Christianity and Igbo Traditional Burial/ Funeral Rites: Dialogue or Conflict?

By Coal City University  et al


In this paper, we have tried to re-emphasize the relationship between culture and religion as a way of showing that western culture within which Christianity grew is not necessarily the substance of the Christian message. Because culture is that environment created by man, it includes his way of life among his fellow men, his family life, his religious life, attitudes, customs, traditions etc. As Ezeanya (1976:25), pointed out years ago, every people, no matter how backward they may be, no matter at what stage of civilization and development they may be, have a culture, a way of life peculiar to themselves, and the characteristic features of such a way of life. In that particular culture can be found elements that are naturally good, just and beautiful, elements that promote the general welfare of humanity as God’s creatures. There are also to be often side by side with the good, parts that are ‘evil’ and opposed to the temporal and spiritual well-being of man.
Christianity and Igbo Traditional Burial/ Funeral Rites:  Dialogue or Conflict?
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A few years ago our next door (actually next house) neighbour lost her father.  After paying a condolence visit to the family of the diseased, I left the village with the date of the funeral.

As soon as I arrived home for the funeral on the agreed date, I noticed my mother pacing up and down and looking gravely worried.  As she walked towards my car, I knew something was wrong. Hardly acknowledging my greeting she announced “you are not going in there because they have decided to do the funeral in the traditional way instead of the Christian* way.” We stared at each other for several minutes before I managed to ask “what in particular have they done? “They did not invite the Catholic Church as a group”, she retorted. In Imilike, at the time, what essentially determined whether a burial/funeral was classified either as traditional or Christian was whether the funeral cow was handed over to the oldest man (onyishi) in the village or to the Chairman of Catholic community. Cautious of her mood, I requested that we get into our house and talk over the matter.  We talked and talked and talked but the difficulties and the complexities of the situation at hand including the fact that, naturally, some items such as cooking utensils, chairs, etc usually borrowed from neighbours had already moved from our house to the house of the bereaved and yet I am expected not to move over to say hello.

About the Authors

Coal City University

Coal City University

Prof. Malachy Okwueze

Prof. Malachy Okwueze

Professor and former deputy vice chancellor administration of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.


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