CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIAL CHANGE IN OBOWU: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC AND CHURCH MISSIONARY SOCIETY MISSIONS, 1913 -1970


Content

ABSTRACT

The coming of Christian Missions to Africa In the mid twentieth century ostensibly to convert the heathens of the continent was widely resisted by the people who saw Christianity as an attempt to destroy their social life and values. Yet it cannot also be denied that Christianity laid the foundation of the social development of many African countries including the Obowu Clan of Imo State.

This work therefore, seeks to examine the role of Christianity to the social life of the people. Specifically, this work looks at the contributions of the Roman Catholic and Church Missionary Society Missions in the social development of Obowu in five chapters.

The first chapter is the introduction, while the second segment deals on the evolution and development of Obowu. The political, socio­economic and cultural organization of Obowu are contained in chapter three, while the role of the Roman Catholic and Church Missionary Society Mission in the development of Obowu is the focus of chapter four. The fifth chapter summarizes and concludes the work.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Title Page

Certification

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Abstract

 

Table of Contents

CHAPTER ONE

1.0       Introduction

1.1       Background to the Study

1.2       Statement of Research Problem

1.3       Aims and Objectives

1.4       Research Methodology  

1.5       Scope of Study

1.6       Literature Review

1.7       Notes and References

 

CHAPTER TWO

The Evolution and Development of Obowu

2.0       Introduction 14-15

2.1       Geographical Location of Obowu

2.2       Traditions of Origin of Obowu 

2.3       Population Distribution

2.4       Obowu's Relations with neighbours 

2.5       Notes and References

 

CHAPTER THREE

Political, Socio-economic and Cultural Organization of Obowu

3.1      Political Organization of Obowu

3.2      Economic life of Obowu people.

3.3      Religious and Social life of Obowu

3.4      Cultural life of Obowu

3.5      Notes and References

 

CHAPTER FOUR –

The Role or Roman Catholic and Church  Missionary

Society in the Social Development of Obowu

4.0      Introduction

4. 1      The Advent of the Roman Catholic Mission (RCM) in Obowu

4.2      The coming of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) to Obowu

4.3       Method of Evangelization of both Missions

4.4       Reactions of Obowu people to Christianity

4.5       The Contributions of RCM and CMS to Socio-economic development of Obowu

4.6      An Appraisal of the Role of RCM and CMS in the social development of Obowu

4.7      Notes and References.

 

CHAPTER FIVE - Summary & Conclusion

5.1       Summary

5.2       Conclusion

5.3      Bibliography

5.4       Appendices

 

CHAPTER ONE

1.0   INTRODUCTION

Obowu Clan is one of the Igbo-speaking peoples of South Eastern Nigeria that had a direct contact with the Europeans through the introduction of Christianity and establishment of Churches.

Obowu is now a local government area in Imo State of Nigeria. It is in Okigwe Senatorial Zone and attained the status of a local government in May 1989. Before then, it was one of the towns that made up what used to be Etiti Local Government Area of former Imo State. The headquarters of the local government is at Otoko. Situated on the North-East Area of Imo State, Obowu stretches from Mbaise to lmo River. It is bound on the East by lkwuano Umuahia Local Government Area of Abia State, on the South by Ezinihitte Mbaise, on the West by Ahiazu Mbaise and on the North by Ihitte-Uboma Local Government.

The town, Obowu, is made up of fourteen villages - though the fifteenth one has recently attained the status of being called a village. These villages include: Ehume, Umuosochie, Umuariam, Odenkume, Umungwa, Amanze, Achara, Alike, Amuzi, Okwuohia, Avutu, Umunachi, Umuoke, Umulogho, and of course Umuagu.

Obowu Clan covers an area of 69.930 square kilometers. The Nigerian Census of 1963 put the total population of the fourteen village communities in Obowu, at 108,468.3. The break-down of the figure shows that Amuzi, Alike, Ehume and Urnuariam are the most densely populated communities, while Amanze, Umungwa and Achara are-the most sparsely populated.

 

1.1     BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Christianity is a religion based on the belief in one true God, through a mediator, Jesus Christ. To Christians, the central point of theology was, and still is the study and knowledge of the supreme God through his son, Jesus Christ, who is the only mediator between God and man.

Any other background belief system, to them was, and still is considered absurd, idolatry and heathenistic.

Before the coming of Christianity, the traditional Obowu society was immersed in the belief in "Chukwu Abiamiri". He was regarded as the Supreme Being, also referred to as Chukwu and Chineke. 'Chukwu' means "the great God", whereas "Chineke" stands for "God the creator".

The former was used in conversation and prayer, while the later was used in expressing wonder -especially in expressing a surprise. Chukwu (or Chineke) was the creator of the universe. He made the universe in two parts: Earth (Ala) and Sky (Igwe) after which he instituted two messengers, the Sun (Anyanwu) and the Moon (Onwa). He was believed to have created Ikenga, the culture hero of Obowu land.

At the entry of Christian missions to Obowu, these missionaries saw this background belief system as idolatry, fetish and heathenistic. They went ahead to attack it, subdued it, and eventually introduced their own mode of worship called Christianity. Christianity therefore held sway in Obowu bringing along its attendant changes in the social life of the native people of Obowu. These developments include transformation in religion, culture, morals, and development of infrastructure.

 

1.2     STATEMENT OF RESEARCH PROBLEM

The advent of Christianity in Obowu is as laddened with controversy. While many see Christianity as the harbinger of social development in Obowu, others blamed Christianity for destroying the people's tradition and cultural values.

Nevertheless, the linkage between social development and Christianity is evident in the dynamic transformation of any society that came into contact with Christian Missions. For instance, the advent of the Christian Missions in Obowu (Roman Catholic and Church Missionary Society, particularly), ushered in the emergence 'Of modern infrastructure like roads, bridges, hospitals, good drinking water streams, and other amenities.

 

1.3     AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

Several works exist which point to the advent of Christianity to Igbo land, of which Obowu is a part. Some of these authors also try to pinpoint some outstanding developments in culture, tradition and thinking of the Igbo people as at when Christian Missions entered these areas.

However, this study aims at investigating the role of the Christian Missions, notably - the Roman Catholic and Church Missionary Society in the social development of Obowu. The specific example includes an examination of the ways through which the Missions implanted their social reforms in Obowu.

 

1.4     RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

This work focuses on the descriptive and analytical, with the bulk of materials obtained from both primary and secondary sources of history. Under the primary, interviews will be held with Obowu people with vast knowledge of Christianity in the area. The interviews are complemented with archival materials from the Missions officials. Secondary sources include textbooks, journals, magazines and conference papers, etc.

 

1.5     SCOPE OF STUDY

This work covers the period between nineteen thirteen and nineteen seventy. It centres on the role of the Roman Catholic and Church Missionary Society Missions and as well as the activities of other

Missions (including the Pentecostal Churches) whose impact began to be noticed in Obowu Clan as at nineteen seventy.

Nineteen thirteen marks the beginning of the coming of Christian Missions to Obowu. The Roman Catholic Mission was the first to arrive Obowu in nineteen thirteen. The Church Missionary Society arrived in nineteen seventeen.

Other Missions including: the Pentecostal Churches) which entered Obowu Clan in nineteen seventy especially, at the end of the Civil War in Nigeria which ended in nineteen seventy.

This work looks at the origin and development of Obowu from inception to the coming of the Christian Missions. It: concludes with an appraisal on the role of Christian Missions (the Roman Catholic and Church Missionary Society Missions) in the social development of Obowu.

 

1.6     LITERATURE REVIEW

The word Christian has a biblical foundation. The disciples of Jesus Christ - who remains the central personality in Christianity - were first addressed as Christians in Antioch. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

The "Oxford Advanced Learners' Dictionary of Current English" defines Christianity as "the religion that is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the belief that he was the son of God. Christianity began as a Jewish sect. The Jewish scriptures eventually becoming for Christians, the Old Testament. During his ministry, Jesus Christ was probably understood as a prophet of God, but by the end of the 1st century, Christians had come to view him as a divine being in his own right, and this created tension with the monotheistic tradition of Judaism. The, Jews therefore held on to Judaism, and to Moses the law giver; the Christian propagated Christianity through Jesus Christ. Christianity spread its root in the Roman Empire in the first century.

It flourished especially in the Eastern territories of the empire. By the end of the 4th century, it had become the official religion of the empire. By late in the 5th century, the Roman Empire in the Latin speaking west had fallen into political ruin, but it continued in the Greek speaking Eastern Mediterranean region for another thousand years, with a succession of emperors, a powerful army, and a lively Greek Christian culture.

The advent of Christian Missionaries to Obowu brought significant changes in the society, specifically in the cultural, religious and other aspects of the social life of the people. For instance, the suspension of killing of twins among the Obowu people, the renunciation of the Osu, partial suppression of polygamy, the adoption of Western dressing in place of traditional attires have been linked to the coming of the Christian Missions to Obowu.

Despite the contribution of Christian Missions to the socio-economic developments of Obowu, there is little or no literature on the activities of the Missions in Obowu. Specifically, in some of the works, the activities of the RCM and the CMS in Obowu are examined either as part of the general. Study in Obowu or as footnotes.

For example, Agwu, F.A. in his work entitled· "Progression of education in Obowu" notes that:

In 1913 (nineteen thirteen), the first Christian Missionaries from Emekuku visited Obowu. They were Catholics. They had sent a teacher to open a church at Umulowu Amuzi. This was on the invitation of late Chief Korieocha Madukuie of Amuzi ObOWU.

In his own contribution Dibia, S.A. postulates that:

Tradition has it that in 1914, an Nkwerre man, Obioha, led a certain Christian, Francis Okpanku from Onitsha to Obowu. This Francis spoke to Chief Korieocha of Amuzi Obouni about the Catholic Church. The Chief, not only accepted the establishment of the church in his area, but allowed his brother, Onwunali to accompany Francis to Ernekuku to negotiate the establishment. At Emekuku they were to tell the Catholic Missionaries there that the people of Ob01..UH toould like the church to be built in their area. Accordingly, the church was founded in Korieocha's compound at Amuzi. Rev. Fr. A. Welis was the first priest who preached to the people. The church was later transferred to Alike which became the headquarters of the Catholic Mission in Obowu.

The 1914 date grven by Dibia as marking the entry of Christian Missions in Obowu contradicts the report of the excerpts from the Catholic record of Saint Mary's Immaculate Heart Parish, Alike, which gives the date of Catholic entry into Obowu as at 1913. The St. Mary's Immaculate Heart Parish is the headquarters of all the Catholic Parishes in Obowu. F.A. Agwu, a notable historian and educationist as well as a Catholic from Umulogho Obowu also agreed with that the Catholic Mission entered Obowu in 1913.

However, the advent of Christianity in Obowu was also followed by the imposition of Western education, Western Christianity, Western political structures and other Western ideas. Of all these, the impact of the Christian Missions appeared to be more pervasive in education.

The Christian Missionaries played a key role in the introduction of Western education to Obowu. S.A. Dibia in his lecture "The Establishment of Christian Churches in Obowu," said:

Schools came with the Christian churches. These schools were also managed by the missionaries themselves and more often than not, one would find the catechist, the headmaster and the school teacher all in one person. Initially, it was Sunday school conducted by church officials that was established. The establishment of schools was a device by the missionaries to win more converts. These schools soon became centers of strong campaigns against the people's culture. Through the medium of the schools the missionaries became so strongly entrenched in the ' .society that they threatened the role of the chiefs and elders as traditional religious leaders.

Apart from Western education, the Catholic and Anglican missionaries pioneered the building of modern roads as against the traditional pathways found in the pre-Christian Obowu. According to Sam Dibia, before the coming of the Christian Missions, traditional Obowu society knew no roads in the modern sense of it. What it had were pathways. The emergence of new roads not only improved their communication with one another but also helped to increase their economic activities and earning power.

From the foregoing, it is clear that the activities of the Roman Catholic and Church Missionary Society in Obowu demand further investigation. This work therefore, aims at filling the gap that exists in Obowu's social history.

It investigates the impact of the Roman Catholic and Church Missionary Society Missions on the social life of Obowu people. It looks at the various .ways and means through which the two churches contributed to the social development of Obowu.

 

1.7     NOTES AND REFERENCES

1.     C.F. Amaechi, Iwa Akwa - A Cultural Heritage in Obowu, (Ikeja, Trinity Communications, 2000), p.g

2.     Obowu: The Igbo Heartland People, Novelty Industrial Enterprises, 2008, p. 49

3.     Ibid, p. 48

4-.     Ibid, P. 49

5.     Sam Dibia, Obowu Traditional Society before the coming of the Europeans, (Owerri, Ihem Davies Press, 1989), p.22

6.     The Holy Bible - King James Version, Acts II, verse 26.

7.     Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English,(2000), p.192

8.     History: A Microsoft Encarta Premium, 2009

9.     Ibid

10.   Sam Dibia, The Impact of European Advent on Obowu Society, (Owerri, Ihem Davies Press, 1989), pp. 70-71

11.   F.A. Agwu, Progression of Education in Obowu, Obowu Progressive OrouQ, 1984, p.27

12.   S.A. Dibia, The Establishment of Christian Churches in Obowu, (Owerri, Ihem Davies Press, 1989), p.66

13.   F.N.F. Ekewuba, "Christianity and the Social Development of Avu Community," a B.A. Essay submitted to Imo State University, Faculty of Arts, Department of History and Humanities, Owerri, 1999, p.32.

14.   S.A Dibia, op. cit, pp 67 -68

15.   Sam Dibia, The Impact of the European Advent on Obowu Society, op. cit, p. 71

16.   Ibid, p. 71

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