Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Faculty of Social Science Niger Delta University
Over the decades scholars have shown concern over the impact of Christianity on the traditional belief system of many people. Thus, this study was carried out to examine the impact of Christianity on the traditional belief system of Amassoma, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Bayelsa State. The objectives were to determine the influence of Christianity on the socio-economic development of Amassoma community and the influence of Christianity on the traditional belief system of Amassoma. Theoretically, the study used Anthropological diffusionism and cultural diffusion in particular. Cultural diffusion is the spread of elements of culture from one society to another. Methodologically, the study adopted descriptive research design which describe characteristics of a population being studied. The population of the study was 28,800 and a sample size of 394 was gotten with the use of Yamane Formula. The research used stratified random sampling technique to arrive at the above sample. Findings of the study showed that Christianity has impacted positively on both the traditional belief system of Amassoma and socio-economic development of Amassoma. To this end, the study concludes that Christian organizations should actively participate in the cultural practices of the people in order to find out practices that are still based on superstitions. Finally, traditional religion should dialogue with Christianity before making and enforcing norms, laws and marking of ceremonial activities.
1.1 Background of the Study
Christianity is a religion that stem from the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth in the 1st Century A.D (Martin, 2014). It has become the largest of the world’s religions with a constituency of more than two billion believers. Its largest groups are the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Protestant Churches, in addition to these churches are several independent churches of Eastern Christianity as well as numerous sects throughout the world (Martin, 2014).
Christianity is a vehicle for social change, reformation, rehabilitation and development, Christian organizations like World Vision of India and Church Auxiliary Social Action (CASA) have rendered valuable services to unfortunate victims of natural and man-made disasters by building houses, distributing food packages and giving financial support to the needy students for their studies and installing solar power in rural areas (Snaitang, 2009; Linda, 1998; Bridget, 1998).
Christianity initiated formal, civilized western education in Nigeria through the establishment of educational institutions at all levels across the country before and after independence. Unlike African Traditional Religion (ATR) and Islam, when the Christian schools were established, they were for the converts only. However, expediency forced the situation and they became opened to everyone within their reach regardless of their faith. To meet the needs of Catechists, interpreters, teachers, nurses and clerks, Teacher Training Colleges and secondary schools were established from as far back as 1853.
Christian Religion is known to play a deeper role in the development of the society. Most of the societal changes are controlled by religion. The presence of religion in the society has constituted to the gradual evolution of moral codes. Religious values if properly applied have guided the relationship between human beings and with God. Religion also carries men and women through the vicissitudes and temptations of life as well as introduces in human the experience of judgment and forgiveness. Religion is primarily concerned with the comfort of humans in the world and in the life hereafter. This has made religion relevant to anything that has to do with formulation of new consciousness. Religion has achieved a pre-eminence due to its contributions in the Nigerian society. As a notable agent of change, religions in Nigeria have undeniably exerted a great deal of influence positively and negatively on the Nigerian people in general and the traditional belief system in Amassoma in particular. (Gabriel and Hilary, 2013).
Traditional belief system is a belief system that is characterized by belief in impersonal (mystical) powers, belief in spirit beings, belief in supreme being/god and belief in the practice of magic and medicine (Anele, 2003). It also has a dimension of superstitious beliefs. Tribal beliefs in the existence of spirits had in several instances resulted in fear, timidity and insecurity (Snaitang, 2009). To appease the spirits, people made expensive rituals. Such beliefs made people to perceive common diseases like Cholera, Smallpox, Malaria, Tetanus, and other ailments as impersonated beings and identified each with a spirit (Snaitang, 2009).
A study carried out by World Vision somewhere in Haiti in the early 1970s, found out why a high number of babies were dying of Tetanus shortly after birth. Midwives were applying mud to the cut umbilical cord to prevent evil spirits and infections from entering the new born (Linda, 1998). The causes of these outbreaks were mostly attributed to human violation of the respective personified spirits. In this respect the process of healing technique was through sacrifices, divination and other primal procedures (Snaitang, 2009).
The obnoxious practices and beliefs of traditional African society like ancestral worship, the worship of the dead, including one’s ancestors, based on the beliefs that the dead have a continued existence, and may possess the ability to influence the future of the living, human sacrifice, the killing of one or more human beings, usually as an offering to a deity, as part of a religious ritual. The practice of Egbesu the god of warfare of the Ijaw people of the Niger Delta region and spiritual foundation for combating evil, the practice of having several wives at the same time; widow oppression etc have declined over the years.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Christianity has made tremendous positive impacts in our various communities/or society that we have or may not have taken into cognizance because we are often part of such changes. In line with this statement, Anele (2004) rightly put “changes occur before our eyes, yet we do not easily notice them. It is difficult to observe changes that take place in social organizations because we are part of such changes and because we tend to see them as natural”.
Before the inception of Christianity in Amassoma (Ogboin Kingdom) the traditional Amassoma society had a unitary character, especially in things related to their indigenous religion, beliefs and practices. Among these are:
- Belief in God: The people of Amassoma believe that God is the creator of the heaven and earth but there are other smaller gods which the people used to run the day-to-day activities of the earth. The name of the creator in Amassoma dialect is Oyein.
- Belief in Spirits: Belief in spirits was characterized by both water and bush spirits. They believed in their existence and powers over happiness in the clan.
- Bekena-owei: It is believed that this water spirit brings riches to the people of the clan for this reason he is worshiped all the time.
- Benikinemu: Benikinemu is yet another water spirit that is worshiped in the clan by its adherents. He is believed to be the spirit of vengeance. For instance if somebody steal your money, all that is needed is to look for a coin, go to the river, call the name Benikinemu and swear, after a couple of days or there about, Oral tradition has it that the thief will either confess or die.
The existence of bush spirits guards the entire clan from any external attack. The Chief Bush spirit of them all is Adegbe. It is believed to have control over all the spirits in the clan. The Priest of Adegbe is the priest of all priests and he is called “O’dou” meaning our father. Oral tradition has it that Benikurukuru, Osuo-owei, Adiba, Oweitaragba, Agbe are all bush spirits that are worshiped by different priests and their main duties is to protect the people of the kingdom.
- Belief in Divinities (Zibe): The people of Ogboin Kingdom believed in Zibe (divinities) meaning to find out what is behind a person’s misfortune. It is also used to know the problem that affects the kingdom so as to appease the gods.
- Duamabou (Afterlife): Duamabou is yet another religious belief of the Ogboins. Duamabou is a place of the dead. When a man dies after the third day of his death all his children, wives and relations below the dead man’s age will have to shave their hair in the name of the dead man, then if it is a woman the shaving of the hair of her children with the exception of her husband will be shaved on the fourth day. It is believed that the dead person will use the hair that has been shaved as money in the other life. So the more the hairs the more money that the dead person will have there.
- Ancestral beliefs: At the end of the year, food is usually prepared and served in seven plates. One plate is usually poured on the ground or kept for the ancestors to come and eat it. This is done to feed the ancestors in the period and to seek their blessings.
- Fiyebobebe (Destiny): It is believed that everybody have its own destiny immediately after conception. So anything that happens while one is alive until death, it is believed that it has been destined to happen. The Ogboins also divines to look for some destiny and where it is bad, through one sacrifice or another, this Fiyebobebe can be reversed.
(7.) Marriage: Oral tradition has it that the people of Ogboin kingdom believed in the traditional system of marriage. The Ogboin’s have three main types of marriage that is practiced. They are the Bere system, Ikie system and the Opu-ikie system of marriage.
In Bene system of marriage, the wife married with large amount of money ranging 50 pounds to 100 pounds in the late 1960s and early 1979s, children born out of this system are the sole hairs, and custodians of any traditional, family or communal property up till the 1930s, the paternal family gave only children of this category education.
The Ikie system of marriage, a wife is married from the locality where the father does not give out his daughter as in the Bere system. It is difficult in the Ikie system for a father or mother to give out their daughter as a Bere system unless both of them mutually agree. The maternal uncle of the daughter can give out his sister’s daughter in the Bere system after agreeing with the father. In the 1970s, the Ikie system required about ^27.70k (27 naira 70 kobo) with other ceremonies to make the marriage legal. However, the marriage ceremonies are important and the bride price may be paid in installments. In some cases, children get grown up before pride payment is completed. Offspring born out of the Ikie system of marriage were chiefly matrilineal.
In the Opu-Ikie system of marriage, the male offspring belong to the father while the female offspring where matrilineal. The bride price was higher than what it was in the Ikie system but lower than that of the Bere system.
(8.) Inheritance: The Ogboin’s have two processes that are involved culturally. The first process is called Tiridu-diye. Few and less important properties of the dead are shared with everybody around at that time. The next process is called Waridu-diye. This is sharing of the dead man properties within the immediate family members alone. The girl child does not have a share in the father’s property. The female child is often time denied of the property of the father whether dead or alive. This ugly situation is still practiced in some families in the study area and most parts of Ijaw kingdom (Samuel N. Keme, 2007). Females are not usually considered during asset sharing by the family members when eventually the father dies. In some families, money own by the father is shared amongst the male children for educational development, but the girls were not given any due consideration.
(9.) Devaluation of Women: Development of the female child is considered wasteful and worthless. Sometimes the female child is used as a means of settling debts owed by the family (Awake Feb. 22, 2006). In rare cases, if a member of a family commits murder, a female child from the murder’s family is used to replace the deceased. A female child is often betrothed to a proposed husband at the age of seven (7) years before she grew up to maturity. As regards formal education, a female child may not be trained by her father; he may instead prefer to train a nephew (Samuel N. Keme, 2007). A female child if so wish may be trained by the mother (Hobert and Fronket, 2001).
These core beliefs and practices of the people have declined over the years. They are not too rampant as they were some years ago. These changes may be due mainly to the inception of Christianity in the area.
1.3 Research Questions
- To what extent has Christianity influenced the traditional belief system of Amassoma?
- Are there any negative or positive impacts of Christianity on the traditional belief system in Amassoma?
- To what extent has Christianity influenced the socio-economic development of Amassoma?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of the study is to identify the impacts of Christianity on the traditional belief system of Amassoma
- To examine the impact of Christianity on the traditional belief system of Amassoma.
- To examine the influence of Christianity on the traditional belief system of Amassoma.
- To determine the influences of Christianity on the socio-economic development of Amassoma community.
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study is not a comparative analysis of what any other branch of Christianity has done for the society rather it looks at Christianity from a holistic approach with special reference to its positive and negative impacts on traditional belief system of Amassoma.
Firstly, the findings of this study would be of immense help to traditionalists that are not receptive to change/or have not accommodated Christianity in their communities. By identifying the obnoxious practices of the traditional belief system, traditional rulers can view their age-old practices and beliefs in the light of Christian religion and culture and in the end proffer suggestions that would help to make the traditional belief system a better one.
Secondly, this study will serve as a source of reference to students, historians and scholars with related topic.
Third and finally, it will contribute to the existing knowledge on traditional beliefs and practices. It will also aid the government, and policy makers to make laws in certain obnoxious areas of the traditional belief system where Christianity cannot play a role.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study is confined strictly on the impacts of Christianity on the belief system of Amassoma, although reference was made to some other parts. The rationale for this study is that the inception of Christianity has made tremendous alterations in the beliefs and practices of the people over the years, yet these changes are not easily noticed hence the need for this study.
- Area of Study
Amassoma is the largest Ijaw speaking community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. It is the leading community in Ogboin clan which is made up of Amatolo, Otuan, and Amassoma.
The people of this clan speak the core Izon language. It situates at the northern part of southern Ijaw Local Government Area. The landmass of the community is bounded by rivers where the people derive their livelihood.
The Ijaws are hardworking people who engage in fishing and farming activities. Most of their farming activities are carried out in the rivers, creeks, and lakes etc. They are prominent in raffia palm tapping for local gin production. Canoe carving is a lucrative venture and canoe is the means of transportation on the water ways.
The land is quite fertile due to seasonal flooding which gives a better alluvial deposit on the banks of the rivers (Samuel N. Keme, 2007). The community has now been linked to the national road network by the former 1st Executive Governor Alamieyeseigha in 2005 and also established the Niger Delta University on the island
Bayelsa state is a state in Southern Nigeria in the core Niger Delta region, between Delta State and Rivers State. Its capital is Yenagoa. The four main languages spoken are Izon, Nembe, Epie-Attissa, and Ogbia. Like the rest of Nigeria, English is the official language. The state was formed in 1996 from the part of Rivers State. Bayelsa State consists of eight local government areas namely: Brass, Ekeremor, Kolokuma/Opokuma, Nembe, Ogbia, Sagbama, Southern Ijaw, and Yenagoa.
Clarification of Terms
- Christianity: Christianity is a religion that emanated from the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth in the 1st Century A.D (Martin, 2014). The word Christianity was first used in New Testament at Antioch in Syria where the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians meaning the followers of Christ (Acts 11:26). The first contact of Christianity in Nigeria was through the activities of a set of missionaries from Portugal in the fifteenth century (Ryder, 1969). The introduction of Christian religion in Africa has a far-reaching effect on the society. The tenets or principles of Christianity are recorded in the book of books called the “Holy Bible.” Christianity has different sects such as the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church, and Baptist Church, Cherubim and Seraphim, Aladura, Assemblies of God, Christ Living Faith (Winners), Zoe Ministry, Christ Embassy, Deeper Life, Church of God Mission, Grace of God, Lord Chosen Charismatic Revival Movement etc.
- Belief System: A cultural way of life that emerged from the culture of a people. It includes belief in divinities, spirits, supreme being/god etc. African traditional religion is the belief system that has been handed down from one generation to another. It originated from the soil of Africa. The people were born, nurtured and they grew in it. It is a tolerant, accommodative and peaceful religion that fights those that attack it. The above views were expatiated by Onyeidu (1999) when he observed that the Traditional African Religion is a tolerant and non-missionary religion. Its adherents were not converted (proselytes) but members of the society born into the religion of their ancestors. The traditional religion has no room for religious propaganda, or bigotry. It is moderate religion which only attacks its opponents who provoke it to anger.” .Anyika (1998) said that it is a religion that is indigenous to African soil, but their origins are lost in antiquity. Ajayi (1981) describes it” as those beliefs and practices that are indigenous to Africans which according to Mbiti (1969) has permeated every facet of the peoples’ life” It is a religion that has no known founder and scripture unlike Christianity and Islam. The tenets of the religion are written on the songs myths, dances of the people. In the same frame of mind Awolalu and Dopamu (1979) asserted that this is a religion that has no written literature yet it is written everywhere for those who care to see and read. It is largely written in the peoples’ myths and folklores, in songs and dances, in their liturgies and in proverbs and pithy saying.
Impact: A significant or strong influence over something.
No research work is independent of itself. Every research work is an accumulation of the works of other scholars either on the topic as a whole or on components of the topic. This segment reviews related works carried out by various scholars in different locations and at different time period.
2.1 Review of Relevant Literature
Ramya (2012) studied traditional religious beliefs, practices and impacts of Christianity among the Nyishis. Using both primary and secondary data as well as the use of conventional Anthropological field methods for the collection of field data, the study found out that the Nyishis religious beliefs and practices nowadays have been altered compared to as it was in some decades back as a consequence of the mass conversion of the people to Christianity as they no longer perform any kind of rituals related to their indigenous social and cultural life. Also, there are alterations in the belief system as Christianity envisaged that belief on evil spirit is superstition, practice of animal sacrifice in worship is wastage and performance of worship in traditional system is the practice of demon/devil. Here, they pleaded that there is only one saviour i.e. Jesus Christ upon whom the people should establish their firm faith and belief. This doctrine of faith aroused people to Christianity and accordingly many of the people abandoned their indigenous beliefs and ritual practices. In addition to this diversion of religious faith many of those neo-religious people deserted their festival celebration and secondly, they began to challenge custom and laws of the society. However, people’s culture still has its roots in the customs and practices of marriage, inheritance, and land ownership, yet with the process of globalization, a significant shift is taking place in the perception of their culture. The younger generation’s view that Christianity is superior has already shaken the foundation of the village society, both culturally and traditionally. Finally, modernity in the form of Christianity has brought in a new form of culture as people no longer sing traditional songs or traditional dances since they are considered to be primitive and belonging to an uncultured way of life. They have now been replaced with western music and dance in and outside the churches. Hence, a borrowed culture has become the guiding principle of the present younger generation in the village.
Enweremadu (1991) examines the role of the Church in the moral transformation of contemporary Nigerian society. This study was conducted against the background of the problems of instability and corruption that faced Nigeria since the Second Republic (1979-1983) and the challenges these have posed for the churches in fashioning appropriate responses to challenging people’s values and beliefs. In the background of the study I stated that Christianity is a vehicle for social change, transformation and rehabilitation etc, hence the need for the review of this work. Utilizing secondary information as a basis for analysis, the study among other things highlights the duties of respective members of the church-the laity and sacred ministers as documented in the Catholic liturgy. The study asserts some critical missionary roles of the church in relation to the promotion of justice, fair-play and the moral transformation of contemporary Nigerian society. In relation to this, the conclusion is drawn that the church as an agent of transformation and rehabilitation has not been indifferent in searching for solutions to the array of problems. Moreover, in the author’s view, the contemporary church has now developed into a community of faith and dynamism which has the potential to change people’s values and perceptions about life through its teachings.
Ibenwa (2014) the influence of Christian religion on African traditional religion and value system found out that prior to the advent of Christianity some parts of Africa engaged themselves in such ugly practices as killing of twins and albinos which they saw as an abomination to the earth deity and ancestral spirits. It was much later when Christianity was preached that the practice was put to an end. The act of offering human beings to gods/goddess, caste system (Osu), slavery (Igba-olu) in Igbo land and the practice of burying dead chiefs along with living slaves whom they believed would continue to serve the chiefs in the world beyond and ritual killing during festivals were eradicated by Christianity. The study also identified the negative influence of Christianity on the traditional religion. One of such influence is the condemnation of polygamy by Christianity. The people saw polygamy as and ideal way of dispensing husbands for all women but Christianity condemned polygamy and upheld monogamy. Another area is Oath-taking. People now take oath according to their religious inclination rather than on the basis of their original cultural heritage. This undoubtedly has provided room for moral decadence and other social vices, in the society. Also, the pattern of greeting has been influenced negatively. People no longer bow or prostrate while greeting rather they prefer to wave hands and say “hi”. The pattern of dressing has changed immensely. Children now wear western dresses at the expense of local made dresses.
Furthermore, Christianity helped in character modification of our children and made our young ones imbibe such virtues like love for one another, truth, obedience and respect for elders, parents and people in authority. Similarly, Kanu (2004) expressed thus: Numerous Nigerian heads of state at one time or the other ordered that there should be ethical re-orientation. The church has also through the Sunday school cared for the youths, adults and elders and not just the erring children. With government takeover of schools, the only ways the church influences the young ones ethically is through Sunday school and moral instruction in schools. Through this way help to develop the young ones who are leaders of tomorrow. On the issue of spirituality of man, it must be said that religion helped greatly in building up man spiritually. Attesting to this fact, Aristotle (1964) asserted that, the end of the state is not mere life. It is rather a good quality of life; similarly, it is not the end of the state to provide an alliance of mutual defense against all injury.” In line with Aristotle’s view Nnadi (2004) wrote that: the development of a nation such as we envisage cannot be achieved by the mere accumulation of material things or the procurement of a life of comfort and ease often to a limited few. This alone will not make man really happy for the simple reason that man is not mere matter. He has a spiritual part which matter is too base to satisfy.
Another area is in Widowhood Affairs: Widows were seriously discriminated against in Igboland. They were meant to mourn their husbands for a long period of time with black clothes. They were compelled to shave their heads and at times to sleep on the floor any widow suspected of killing the husband will be made to drink water used in washing the dead husband’s body as a way of proving her innocence. It was on the people’s contact with Christian religion that this inhuman act was checkmated. The Christians did a lot in ameliorating the sufferings of the widows. Writing on this Okoli (2008) said that Christians recognize the low status of widows and their suffering and make provision for them and warns against their maltreatment as evident in Deut 14: 29b “…the stranger, the fatherless and the widow who are within the gates shall come and shall eat and be satisfied that the Lord thy God may bless them in all the work of their hand which thou doest
Ochuko (2010) in an essay titled the influence of Christian values on Urhobo culture determined the extent of the influence of Christian values on Urhobo culture in basically two ways; first in religion and in social life. Religiously some aspects of Urhobo culture have been civilized by wholesome interaction with Christian values which have had a purificatory effect. It is due to Christianity that today twin babies are no longer destroyed that their mothers are no longer tabooed and ostracized, that the practice of local slave trade, child-kidnapping, human sacrifice etc,. have been dropped. Secondly, Christianity crushed Urhobo cultural beliefs and methods of social control such as divination and such dispute –settling methods as the consultation of oracles. The place and authority of dead ancestors were doubted and shaken. Christianity also rejected polygamy in Urhobo culture. Polygamy initially assures social security and checks flirting or prostitution. Another traditional institution that underwent pressures from Christianity is the taking of chieftaincy titles. This ethically and socially elevated traditional title was condemned as pagan and true Christians are not allowed to take the title in spite of the enormous social control principles associated within it.
Olumati (…………) studied the impact of Christianity and modernity on Ali-Earth goddess of the traditional religion of the Ikwere people. Like every other traditional African religion the beliefs and practices of the Ikwere is characterized by the beliefs in God, belief in divinities, belief in spirits beings, ancestral worship, cult practices amongst others. Using records such as books, journals, newspapers and magazines the finding shows that in the last one hundred years or so, there have been tremendous changes on the beliefs and practices relating to Ali deity, that modernity in the form of Christianity have brought in a new form of culture. That the Ikwere no longer participate in worship and practice that are related to Ali cult since they are considered to be primitive, heathen, fetish and belonging to an uncultured way of life. They are now demonized as practices that have exorcized by Jesus power and the Holy Spirit. Hence, an intrusive religion like Christianity with a revolutionary ethic has become the guiding principle of the present generation of Ikwere youth. The introduction of Christianity into Ikwerre land has undermined the peoples’ social and moral fabric. Hitherto, the Ikwerre people had their own religion and social order. Their religion was all-encompassing and life-fulfilling. Ali the Earth goddess was held in awe and even much more feared than Chiokike, the Supreme Being or the Creator God. This was because Ali was the palladium of the peoples’ faith, morality, and social cohesion. Ikwerre people therefore took measures to observe and do all the norms, values, rituals and taboos associated with the worship of Ali. This promoted social cohesion and solidarity of the Ikwerre traditional society. But nowadays most votaries of Ali have converted to Christianity and those who did not consider it unfashionable to worship or to observe some of the ritual taboos of Ali. Tasie and Obe (2007) have observed that the Ikwerre people, who inhabit the frontiers of the Niger Delta have had their tribal religion and unity eroded due to the revolutionary ethic of Christianity. While some Ikwerre people still uphold the sanctity of Ali cult, their kith and kin, who have converted to Christianity, deride them as fetish, pagan, unbelievers, and idolaters. Thus when the issues relating to Ali and ancestral cult are mentioned, the Christian converts among them refuse to participate. This has weakened the family and social ties of Ikwerre indigenous society. Christianity has also affected the moral life of Ikwerre people. Before now the Ikwerre people had a strong fear for Ali as the custodian of morality. This fear was borne out of the fact that Ali readily meted out punishment to offender. In the traditional Ikwerre society it was not necessarily the rebuke one received from elders that was the most restraining on anti-social behaviors but rather the fear of deities like Ali (Tasie, 2000). It was the fear that one might die bad death either with swollen stomach or face down and thus render one unfit for life as an ancestor that was responsible for moral standard in Ikwerre.
Adakus (1991) studied the role of the sacrament of penance in the Catholic Church in healing the ills of society. His thesis seeks to identify the shattered world and its causes so as to discover ways and means of effecting healing. The main objective of the study was to examine the role of the sacrament of penance and its liturgical aspects in achieving psychological healing for members of the Catholic Christian faith. Adukus (1991) suggest, but does not provide evidence that the embodiment, adherence to and observation of the sacrament of penance by Church members aids the return of humanity to solidarity. In reconciliation and salvation through the paschal mystery of Christ as the wounded healer, in furtherance of this theme, Adukus (1991) also considered the attitude of present Catholics to sin in relation to the sacrament of penance or reconciliation. He suggests a possibility of using the teachings embodied in the sacrament of penance to achieve a sin free or corruption free society. This argument is based on the normative belief that the teaching is capable of touching and affecting people’s lives and changing their world views from the negative to the positive, which should in turn he suggests inspire development in the society. This study did not systematically collect and analyze data to demonstrate the role of the sacrament of penance and its liturgical implications for behavioral changes and value-re-orientation. This review also depicts how Christian values and beliefs can change the behavior of people in the society.
Christian Onyenaucheya Uchegbue (2013) wrote on the place of the church in the socio-political and economic liberation of Nigeria. His work shows that Participation in the process of socio-political and economic liberation for the realization of justice is a task, even a ‘sine qua non’ for the Church as both a religious and viable social institution. Christians are to take positive actions to destroy all forms of oppression and injustice wherever they are found (Hastings 1976: 91). This does not mean, however, that the Church as a body should be expected to leave the Word of God to serve tables by getting herself involved in a violent revolutionary overthrowing of governments or even in partisan political activism. The liberating role of the Church should be such that will enhance her influence on the socio-political and economic order without jeopardizing her more spiritual and evangelistic vision and mission. This will involve her confronting and challenging every unjust, oppressive and exploitative structure with Christian values and ideals. This implies a prophetic and priestly role for the Church in Nigeria, just like Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah and other prophets in the Bible. In this role, the Church can, along with her direct spiritual vocation, be committed to the process of justice, human liberation and social transformation by fulfilling the following five functions: prophetic denunciation of the oppressive mechanism; promoting programs of raising social consciousness among the masses; practical alleviation of the conditions of the oppressed masses; peace building through positive reconciliation of the oppressed and oppressive members; and personal conversion of the ordinary man
(I) Prophetic Denunciation of the Oppressive Mechanism: The Church’s prophetic stance obligates her to confront and challenge the systems of corruption and injustice which oppress, exploit and deprive the masses by criticizing and judging them by the Gospel standards. The Church in Nigeria, in the words of Archbishop Cyril Garbett, is to “fight the world by bearing against it militant and prophetic witness … shown in open attacks on the sins of the world … and expose the falseness of the values accepted by the world …” (Ryan 1987:159-160). By Means of official statements from ecumenical bodies like CAN, ecclesiastical councils, critical and corrective sermons, and so on, such unjust systems can be decried, denounced and called to order. Such prophetic calls can function to disturb the comfort and untouched conscience of the affluent society whose power and wealth are accumulated at the expense and to the detriment of the impoverished peasants. As the proclaimer and interpreter of the Divine purpose and will for the nation, the Church can act as a moral check on the activities of the ruling class, rejecting, resisting and denouncing ungodly and unpopular policies which prevent the full realization of justice and equity in the society. She can provide an “alternative voice” through the establishment of a more reliable, intrepid and independent media for the dissemination of her prophetic messages to the nation. As a prophet the Church can function as the conscience of the nation, the voice of the voiceless, a critic of unjust institution and an iconoclast in the oppressive tradition. As S. I. Omoera points out, the Church is “to be aggressive … in condemning sin” in demanding for justice and in fighting “the battle of the poor, the hungry …” against a system that “too often turns deaf ear to their appeals” (Hastings 1987:93).
(2) Promoting Programs of Raising Social Consciousness among the Masses: This is a social educational program aimed at creating socio-political awareness among the people for an eventual peaceful elimination of the structures of oppression. It is a gradual but effective approach to structural change through a re-orientation of the group and individual’s consciousness. The sensitization of the masses involves, among other things, the provocation, stimulation, creation and building up of “a new awareness in them” to give them “a new consciousness” which encourages them “to see the possibility” and “accept responsibility for their own development.” It also involves the mobilization of the masses “to join hands together for positive action towards change” (Omoera1987: 125). The goal of this mental liberation is to emancipate the Nigerian minds from such “fatalistic world view” which makes them to resign themselves to the culture of poverty and hopelessness. It enables them to be able to see their “capacity to create a better society for themselves” (Adegbola 1987: 69 – 70). This is the attitudinal aspect of liberation in which the marginalized, oppressed and down-trodden masses are able to face the future with meaningful and reasonable optimism. This is done by helping them to see themselves in the light of the biblical evaluation of themselves. Such function disabuses and emancipates their minds from the belief that God has destined their lot to be so. This attitudinal aspect of liberation also involves the sensitization of the upper and middle class elite members of the Church to the real nature and extent of the plight of the oppressed, thereby soliciting their change of attitude, sympathy and commitment to the cause of the oppressed. It may bet hat some of them do not actually realize the full implications and effects of their activities on the masses. They may likely change for better and help to change their colleagues when their consciences are awakened.
(3) Practical Alleviation of the Conditions of the Oppressed Masses: The Church’s liberation work as the champion of the cause of the poor, weak and oppressed masses does not end with attacking the perpetrators of injustice and oppression (“afflicting the comfortable”), but also includes the alleviation of the miserable and painful condition of the victims of the system (“comforting the afflicted”). This will necessitate practical concern with economic programs for the improvement of their conditions, since the callous bureaucratic system would only frustrate the hopes of the helpless masses for such projects if left in their hands. This goes beyond mere charity works for the provision of subsistence needs. The Churches can embark on practical socio-economic projects such as we see in some Latin American countries. This can include building of hospitals, establishing co-operative bodies for joint venture, scholarship funds for students from poor families, educational programs for those who are disadvantaged by the government’s educational system, organizing training programs in business and technological skills just like the Church Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs) in some African countries, and the “Village Polytechnic” pioneered by the churches in Kenya.
Chukwuemeka Nze (2009) studied the influence of Christian values on culture, that is, the good and bad effects of the influence of Christian values especially on the religious and social aspects of culture. Some of the havoc according to him is of a permanent nature, for example, the dismantling or divulging of the masquerade cult or secrets. The knocking and shaking of others have been withstood due to the resilient forces inherent in the culture. The effect according to him has been a more distinctive and permanent manifestation of the legacy or influence of Christianity, which is the invisible and unofficial striving to live in conjunction both the Christian and the traditional life. Thus, the individual Christian in his subconscious and in moments of crisis clings tenaciously to, or relapses without conflict or qualms, into traditional life. But credit must go to Christianity for the tremendous impact it has had on the advancement of knowledge and learning in Africa: the opaque scales that blindfolded the people have been pulled down. All now know that all men are equal before God, and probably this new thought has been the motive force behind the struggle for independence. Ignorance and superstition have been put to flight after contact with Christianity, and this is an invaluable asset indeed. The influence and/or impact of Christianity on culture are and the changes made by Christianity are lucidly explained in his work. He wrote that Christianity crushed Igbo African beliefs and methods of social control such as divination and such dispute-settling methods as the consultation of oracles. The place and authority of dead ancestors were doubted and shaken (Ochuko, 2010). John Christopher Taylor (first C.M.S. Missionary and Pastor at Onitsha, 1857-1869) is quoted as saying that already the dibeas were ashamed in his district as their craft is now in danger of being exposed before the light of Christianity in the eyes of their long down-trodden vassals. Reporting how glad he was to see the converts throw away the traditions of their homeland in their enthusiasm to embrace the new faith, Taylor gives testimony to the overwhelming of African culture by an invading Christian one. It is equally testimony to the fallible nature of the early Christians who failed to look into the social control and cultural values of the dibeas before uncritically imposing Western religious patterns. He also stated that Religious intolerance is more manifest in the dealings of Christianity with such aspects of African culture as marriage. Almost all the Christian churches have refused to recognize polygamy within the African context. Others refuse inter-denominational marriages involving their members. The Africans regard polygamy as a healthy institution which insures respect for husbands and love for wives, assures social security, and checks flirting or prostitution. The insistence of Christianity on monogamy is an arbitrary imposition without adequate consideration of the raison d’etre of the traditional institution of polygamy which sustains the extended family patterns and assures continuity, the bedrock of the traditional ancestral worship.
Another area of traditional culture influenced by Christianity is the practice of burying an elderly person soon after death with preliminary ceremonies; after a year or more the second burial takes place with more vigorous and detailed ceremonies. It is this second burial which helps the spirit of such a departed individual to join and rest happily with the ancestors in the land of ancestral bliss. Without it the spirit of the departed hovers about in the air and may harm its kindred living members. But once this second burial is performed, the spirit of the departed assumes his place in the land of ancestral bliss where he can plead effectively with the gods for the well-being of the members of his family.The missionaries’ attack upon this tradition was two-pronged. The attack upon second burial was aimed at neutralizing traditional belief in ancestral spirits, Ndichie. This Christian effort may have been motivated by simple evangelistic enthusiasm to uphold the doctrine of monotheism, but the final outcome has not augured well for either Christianity or African culture.
2.2 Theoretical Framework
The theoretical framework for this study is drawn from Anthropological Diffusionism. Diffusionism refers to the spread of elements of culture, either singly or in a complex from primarily to the relaying of material objects within a single society to any number of other societies. This contact could be through migration, trade, inter-marriage, war, religious acculturation, colonialism, or in modern times; radio, television and internet service.
Specific theory used within diffusionism is cultural diffusion. Cultural diffusion was first conceptualized by Leo Frobenius in his 1897/98 publication; Der Westafrikanische Kulturkreis. It is the spread of cultural items such as ideas, styles, religions, technologies, languages, practices, etc., between individuals, whether within a single culture or from one culture to another. There are four types of cultural diffusion. Relocation diffusion is the spread of an idea through people and their movement from one place to another. This type contributes a lot of diversity in culture. Hierarchical diffusion is the spread of an idea from one point of power to another. This is generally done using communication tools. Contagious diffusion is the wide spread diffusion of a trait throughout a population. Diseases are usually associated with this. Finally, stimulus diffusion is the spread of an underlying principle. This type of diffusion in most cases shows how new ideas replaced old ones (Cassidy, 2013).
From the above types of cultural diffusion relocation diffusion best describes Christianity because by definition it is the spread of an idea through people’s movement from place to place. The rise of Christianity is based on people moving and sharing their belief system and ideas (Cassidy, 2013). A big contribution to this was the European explorers, as they traveled the world and the seas for trade they took Christian beliefs with them. The explorers played a huge part in using relocation diffusion to spread Christianity.
Propositions of Cultural Diffusion
There are five core propositions of cultural diffusion (Stahl, 1954).
- Borrowed elements usually undergo some alteration or adaptation in the new host culture.
- The act of borrowing depends on the extent to which the element can be integrated into the belief system of the culture
- Elements that are incompatible with the existing new culture’s prevailing normative structure or religious system are likely to be rejected
- Acceptance of an element depends upon its utility for the borrower.
- Culture with a history of past borrowing is more likely to borrow in the future.
Out of the above core five propositions of cultural diffusion, the first proposition strongly relates to my study because a borrowed religion like Christianity have survived and has become the guiding principle of the present generation in the study area.
This chapter deals with the following items; Research design, population of the study, sample and sampling technique, research instrument, validity and reliability of the study, data collection procedure and data analysis technique.
3.1 Research design
A research design is a plan in advance how data gathering and analysis for the study is carried out. In this study, the research design adopted is the descriptive research design. The names of various churches in the study area shall be obtained in various locations of the study area. This will include the total population of members in each of the churches. Also the traditional worshippers shall be equally obtained from various compounds that make the study area
3.2 Population of the study
The population of this study includes, Christians, traditional worshippers with the age bracket of forty (40) years and above including males and females. The population of the study area Amassoma is 28,800 numbers of people (Tageo.com Nigerian towns and their population online).
3.3 Sample size
The sample size of this study is 394 which were determined by the Taro Yamane’s formula on the total population of the study area.
3.4 Sampling Technique
The sampling technique adopted is the probabilistic sampling technique. In this broad technique, the stratified random sampling technique shall be applied to obtain the sample size.
3.5 Research Instrument
The instrument for data collection shall be a well designed open and closed ended questionnaire that will contain 15 items to elicit information from the subjects.
3.6 Validity and Reliability of Instrument
To ensure validity of the research instrument, the completed questionnaire shall be presented to my supervisor and other experts for review to enhance face and content validity.
3.7 Reliability of the research Instrument
The reliability of the instrument shall be ensured by carrying out pilot study with the questionnaire administer to subjects related to the study outside the study area. The retrieved questionnaires on two successive tests shall be subjected to Kuder Richardson Slip half test for correlation.
3.8 Data Collection Procedure
The completed questionnaire shall be administered personally to the research subjects, and completed ones will be collected on the spot. Personal interview and observation of physical structures shall be conducted with the subjects to collect data.
3.9 Data Analysis Technique
Data collected shall be presented in frequency tables and analyzed with the Statistical Package of Social Sciences (SPSS) version 17.0.
DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
This chapter presents the data collected from the respondents and analyzed in frequency tables and percentages.
4.1 Presentation of Data
Table1. Shows Sex distribution of respondents
In Table 1, out of 390 respondents, 191 (49.0 %) were Males while 199 (51.0%) were Females.
Table 2 shows age distribution of respondents
|61 & Above||59||15.1|
In Table 2 above out of 390 respondents 118 (30.3) lie within the age bracket of 40-46 years, 65 (16.7%) lie between the age group of 47-50 years, 73 (18.7%) lie within the age bracket of 51-57 years, 75 (19.2%) fall within the ages of 58-60 years while 59 (15.1%) lies within the ages of 61 and Above.
Table 3 shows Religion
In the above table out of 390 respondents 287 (73.6%) were Christians, 103 (26.4%) were Traditional worshippers while 0 (0%) were Pagans.
Table 3 shows Education
In this table out of 390 respondents 148 (38.0%) were Primary School Graduates, 132 (33.8%) were Secondary School Graduates, 80 (20.5%) were Higher Education Graduates while 30 (7.7%) were Tertiary Graduates.
Table 2.1 Influence of Christianity on Traditional Belief System of Amassoma
|(1.) Does the belief of mermaid still exist?|| Yes
|% 35.4|| No
|(2.) Do you believe in mermaid spirits?||0||0||390||100||390|
|(3.) Do you attribute misfortune to evil spirits?||160||41.0||230||59.0||390|
|(4.) What causes misfortunes||Normal Events
|(5.) Do people of the community still kill twins?||0||0||390||100||390|
|(6.) How does the society treat the parents of twins?||Normal Events
|(7.) Are twins fully integrated into the society?||380||97.4||10||2.6||390|
|(8) Is worship of the idols still maintained as it was in the sixties?||95||24.4||295||75.6||390|
|(9) Is the practice of inquiring of the causes of death and disease still hold?||98||25.1||292||74.9||390|
|(10) Is teenage marriage of the girl child still practiced?||115||48.7||275||51.3||390|
In table 2.1 above, firstly, 138 (35.4%) respondents still believe in the existence of mermaids, while 252 (64.6%) do not believe in the existence of mermaids, secondly, 390 (100%) do not believe in mermaid spirits while none (0%) believe in mermaid spirits. Thirdly, 160 (41.0%) attribute misfortune to evil spirits while 230 (59.0%) do not attribute misfortune to evil spirits. Fourthly, 390 (100%) said misfortunes are caused by normal events while none (0%) went for either lack of education, or not being careful in life. Fifthly, 390 (100%) said that twins are no longer killed in the community while none (0%) said that twins are still killed. Sixthly, 378 (97.0%) said the parents of twins are treated like every other member of the society while 12 (3%) said that are discriminated. Seventhly, 380 (97.4%) said twins are fully integrated into the society while 10 (2.6%) said no. Eighthly, 95 (25.4%) maintained that idols are still worshipped like in sixties while 295 (75.6%) maintained that idols worship is no longer rampant and effective as it were in sixties. Ninthly, 18 (25.1%) said that the practice of inquiring into the cause of death and disease still take place while 292 (74.9%) maintained that the practice is no longer practiced. Finally, 115 (29.5%) said that teenage marriage still exist while 275 (70.5) said no.
Table 2.2 Influence of Christianity on Socio-Economic Development of Amassoma
|(1) Do churches assist in the socio-economic needs of members and the community?||Yes
|(2) Has Christianity influenced the socio-economic development of Amassoma?||390||100||0||0||390|
In table 2.2 above 390 (100%) said that churches assist in the socio-economic needs of members of the community none (0%) said otherwise, Again, 390 (100%) said that Christianity has influenced the socio-economic development of Amassoma while none (0%) said otherwise.
Table 3 Impacts of Christianity on traditional belief system of Amassoma
|(1) Does Christianity prevent a widow from marrying the relation of deceased in the family?||Yes
|(2) Does Christianity prevent polygamy?||154||39.5||236||60.5||390|
|(3) Does Christianity affect the custom of the people?||390||100||0||0||390|
Here, 190 (48.7%) said Christianity prevent a widow from marrying the relation of deceased in the family while 200 (51.3%) said no. Secondly, 154 (39.5%) said that Christianity prevent polygamy while 236 (60.5%) said no. finally, 390 (100%) said Christianity has affected the custom of the people while none (0%) said no.
4.2 Discussion of Findings
Critical analysis of the study has shown that idol worship has been influenced positively by Christianity. 295 (75.6%) respondents said that idol worship is now a thing of the past. The respondents said that idols were once worshiped due to ignorance and illiteracy and that they cannot go back to such practice. In line with this Ramya (2012) rightly put when he wrote “The Nyishis no longer perform any kind of rituals related to their indigenous social and cultural life as Christianity envisaged that belief on evil spirit is superstition, practice of animal sacrifice in worship is wastage and performance of worship in traditional system is the practice of demon /devil. In Amassoma sacrifices like eggs, live fowls, goats, and biscuits offered to gods/idols were collected or stolen by hungry thieves. When the idol worshippers found out that their sacrifices were stolen and not taken by the gods as they once thought they were reluctant to offer any more sacrifices to gods.
Also fieldwork in the study has revealed that the practice of inquiring of the causes of death and disease do not hold anymore. 292 (74.6%) said that it is no longer practiced because it does not explain lucidly the cause of any death or disease because it was largely subjective and was based on the reactions of people holding the dead man coffin (when finding the cause of death). This area is not in consonance with the work of Ochuko (2010) when he wrote that Christianity crushed Urhobo cultural beliefs and methods of social control such as divination and such dispute settling methods as the consultation of oracles. From my study Christianity actually liberated the mind-set of the people from divination and consultation of oracles because such practices do not provide any scientific evidence on the causes of any death or disease.
Ochuko (2010) rightly put when he wrote thus “It is due to Christianity that today twin babies are no longer destroyed that their parents are no longer tabooed and ostracized…” Before the inception of Christianity in Amassoma, twin babies were inhumanely treated; some were not fed after birth. They were left to starve to death while; others were thrown away after birth. The parents of twins in the words of Ochuko (2010) were ostracized and tabooed; they were denied certain ceremonial rights and sacred places.
Fieldwork has also shown that the institution of marriage has been influenced positively by Christianity. 236 (60.5%) respondents said that Christianity has made a tremendous impact on marriage. Initially men married more than five (5) wives, some even married or inherit the wife of their deceased relation in the family. The girl child particularly was given out in marriage at an early age before maturation. This happened because of the cultural devaluation of women and the girl child in the society. The findings of the study here are not in line with the work of Ibenwa (2014) and Ochuko (2010) when they wrote that Christianity had a negative influence on Polygamy. For Ibenwa (2014) polygamy is an ideal way of dispensing husbands for all women. For Ochuko (2010) polygamy assures social security and checks flirting or prostitution. However, polygamy is an instrument of women devaluation because it has a negative impact on the educational development of siblings particularly the females because of our cultural nature of male child preference (Samuel, 2007).
However, the core beliefs of the people of Amassoma are still today not affected by the inception of Christianity in the community. There are still beliefs concerning the dead. A wicked person, one who has committed a taboo in the community is not buried on the same place with a good person. Those who have committed atrocities are buried on the other island called “Seibou” meaning Evil Forest. Whether or not a dead person belongs to Seibou or not depends on the manifestations or tell-tale signs that will be manifested on the day or day before his/her burial. Tradition has it that a dead man who has committed a taboo would defecate in his coffin or during the digging of the grave “Pere-soun” meaning Earth Worms or “Asi” meaning Snail would be found in the grave. When this happens the dead person would be taken to Seibou and buried there while a dead person who has not committed a taboo would be buried in the town. It is quite shocking that tradition believes that a dead person would defecate and that a snail or earth-worm would be found in the grave of one who has committed a taboo. Whether this saying is true or not is an area that should interest a researcher. However, the traditional practice of inquiring of the causes of death and disease is no longer practiced because of the errors involved in it.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
This research work was carried out to find out whether the changes in the belief system of Amassoma are due mainly to the inception of Christianity in the Town. This study came as result of direct observation of the practices of the people. Initially, traditional beliefs and practices were very effective in the sixties, and in the early nineties.
The main aim of the study was to find out if the changes in the traditional belief system and practices of the people are due to the inception of Christianity in the community. The attending objectives of the study are as follow:
- To examine the impact of Christianity on the traditional belief system of Amassoma.
- To examine the influence of Christianity on the traditional belief system of Amassoma.
- To determine the influences of Christianity on the socio-economic development of Amassoma community.
The theoretical framework adopted for this study is Anthropological diffusionism. Specific theory used within Diffusionism is Cultural Diffusion. The core propositions of cultural diffusion were clearly stated and the particular proposition that applied to my study was briefly discussed. For better clarification on the impact of Christianity on the belief system, relevant literatures were reviewed on different components of the research objectives. This helped to establish a sound foundation for the research work and have exposed the knowledge gap of other researchers who had conducted similar study in other parts of the country and outside the country.
The research methodology used for this study is the descriptive research design with a probabilistic stratified random sampling technique. Well-structured questionnaires were administered on the stratified random sample of 394 households. 390 out of the 394 distributed questionnaires were retrieved and collated for data presentation and analysis. The data so collected and collated were processed, analyzed and presented in tables showing percentages.
This research work has shown that some of the changes in the traditional belief system of Amassoma are due to the inception of Christianity in the community. The findings of this study are not final because other variables can account for changes in the traditional belief system of Amassoma. All changes cannot be attributed to Christianity. Other researchers can take note and account for those factors that have caused change in the belief traditional system of Amassoma.
On the basis of the findings of this research work, it can be concluded that:
- Christianity has impacted positively on the traditional belief system of Amassoma. This is because widows are no longer compelled to marry the relation of the deceased in the family. Likewise men are no longer obligated to inherit the relation of the deceased wife. 200 (51.3%) out of 390 respondents said that widow inheritance is no longer practiced while 190 (48.7%) said otherwise. Similarly, the practice of having many wives has been influenced positively. 236 (60.5%) have attested to this positive change while 154 (39.5%) said that it is still practiced among unbelievers. Finally, all the respondents testified that Christianity has indeed affected the custom of the people but it is seen as a positive development rather than one of negative.
- Secondly, the belief of mermaid/or their spirits do not exist anymore. Also very few persons now attribute misfortune to evil spirits about (41%). Even the practice of the killing of twins have become a thing of the past as members of the community now appreciate the value of twins, their parents; well treated and respected and twin babies themselves are fully integrated into the community. Also, the practices of inquiring into the causes of death and disease as well as the worship of idols are no longer practiced. Only few numbers of persons are involved in it. Finally, teenage marriage of the girl-child is no longer practiced.
- Third and finally, Christianity has influenced positively the socio-economic development of Amassoma. Some churches assist in helping their members to do petty business. Some provide and contribute money for widows monthly, some assist in burial contribution; others assist educationally, while some go as far as paying hospital bills for their members and some help in building of members’ houses.
- Physical artifacts of traditional society serve as vital evidence for both historians and archaeologists. The destruction of traditional physical objects like the image of idols, symbols of idols, tools of divination, and crafts belonging to traditional worshippers were destroyed /burned by many churches during conversion of an individual from traditional religion to Christianity. The destroyed artifacts could have provided tangible information and physical evidence on past believes and practices have they been kept in library and museums.
- Christian religion should live side by side with those positive aspects of traditional religion.
- Christian organizations should actively participate in the cultural practices of the people in order to find out other practices that are based on superstition.
- Some traditional worshippers feel alienated from Christians because of their beliefs and practices. I recommend that Christians should be kind and generous to traditional worshippers.
5.4 Limitation of the Study
There is very little written literature on the belief system of Amassoma. Even the ones found online do not have tangible information on the initial practices and beliefs of the people. Hence, information was relied upon primary and secondary data.
Secondly, time was a factor. The time given to accomplish the research work was insufficient as other academic activities demanded attention.
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