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
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
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
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
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. 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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