The Missionary Twist in the Development of The Igbo Identity: The Dialectics of Change and Continuity

Okpalike Chika J.B. Gabriel, Nwadialor Kanayo Louis

Abstract


Every society, in order to have any stability and meaningful development, peace and orderly progress, usually requires that its members adhere to an articulated set of values which provides a sense of group identity for them. For the Igbo, as in many parts of Africa, it is religion, albeit traditional religion, that provides most of the bases for the values and stands them out with a distinctive identity. There is no doubt that the traditional religion on which the Igbo societies were based gave meaning and significance to the lives of people in those societies. But those values have been thoroughly affected by historical factors, by the encounter with Europeans and their Christian religion with its accompanying new systems of living. Howbeit, if a new religion has assumed major significance in the lives of a people, then it is very necessary to assess the nature of its activities and progress in order to establish the genuineness of its predominance and to see how far it has allowed itself or otherwise, to fulfill the requirements which the people demand of their religion. Assessing the impacts of Christianity on Igbo societies, historians inevitably tend to concentrate on manifestations of change, rather than on continuities. However, to understand Igbo society in the missionary era it is essential to understand that for many, perhaps most Igbo, life was not changed very fundamentally. The extent of the Christianization of Igboland is a question of depth and sincerity as well as a question of change and continuity in social identity. The first generation of Igbo Christians often displayed an apparent ambivalence. On the one hand, they were enthusiastic and fervent Christians, but on the other, they frequently embraced practices which the Churches condemned. Nevertheless, this type of eclecticism does not reflect insincerity. On the contrary, it reflected the reality of the supernatural world. This study, therefore, looked at the extent to which missionary enterprise has brought changes in the identity of Igbo people and how the Igbo responded to its new challenges vis-à-vis problems and opportunities.

Keywords: society, traditional religion, Igbo societies, missionary era, Howbeit, church, Africa, etc.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.0001/(aj).v6i4.1454

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