Webster's Universal Dictionary and Thesaurus defines it as “to re-establish friendly relations, to bring to agreement, to make compatible, to settle, to make resigned, etc”. The Encarta Dictionaries defines it as “put people back on friendly terms, end conflict, make somebody accept something and make consistent or compatible”.

reconciling christianity with the cultures and traditions of a people definition continues

A critical analysis of the above literary definitions show that we can reconcile with, as in making people become friends again after quarreling, reconcile to, as in making somebody to accept an unpleasant situation because there is nothing one can do to change it, or reconcile between, as in bringing an end to a disagreement between two sides.

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For the purposes of this presentation, we will choose reconcile between, because we will be trying to find a way of conflating Christianity and the cultures of the people, as a means to ending the perennial disagreement between the two. In the context of this presentation therefore, reconciliation means achieving a commonness between Christianity and Cultures of Okunano, such that will produce an Okunano Christianity.

definition continues2


The Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary defines this as “the religion based on the belief that Christ was the Son of God and on His teachings, it is a state of being a Christian”. Webster’s Universal Dictionary and thesaurus defines Christianity as “religion based on teachings of Christ”, while Encarta English Dictionary similarly defines the same as “religion that follows Jesus Christ’s teaching, holding Christian beliefs, Christians as a group”.

In this presentation, Christianity represent the belief system and practices of all Okunano sons and daughters who have converted from their primordial religion to believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the true saviour of mankind.

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CULTURE: The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary 7th Edition, defines culture as “the customs, and beliefs , arts, way of life and social organization of a particular country or group”. Webster’s Universal Dictionary and Thesaurus defines culture as “appreciation and understanding of the arts, the skills, etc of a given people in a given period, the entire range of customs, beliefs, social forms and material traits of a religious, social or racial group”. The Encarta English Dictionary defines it as “arts collectively, knowledge and sophistication, shared beliefs and values of a group”.

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C. V. Good in 1959 posited that culture is “the aggregate of the social, ethical, intellectual, artistic, governmental and industrial attainments characteristic of a group, state or nation and by which it can be distinguished from and compared with other groups or nations”.

Prof. B. K. Malinowski in 1961 operationally defined culture as “a vast apparatus partly material and partly spiritual and partly human by which human societies are organised into permanent and recognizable group”.

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In view of the above definitions, let us construe culture, in the context of this presentation, as the totality of the way of life of Okunano clan, i.e. their material and non-material ideologies and the general characteristics (Religion inclusive), by which Okunano clan can be identified from and compared to its neighbouring clans at any given period.


  • By Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary this means, “a belief, custom or way of doing something that has existed for a long time among a particular group of people”. Webster’s Universal Dictionary defines tradition as “the handing down from generation to generation of opinions and practices; the belief or practice thus passed on.”
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  • For this presentation, tradition means a long standing action, pattern of life considered as a set of precedents upon which Okunano hands down their cultural values, norms and mores from generation to generation, until now. This means that traditions cannot be entirely divested from cultures, hence from this point we conflate culture and tradition and see both simply as the culture of the clan.


  • This phrase means all the people who live together in a particular place or who belong to a particular country, race, etc. A people can be seen as persons living within a geopolitical area, with definite boundaries and peculiar traits , distinguishing them from their neighbours.
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A people can also be seen as a race, representing persons with the same cultural backgrounds and traits who may be living miles apart.

In this presentation, therefore, it means all the communities of Okunano who live within Enugu South and Nkanu West Local Government Areas, who have common socio-religious and political traits.

the reconciliation

We have known the meaning of the key words and phrases in the topic sentence in relation to this presentation. Let us therefore look at the possibilities or not of reconciling between Christianity and cultures of Okunano. This paper will look at this from the following perspectives:

- Areas of Disagreement

- Need for Reconciliation, and

- How to Reconcile

areas of disagreement

There are several areas where Christianity disagree with the cultures of Okunano because of the fanatical disposition of the Christian Okunanos, and because of the conservative disposition of the traditional religionists of Okunano.

Areas of disagreement include the following, but certainly not exhaustive. We will only use them as samples, based on which we can discuss, and then be able to draw our conclusions:

- Language/Dialect

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- Worship system,

- Idols and Altars

- Value system

Language/Dialect: In the dialect of Okunano, “Igo-ofor” simply means prayer, “Igo-oji” means blessing the kolanut, “igoekwu” means wedding, “itooji” means presenting kola for a new bride. But invite an Okunano Christian to “Igoofor”, “igoorji”, “igoekwu” or “itoorji” and you would have committed heresy, unless you have invited him to ikpeekpere, igoziorji, igbankwu, igbaakwukwo, which mean the same things, but now in the Owerri or Onitsha dialect.

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In many instances, the Okunano Christians go to their fathers-in-law for “itoorji” of their wives with garden egg against the use of kola-nut, simply because kola-nut has been identified with the tradition of the people. The questions here are, what is the basic difference between kola-nut and garden egg? If the people would change from kola-nut to using garden egg for itoorji ceremony of their wives, would there be any difference in the cosmology, philosophy and psychology of a typical Okunano society? My answer to these questions is No! Kola-nut and garden egg are fruits? Kola-nut does not constitute any sin in the sight of God, more than the garden egg? The use of kola-nut for marriage in Okunano only symbolizes the perfect union expected in a marriage, as kola-nut comes in lobes, but always firmly united in one body.


Worship system: This is the practice of Okunano people, showing respect, reverence or veneration to God. There is a disagreement here because of how the Okunano Christians look at the means through which the Okunano traditional religionists reverence or venerate the almighty God.

In this discourse, I align myself with Patrick Iroegbu(2010 p. 1). The man said “Referring to the ancestor by the Igbo when in prayer session or incantation moment was misunderstood by the missionary colonial authorities to mean worshiping dead ancestors. The Igbos do not worship the dead ancestors, rather they call up the virtues of known ancestral forces that constitute part of their cosmology of life and world. Ancestors are not called up without Chukwu- Obasidin’elu (the almighty God above)…The actual worship is routed to God, Chukwu, the biggest being they can imagine, experience, refer to, call upon, submit to, and know well and are passionate about.”

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I also agree with the position of Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity (2009, P1), which states “when Christianity is presented as an alternative to the existing culture, the prospective convert must choose either to follow Christ or to remain in the “evil” world or “paganism”. This is a common conception when Christianity is viewed as an apocalyptic or sectarian movement and also as Christendom. Most missionaries from the Northern Atlantic to African presupposed this view without acknowledging that for them, Christianity was their own culture and religious heritage”

idols and altars

Idols and Altars: Copying from the misrepresentation by the Missionary colonial authorities, the Okunano Christians construe the altar/intermediary nature of consecrated arena, images, and symbols to mean just idol worshiping or having other gods besides God (Chukwu).

If praying to God with and/or before consecrated artifacts, in the altars and before images mean just idol worshipping, then so many Christian Churches, if not all, would be culpable, because in many churches, from the houses of their faithful, to their altars, to some consecrated portions of their church Compounds, are adorned with consecrated images, which in the hearts of most of their faithful have taken the place of God, hence they cannot step out of their houses without the company or assumed company of such idols.

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Many more churches would be culpable if what makes an image an idol still remains as in Exodus 20: 24-25, which records “make an alter of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honoured I will come to you and bless you. If you make an alter of stone for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.”(NIV).

If this be it, which Church would not be culpable, for it has an alter, on which tools are not used.

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To buttress my point that the colonial missionaries misrepresented the Okunano God (Chukwu) worship Altars, the biblical Noah would not have been said to have worshipped idol, yet it was recorded “then Noah built an altar to the Lord and taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it”(Genesis 8:20) (NIV). Elijah, too, would not have worshipped idol, yet it is recorded that he took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying “your name shall be Israel. With the stones he built an alter in the name of the Lord… He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood”(1st King 18:31-32)(NIV). Read also Genesis 22:9.

some material examples

The Colonial missionaries believed that by condemning the Okunano religious beliefs and practices, that they would be able to immediately have a new man in a new faith but that was not to be and has not been. The syncretistic practices in the clan has shown that the colonial authorities were wrong, hence the need for the reconciliation.

Furthermore what is the basic difference between the use of the Okunano traditional ofor stick for our rosary and the use of the Roman Catholic chaplet or the use of mini (handy) cross by the churches. The philosophy of using those objects remain one and the same. The difference is rooted only in the origin. I strongly believe that the use of ofor stick for our rosary would not have made any difference before God, if our hearts were pure as we say our rosary, after all God created us the way he did and in His own image. The same God gave Okunano the sense and knowledge of the use of ofor stick for prayers, as much as He gave the Romans the knowledge of the use of chaplets and the knowledge of the use of the cross for crucifixion to the Jews.

some credibility questions

Forsooth, my intention is not to put the wisdom of the colonial missionaries under scrutiny. I only want to raise some credibility questions on:

  • The reason(s) for designating the OkunanoChukwu worship system as just idol worshipping or fetish, without any relationship to God.
  • Why what the Okunano ancestors did, which was the same thing the Jewish fore-bearers did, would be considered idol worshipping, while the Jewish practices were considered holy and done unto the Lord God.
  • Why the Okunano Christians would continue to consider the Jewish practice, pre and post Christ, holy and the Okunano’s, idol worshipping.
value system

Value System:Okunano cultures consist universally acceptable God-given norms, values, mores and common traits, which can be shared and which can contribute to the better understanding of the Christian gospel.

We cannot be far from the truth if we accept that every authentic culture in its own way bears universal values established by God. The unfortunate thing is that the Okunano norms, mores and values have been considered and treated as heathen by the Okunano Christians, hence the existence of disagreement between cultures of the Clan and Christianity. To this end, I concede to the statement of Ernest Munachi (CSSP), in his essay in African Theology, titledBible and Culture in African theology, part 2, page 3,

value system1

which states “that the Bible is the word of God does not imply that the totality of the word of God is contained in the Bible. Aspects of the word of God are found in the cultures established by God through creation. In a word, what is to be gained by the Christian gospel and African culture in the event of dialogue and possible re-integration is mutual enrichment and new life for both”.

need for the reconciliation

Having identified some of the areas of disagreement, let us now look for some dialogue systems that could produce a synclinal position for Christianity and culture against the subsisting anticline posture between the two.

Chinua Achebe (1956, pp. 123-125) through the character Obierika, aptly describes the encounter between Christianity and the cultures of Okunano clan and pungently stated why there should be reconciliation between the duo, when he wrote

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“How do we think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us. Whiteman is clever. He came quietly and peacefully with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him stay. Now he has won our brothers and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that hold us together and we have fallen apart”.

Similarly Gandhi was cited as saying “Everybody is right from his own perspective, but it is not impossible that everybody is wrong, hence the necessity for tolerance which does not mean indifference to one’s faith, but a more intelligent and purer love for it”- Gandhi. In Odeh (1996, p. 194).

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The above citations paint the exact picture of the need for reconciliation between Christianity and the cultures of Okunano. Yes, who expects Okunano to continue to disagree alongside religious sentiments . Okunano is living in a changed and continuously changing world. We have to accept this fact. Those who are not ready to change either way, must have a rethink. Okunano does not have to linger in the age that is passing away fastly.

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Surely, it is not possible that anybody can evade the psycho-discomfort of belonging to and of course living in a world in transition. The Okunano world has changed from its primordial common religious paradigm and it will continue to change. Every member of the clan will have to suffer a little discomfort to be able to change from his tenaciously held belief and practices for a dialogic model that produces a dialogic relationship, for a better understanding and reconciliation.

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Whether we accept it or not Christianity has been acculturated in Okunano and it is now the popular religion of the people, within the modern cultures of the clan. We therefore, have to create means for developing and accepting an Okunano Christianity that will produce Okunano Christians, in the best heaven-bound Christian tradition, which will no longer query God for creating the people of the clan in the Okunano perculiarities.

how to reconcile the two

We will look at this part of the presentation from five perspectives as follows:

- Adoption of Okunano Christianity,

- Mending the broken links,

- Interlocutory relationship,

- Christ, the transformer of cultures, and

- Elimination of the racial sentiment.


  • 1.They thought that by condemning African religious beliefs and practices, social and political means of control, that they would produce “a new man born in a new faith; but this “new man” produced became a split personality, who could neither totally return to the old nor firmly be rooted in the new. This was made worse by the fact that most of the missionaries were not only ignorant of the Igbo people but also lacked adequate knowledge of the content of the Christian message” (Rev. Prof. B. N. Onwu, 2012)
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(ii) Once upon a time a Monkey and a fish were in a huge flood. The agile monkey was able to save itself by grasping a tree branch and pulling itself to safety. Happy at last, the monkey noticed the fish fighting against the massive current and deeply moved by the plight, he bent to save it. The fish was not happy, for it bit the Monkey’s hand. Whereupon the monkey being terribly annoyed at the fish’s ingratitude, threw the fish back to the water… We Evangelizers and Theologians can act very much like the Monkey, full of goodwill but with little sensitivity to what culture is or how it operates…-(E. N. Ezeogu, 2012).

(iii) Since Christianity cannot exist in a cultural vacuum, any claim to preach the pure gospel is pretense. Christians are necessarily products of their cultures. When they go out to win converts, they do so from their own cultural backgrounds, using the languages and cultural tools they accumulated through the process of socialization and education. In

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practice, Portraying Christ as against culture puts

in conflict the missionaries’ cultures with the perspective

converts’ culture and engenders serious social crisis. The

proliferation of African instituted Churches is a

manifestation of that crisis. (David Patte (ed), 2009)

(iv)“We follow the same context to examine cultural

heritage, while taking note that each of the religions- Igbo

Chukwu worship and Christianity, is a cultural paradigm of

worshiping the Supreme God, or Chukwu in Igbo parlance;

and that encounters between cultures are necessarily

bound to create both continuity and change”.(Patrick

Iroegbu, 2010).

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The four citations above form the platform upon which the discussion of Okunano Christianity is based. What is Okunano Christianity? How would Okunano Christianity operate? It is the same Christianity known to us all, earlier than now. It is the same Christianity still taking its bearing from Jesus Christ. However, it is the Christianity that would no longer be far removed from the cultures of Okunano, so that the present practice of syncretistic Christianity would cease, so that we no longer have Christianity that gasp for the breath of life as fish removed from the water.

The present ambivalent Christianity in Okunano cannot be said to be pure Christianity. It presents Christianity that opposes the good values of the cultures of Okunano, it breeds a circumstance, where majority of Christians resort to their deities, ancestors, native doctors, traditional divination and herbalists for solutions to their challenging moments.

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  • Okunano Christianity would no longer equate all customary things of Okunano with the devil or Satan. It would no longer condemn the Okunano language/dialect, musical tools, method of praying, Christening tradition, etc to just paganism and idol worshipping. It is going to be Christianity that will acknowledge that God knew Okunano pre and post creation and made the clan in its own particular ways of life, which gave the clan its pre-Christianity knowledge of worshipping God.
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  • The Okunano values, extremely reverence God and sees God as the basis of their life. Ordinarily, these are the values Christianity stand for, which ought to be reinforced by Christianity in the modern cultures of the clan. According to E. M. Ezeogu (2012, pp. 2 & 3) “The gospel should have a transforming effect on Africans and their cultures in such a way as to bring out the best in them… The Bible and African culture should help each other in nurturing what is relevant and promising as well as pruning out dead wood that has become obsolete…The Bible and African culture could act as each others’ mirror for greater self awareness and self improvement”.
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  • Okunano Christianity would no longer see the ratiocinative thinking of symbiotic relationship between Christianity and Okunano culture as heathen. That Christianity will imbibe the values, mores and norms of Okunano, because cultural norms, mores and values change attitude, attitude change behaviour and behaviour that is tolerated is reinforced. Okunano values, norms, mores abhor:
  • - stealing and robbery,
  • - sexual immoralities,
  • - disrespect to elders and Priest of God/gods,
  • - extrajudicial killing
  • - disrespect to sanctity of life,
  • - disrespect to marital relationship,
  • - abuse of the dead,
  • - disrespect to Community/communal relations, etc
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  • The Okunano values extremely reverence God and sees God as the basis of their life. Ordinarily, these are the values Christianity stand for and ought to reinforce in the modern Okunano Cultures.
  • According to E. M. Ezeogu(2012, pp. 2,3,4) “the gospel should have a transforming effect on Africans and their cultures in such a way as to bring out the best in them… The Bible and African Culture should help each other in nurturing what is relevant and promising as well as in pruning out dead wood that has become obsolete… The Bible and African Culture could act as each others’ mirror for greater self-awareness and self-improvement…In line with Paul VI’s clarion call in Kampala in 1969, you may and you must have an African Christianity.” Ezeogu went further to cite Julius Lipner way back to 1985 “the gospel, while remaining one must make itself many, taking different forms as it finds a home in different cultures, faithful to its original identity, yet transformed by its new context, even as the risen Lord was the same, yet different.”
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  • Okunano Christianity should be the Christianity which would imbibe the virtue of holiness and truthfulness, found in the ancient priests of Okunano, who were not found to be part of liars, who did not say thus said the Lord, when the Lord did not speak to them, who did not discriminate against anybody or group of persons on any account, who did not honour or associate or crown known criminals, who did not bear false witness against the poor in favour of the rich, who did not reserve special seats in the shrines and village squares for rich men because of their richness, etc. Let me now recall the interaction between E. Stanley Jones, an American missionary who worked in India. Mr. Jones met Gandhi and sought his advice on how best he thought India could be evangelized. Among his replies Gandhi said “emphasize love and make it your working force, for love is central in Christianity; study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically to find the good that is within them, in order to have a more sympathetic approach to the people”. (Odeh 1993, p. 191)
  • Therefore, Okunano Christianity is that Christianity that finds its root in the people.
mending the broken link
  • The cultural alienation the Okunano clan suffered from the colonial Missionaries, who were obviously biased in favour of their own cultures created the gap in the link between Christianity and the culture.
  • For sure, Christianity brought wonderful things with it– Education, hospital, charity home, exotic materials, abolished human sacrifice, killing of twins, and to some extent suppressed superstition which the Okunano traditional religion could not, but that does not mean that all the cultures of Okunano, greater percentage of which are not religion based, are bad, inhuman, fetish and devilish.
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  • Truly Okunano, through Christianity has reshaped their faith and the way they now view the world, but still Okunano today, remains syncretistic. Their traditional religion is still alive among the people. However, the encounter with Christianity means that the socio-cultural lives of Okunano will never be the same again.
  • Because of the encounter, which has changed the socio-cultural faces of the clan, with majority of them being of the nature of split personalities, there is an
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obvious need for a reconciliation that will restore the broken link. The possible ways of restoring the broken links include the following:

  • 1. The apostle Paul in Acts 17:29 admonished us that we as the offspring of God ought not think that Godhead is like onto gold or silver or stone, graven by art and man’s device. Again, in Romans 1:18, the apostle Paul let us know that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all who held the truth in unrighteousness. Also in Hebrews 1: 1-3 we found out that the God who spoke to our fathers and forefathers in the past through the Prophets of the ancient Okunano cultures is still speaking to us today through His
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  • son Jesus Christ, which is the brightness of His glory, expressed in His God image and he upholds everything by the word of his Power.
  • And these being the present facts of the modern cultures of Okunano as Christianity has been acculturated, Okunano cultures being eclectic as any other, and Okunano being lucky that their ancestors knew God– Chukwu and worshipped Him, and Chukwu has made the last and final revelation in Jesus Christ, then the new fact is that Jesus Christ is the new, present and the only foundation of humanity, into whom everybody should run.
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  • All those other ways of worshipping God that seemed right to the people of Okunano have presently been proved wrong. Christianity has destroyed, to a reasonable degree, the superstition. The Missionaries have cleared the shrines, evil forests, etc and erected churches in their places and nothing has happened to the Missionaries, against the expectations of the people.
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  • (ii) While Okunano clan may no longer be worshipping the almighty God through their old intermediaries, such gods like Ani Okunano, Ugwuaji, AniAkegbe, AniObeagu n’ Amechi and their environs can be preserved for tourism potentials and economic development of the clan.
  • Preservations as suggested are found world over and our people pay fortunes to visit such tourist and pilgrimage centers. Besides the tourism potentials, such preservations provide the good historical link between the present and the past. It would help to provide the present generation and progeny of Okunano with adequate information about the kind of intermediaries through which their ancestors worshipped God.
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  • The present inconsiderate attitude of fanatics of Okunano Christians, who destroy the Okunano artifacts and antiquities, in their quest to fight for God should stop. It poses historical, economic and ecological losses to the clan. It is also a major source of grudges and disagreement.
  • Again such destruction paints a rough picture of a people without cultural and traditional roots. The Okunano Christians should pause and ask themselves some rhetoric questions. Why do the Western world pay millions in dollars to buy African antiquities?
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  • What economic purpose(s) does the African antiquities serve the people of the western hemisphere?
  • Okunano Christians should begin to appreciate the ratiocinative thinking of those who campaign for a true reconciliation between Christianity and Okunano cultures.
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  • (iii) The Okunano traditional festivals, which are not fetish, which are also celebrated in disguise by the Churches, which find their roots in the cultures of the people should be consecrated and celebrated by all Christians and the people, rather than condemn them. This way the elusive unity between one people can be achieved, since the people would no longer feel discriminated against on religious sentiments.
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  • Examples of such festivals are Nyaa (New yam) festival, Aju (New year) festival, which its activities resemble that of the feast of Passover, which the Okunanos, like the Jews have been celebrating a long time pre-christianity. For further information, read Leviticus 23:39, Numbers 13:20. Deuteronomy 26:2, Nehemiah 10: 35 & 37 and for the Feast of Passover, read Exodus 12:11,21,27,43,48 and 34:25, Leviticus 22:5, Numbers 9:2,4-6, 10,12-14, 28:16 Deuteronomy 16:1-2, 5-6, Joshua 5:10-11, 2nd Kings 23:21-22.
  • Okunano has been carrying out the injunctions of the almighty God, even before the coming of Christianity to Okunano. Therefore it is easy to mend the broken links.
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  • The mistakes of the missionaries were the total condemnation of the cultures of the clan and their unwillingness and impatience to educate the ancient Okunano on who Jesus Christ was to them, in their cultures and what Jesus Christ could do in their way of life, in relation to their gods. The Christianity that was brought to the people was the brand which did not impact on all facets of their life. The failure on the part of the white man was responsible for the ambivalent Christianity in Okunano in particular and Igbo land in general.
interlocutory relationship
  • I want to start this particular discussion by reminding us that every religion is a product of a particular culture of the universe. Again, all religions worship the almighty God through one intermediary or the other, and on one form of altar or the other, knowledge of which the good God bestowed on that particular clime from creation, hence the need for dialogue in their relationship when two or more religions encounter themselves in a particular cultural environment like Okunano.
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  • It is possible that one can be a true Okunano Christian without compromising the true and essential values of Okunano cultures. i.e. authentic Christian and authentic Okunano at the same time. What is just needed is a dialogue devoid of deliberate deception between the Bible and the cultures of the clan. It only requires that the Christians should drop the dialectic model of Christianity, which puts the Bible against the cultures of the people. What is required, again, is the adoption of a dialogic model, which correctly holds that the Bible and the cultures of the people are compatible, regards being had to the essential values of the biblical (Christian) and cultural traditions.
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  • E. M. Ezeogu (2012, P. 1) states “what theological justification do we have for dialogue of give–and-take between the Bible and African Cultures? Is Bible, by its very nature amenable to a dialogue relation with African Cultures? Are African cultures by their very nature open to enter into such a symbiotic relationship with the Bible? My answer is YES to both of the above questions…the dialogic relationship of give-and-take is based on what has been described as the open ended character of the culture and the transcending and transformating character of the gospel. Culture is open ended. It is not fixed. It can always grow.”
  • The citation above buttresses the fact that Christianity in Okunano can reinforce the essential values of Okunano cultures instead of condemning them as presently is.
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  • A few examples from Okunano cultural perspectives can suffice to support the need for the interlocution, which this paper is canvassing:
  • A tradition of Okunano as simple as greeting has eroded from the present social fabrics of the clan, so much so, that Okunano children would see elderly persons walk into their houses or along the streets and they would wait to be reminded, “greet uncle or aunty”, before they can say good morning, good afternoon or good night. This is an antithesis of the ancient Okunano society. And this is a value that ought to be made stronger by any good Christian society
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  • -Hardly would anybody hear of cases of incest, brother killing brother, son coveting father’s wife, etc in the ancient Okunano, because there existed Okunano traditional events (Anioha, Aju, Nyaa) festivals, during which periods, children born of the same paternal and maternal lineages were brought together from their different villages and/or communities to their ancestral homes, where they were taught the values and norms of the Okunano extended family system.
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  • Today those values are remote to the understanding of the present generation of the clan, with the consequences of rampaging vices in the socio-cultural fabrics of the people. Through the dialogic relationship the Okunano clan can reinvigorate these norms and values and begin to do this family and extended lineage reunion during Christmas, Easter or new year periods, since it will be foolhardy to ask for a return to the Okunano primordial calendar and programmes.
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  • Out of Ignorance, music made out of Okunano traditional membranophones,(Igba, Ida, Ubada), Idiophones (Ekwe, Ozia, Ogene, Ebe, Udu, Shekpene), Aerophones (Opi, Itume, Oja, Oduenyi,Mpiatu) and Chordophones (Ubo, Une) are foolishly accepted to be of devilish or satanic origin, hence all who make and/or dance to any Okunano music is labeled an unbelieving Christian. This is not good. It is more disheartening because the same instruments produced by different people from different cultural backgrounds and made as products of their own cultures and exported to us become angelic and Christian, and used in the Churches, even though we do not know their cultural origin. This attitude towards our material cultures, certainly, tantamount to our querying God for creating the Okunano people in the Okunano peculiarities.
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  • Certainly there has to be a dialogue about this aspect of Okunano cultures and Christianity, otherwise in a few years to come Okunano would have lost its main identities as a people to foreign cultures, including its language and dialect.
  • Let me not appear to be culturally conservative in a changing world or appear uncivilized or undeveloping oriented. Okunano cultures, like any other, are eclectic, can copy, add to and grow. But Okunano must not continue to see everything about its cultures and tradition as contradictory to Christianity. Okunano can and must preserve these material cultures at least as Museum pieces, to be able to evidence where Okunano is coming from.
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  • The Bible’s purported intolerance of all cultures and traditions of the people is found only in the minds of the Christians and not in the nature of the Bible itself. Okunano cannot continue to traduce its cultures. There ought to and must be a change of attitude of the people.
christ the transformer of culture
  • “To the Jews I become like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I become like one under the law (though myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law, I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ law), so as to win those having the law. To the weak I become weak to win the weak. I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means, I might save some”(1st Corinthians 9:20-22) (NIV).
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  • The above citation is a pointer to the facts that Jesus Christ himself was and he is still a man of all cultures. For Christians to continue to portray Him as against all the Cultures of Okunano would not be fair. To preach, sing, dance and dress in the cultures of Okunano while worshipping and praising God, through Jesus Christ cannot amount to sin.
  • Thank God for the philosophy of the ancestors of Okunano. They had clear vision and concept of “Chukwu” (the almighty God), from the creation of Okunano. However, we can argue that the anthropomorphism in the religious practices of the ancient Okunano portrayed the people to be idolatrous. That the split personalities in the people of the clan today make them polytheistic. One can go further to argue that these tendencies are disrupting the original cordial relationship between the ancestors of the clan and “Chukwu”.
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  • Okunano therefore, has to restore the broken link by correctly looking onto Jesus Christ as the cultural transformer. The Okunano “Chukwu” worship might be different to Christianity but it is not contradictory to worship of the almighty God, because the Okunano cosmology is expressed in their respect for human life and dignity, respect for morality, commitment to truth, achievement-oriented, based on hard work, courage and determination, republican in nature with its democratic values, respect to the uniqueness of the individuals, affirms the importance of kinsman and/or kindred and epitomized in Okunano faith in “Chukwu” as the foundation of Okunano life and thought.
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Christianity, therefore, can transform Okunano and their values to bring to fruition the best practices out of them. That is the real essence of Christianity rooted in the cultures of the people. According to E. M. Ezeogu, the gospel, while retaining its eternal and divine character finds it not difficult to be incarnated into the concrete cultural body of any time.

The account of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew chapter 13 shows that our Lord and Savior is a man of all cultures. As He went into Galilee, knowing that the Galileans were predominantly farmers, He spoke to them in parables, using farming terminologies like sower, weeds, mustard seed, yeast, etc, because parable is using the known truth to explain the unknown truth. We can now imagine how very faithful the Okunanos would have been, if the colonial Missionaries did not condemn their ofor stick for rosary, for their own chaplet, if the colonial Missionaries did not condemn the Okunano altars to paganism/idol worshiping, while protecting the same altars raised by the forbearers of the colonial Missionaries, as holy.

elimination of the class sentiments
  • “How can we live together, surrounded by such suffocating hate and learn to share in the face of such voracious greediness, without a countervailing love, strong enough to neutralize the venom of hate in our hearts”(Isaac Sagay in Sunday Vanguard, January 20,20o2).
  • “If He (Christ) come among us, will He not say to many of us “I know you not” Will you re-read your New Testament? Will you ponder over your attitude towards the coloured population of the colony? Will you then say you can reconcile it with the Bible teaching or the best British tradition?”(Gandhi, In Odeh 1993, p. 70).
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  • May I implore you to be reflecting on the above citations as you listen.
  • I do not intend to fully discuss the issue of dichotomy in the social culture of Okunano in a monologue of this nature, because it is better discussed on a debate platform.
  • The notion of freeborn and stranger/slave born classes of one people bedevils Okunano clan. The Awkunanaw Enlightenment Foundation should cease from pretending as if the dichotomy does not exist, when you and I know that, though we are together in this Foundation, there are no go areas in our relationships i.e. limit to our relationship, beyond which there would be very stiff opposition.
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  • The elites of the clan have not asked philosophical questions about the origin, practicability and consequences of allowing such social-divide-mentality to continue to manipulate our thinking. Sadly enough, the educated and the learned men of the clan allow themselves to be led by the nose into such dirty claims and counter claims, that parts of one people are either slaves, strangers or freeborn. Unbelievably but surely, such educated and learned men of Okunano are led by the nose by some illiterate, dirty-clothed, jobless conservatives, who are known just for their bead-adorned-necks, parading the Courts of law, creating cases through which they feed fat on their kith and kin in pretense of fighting their brother-enemies.
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  • The fatal consequence of this posture is that quality, professionalism, better education, competence, quality representation and other virtues that would have advanced Okunano to the next better level are traded for mediocrity in this 21st Century, regards being had to only the class the would-be beneficiary is coming from.
  • Okunano people ought to and should begin to earn respect or not for what they stand for and not otherwise. The leaders of Okunano who are playing tough against apartheid outside Okunano and not at home, are either confused or are deliberately misleading the people, for apartheid condoned against Okunano by an outsider is more tolerable than apartheid condoned against Okunanos by the Okunanos.
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  • To be pretending that nothing is wrong in our midst instead of putting the issues on the table for creative discussion and identifying possible solutions, breeds venom of hate in the hearts of brothers. Such suffocating hate makes the other person in the other pseudo-side less human and expendable. No matter how the Okunanos camouflage their real feelings, a situation like the present in Okunano cannot allow them to live together in earnest and share in love. The best we can claim now is that we are living close by, but certainly not living together.
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  • I therefore, herein exhort the Awkunanaw Enlightenment Foundation to plan and organize a wider, all-inclusive programme that will involve the Okunano sociopolitical gladiators and pundits, where researched presentations would be made on the origin, myths, facts, reasons for and against the social classes and reasons for either continuing or discontinuing with the social-divide in the new millennium, after which there would be a communiqué from such socio-cultural and Political Assembly, raised on the type of Okunano we would want to live in and leave behind for the Progeny of the clan, based on the facts, realities of the time and consistent premises that would be put before the Okunano people.
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  • Except so done, Awkunanaw Enlightenment Foundation is yet to be enlightened in itself, let alone have the capacity to enlighten others. I will end this episode by citing Right Hon. Dr. NnamdiAzikeiwe, as cited in NdukaOkafor (1971, p. 43). And he said “scholarship is coterminous with social progress. It is the scholar who makes or unmakes society. He may not be appreciated by his generation or even by generations after him. But time offers rewards to scholars who lay the foundations for the society of tomorrow, by immortalizing them in human history”.
  • And also by the statement of Jean Piget “The principal goal of education in school should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done”.(Jean Piget).
  • We have argued that Okunano religion and its philosophy are fused into the clan’s world view. We have observed that Okunano had a clear concept of God (Chukwu) right from creation, that the anthropomorphism in the religious practices of Okunano made the colonial missionaries to wittingly construe the clan as idolatrous. The paper further argued that the colonial missionaries’ intent to produce a total new man in a new faith by condemning the religious practices and belief of the people yielded only split personalities in Okunano, who could not totally return to the old religious practices, nor be totally rooted in the new Christian religion. The presentation also showed that it is no longer possible to return to the ancient Okunano society, neither will it ever be possible that the Socio-cultural lives of the people will remain the same.
  • The paper posited that Christianity has become part of the modern cultures of the clan and now the popular religion of the people. It is the position of this presentation that the cultures of the clan and Christianity can be reconciled through the processes of charting an Okunano Christianity, mending the broken links, interlocutory relationship and following Christ as a transformer of culture.
  • The paper also invited the Okunanos to a dialogue that will lead them to eschewing the class sentiments that is bedeviling the clan, as Christ followers should. The realization of both the mission and vision statements of Awkunanaw Enlightenment Foundation is largely dependent on solving the problem of class sentiments, because the bridge-building as the mission cannot be possible in a society where dichotomy thrives and the outer world cannot envy a society where some people are considered inferior to others, based on class sentiments or under any guise in this 21st century.

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