Fr Bonnie's Reflections

HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF HOLY TRINITY

MOST HOLY TRINITY:  HOMILY

By rev. fr. Boniface nkem anusiem Ph.D

 

The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most profound mysteries of the Christian faith. It is a mystery because human mind alone unaided by faith cannot grasp it. Thinkers down the centuries have had difficult moments reflecting on this mystery.

 

A story has it thatSt.Augustine of Hippo, was deeply worried about this mystery and took sometime to take a walk along a seashore. As he was meditating on this, he came across a child playing by herself. On a closer observation he discovered that the child dug a small hole and was going to the sea to scoop some water with a small spoon to the hole.St. Augustinewas curious and asked the child what she was doing. The child said that she was trying to fill the hole with the entire sea water. St. Augustine was amused by the child’s action and told her that it would rather be very impossible. The child turned to him and said “that is how it will be impossible for your small head to understand fully the mystery of the Trinity” and the child disappeared instantly.

 

The doctrine of the Trinity tells us that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons­- The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Seen in another way, it states that God is One in essence and Three in person. The divine arithmetic is 1+1+1= 1. Logic has no relevance here because the result will be fallacious. However in the realm of God what is humanly impossible is divinely possible, what is humanly insurmountable is divinely surmountable, what is humanly fallacious is divinely a truism.

 

Today we will be making effort to use the physical and spiritual sciences to establish our understanding of the Holy Trinity. Obviously things created bear the imprint of the creator in one way or the other.

In applying the physical sciences in demonstrating the Most Holy Trinity, we will be making use of analogies. To state the fact very well, they are mere analogies, hence they do not perfectly exhaust the mystery of the Trinity, if they do, then, the doctrine of the Trinity will no longer be a mystery. Actually the perfect explanation of the Trinity is the Trinity!

 

  • EGG: Using a boiled egg we can demonstrate three aspects exiting in one. A boiled egg has the outer shell, the inner albumen and the innermost yoke. We can say that the first is egg the shell, the second is egg the albumen and the third is egg the yoke. All these make up one egg just as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit make up one God. This analogy is still not perfect because each of the aspect cannot stand as egg like each of the persons in the trinity can stand as God.
  • MATTER: Matter has three states, solid, liquid, and gaseous. These are seen for instance in water. Hence water can manifest itself in three different forms but the same water. This analogy is also not perfect because the personalities are not merely manifestations of ONE GOD.
  • LIGHT: Any colour of light is formed from three primary colours: red, green, and blue. Even the light that appears to us as white is a manifestation of three colours in one. This analogy is imperfect. In the Trinity none of the personalities can function without the other. They are eternally inseparable unlike the colours that can be separated.
  • FORCE: In physics force is a pull or push which makes an object with mass to change velocity. Three forces control all interactions in matter: gravitational force, electromagnetic force and nuclear force. All these are manifestations of one force. I have earlier indicated that the persons in the Trinity are not mere manifestations of the Godhead.
  • Atoms: An atom is the smallest indivisible particle of an element. As small as an atom is it is made up of: (1) positively charged protons, (2) negatively charged electrons and (3) the neutrons. All these exist in one atom. But unlike in the Trinity each of them cannot be called atom.
  • TIME: In the universe time exists in three dimensions found in the past, present and future. This is still a single continuum and exists only in the present. God is timeless and this analogy is imperfect.
  • SPACE: In our universe space is the three dimensional extent in which events and things occur. In space we have length, width, and depth. Each of them cannot however stand for space in isolation.
  • HUMAN COMPOSITION: A single human person is made up of body, mind and spirit. These complete a single individual. Hence we reflect the trinity in our composition. Our human composition shows our limitation but God is unlimited. This is an analogy in any case.
  • LIFE ON EARTH: Life on earth can be possible only on three levels: land, sea and air. Each of the spatial habitation is just an aspect and cannot describe the whole. Furthermore there is no equality because water for instance occupies more space on earth than land.

 

We can at this juncture move in to inquire what the spiritual sciences speak about God. Our source remains the bible. Notable the word Trinity is not used in the bible, but this does not vitiate the fact that the Trinity does not exist. Even the word bible is not found anywhere in the bible but we have it expressed in other words like inspired words. Here we have allusion that more aptly understands the Trinity.

 

  • Genesis 1:26: God said “Let us make man in our image and in our likeness”. God was not referring to the angels because they do not share the same image and likeness with God and they are created, so they cannot create. They are messengers of God. Hence God the Father was referring to the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

  • Genesis 11: 7 : God said “Let us go down and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another” Here builders of thetower ofBabel were attempting to reach God and God reacted through the action of the three persons in One God.

 

  • Genesis 18: 1-2: God appeared to Abraham at the sacred tree of Mamre. As Abraham was sitting at the entrance during the hottest part of the day, he looked up and saw three men. God came to Abraham in the Trinitarian form.

 

  • Isaiah 6:3: Holy, Holy Holy is the Lord Almighty. The whole earth is full of His glory. Note the three times “Holy” “IS” the Lord nor “ARE” the Lords.

 

  • MARK 1: 10-11: As soon as Jesus came out of the water he saw the heaven open and the Spirit coming down on him like a dove and a voice came from heaven     “You are my dear son I am pleased with you”.

 

  • 2nd Cor. 13:13: St Paul says “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ the Love of God  and The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’

 

Some people would argue that Jesus Christ is not God. And we reply through the bible:

 

  • Isaiah 9: 6: “Unto us a child is born to us a son is given. And he will be our ruler. He will be called wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace..”
  • John 1:1: “In the beginning was the WORD, the WORD was with God and the WORD was God. Verse 14 says “and the WORD was made flesh and he dwelt among us”.

 

  • John 8:58: Jesus said “Before Abraham I AM” We remember this I AM in Exodus 3:14 as the name God told Moses that is the name he should tell the people if the ask him who sent him.

 

  • Philippians 2:6-8: “Though he was in the form of God Jesus did not count on his equality with God, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death,…” Jesus is God but when he came to the earth he lived us humans in humility and for our salvation.

 

We also establish to those who doubt that the Holy Spirit is equally God.

 

  • Genesis 1:2: “The spirit was moving over the face of the deep” This was before God began active creation. The Holy Spirit has been with the God head from eternity. Hence the Holy Spirit is God.

 

  • Isaiah 61: 1: “The Spirit of God is upon me. He has chosen me and sent me to bring good news to the poor, heal the broken hearted, announce release to captives and free those in prison”. It is God who chooses and sends. Hence the Holy Spirit is here depicted as God.

 

  • John 16: 13: “The Spirit will reveal the truth about God”. Only God can reveal Himself to us. Therefore the Holy Spirit is here depicted as God.

 

With all these and more we have sufficiently, comprehensively, and painstakingly established that there are three divine persons in on God; the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

At this juncture it will be good to ask what we are able to learn from the Trinitarian union of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. From the Trinity we learn

1)      Unity in diversity

2)      Community in functionality

3)      Equality in personality.

4)      Sharing with and helping one another

5)      Faith and Trust

6)      Keeping to our positions in life

 

 

Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.d at the 2nd Global Conference on Revenge. Oxford University United Kingdom.

REVENGE AT THE SERVICE OF SOCIAL JUSTICE: AN AFROCENTRIC VIEW

 

Boniface  Anusiem

Abstract

African cosmology is basically communal. In traditional African societies, individuals are born with their lives, plans and aspirations built within the framework of the community. The community as a superstructure with a supra-sensible prowess has a central role to play in the lives of individuals and groups within the community. In the traditional African society nothing essentially happens without necessary connection with the community. This stretches to even small details as a child’s insubordination.

Revenge is generally seen as a negative response to injury or harm; whether intended or accidental. It may come with one or more of the following reasons: the desire to get even, retaliation for injury, loss, or humiliation, an attempt to transform shame into pride, seeking symmetrical injury, harm, or loss.

In traditional African societies where the community transcends the individual, revenge becomes a viable socio-cultural arsenal when the life of the society is at stake. This seemingly primitive approach to adverse reciprocity of actions forms a strong basis for social justice in most communities Sub-Sahara Africa.

In this section, the author employs the rich ingredients of African studies to evaluate in broad lines the benefits of revenge in certain African societies when its occurrence adds value to the life of the immediate community. This expository study addresses revenge as a phenomenon with strong socio-cultural and religious relevance. Revenge is seen as having some contributive values to social justice when it is appropriately applied to appease the vertical and horizontal lines of relationship evident in the community. This afro-centric assessment of revenge is instructive while initiating scholarly discussions.

 

Key Words: Revenge, Afro-centric, Community, Religion, Morality, Cosmology, Africanity, Societies.

*****

1.0       Introduction

Afro-centric studies and committed reflections on traditional African value systems are topical in our day and age. Scholars within and without the African continent have continued to explore the rich African traditional landscape in view of readdressing and re-evaluating those socio-cultural and religious attributes that are typically African and thus contributive to authentic “Africanity”.

Revenge as an action of paying back hurt or harm is not unknown in African communities. It is not only factual; it is also recommended especially when the peace and well being of the community in question is threatened. This paper has the task of exploring and establishing when revenge is justifiable considering the prerequisites of social justice.

To address this important and indeed very sensitive act, our insight goes through a deeper understanding of African traditional cosmology, revenge generally and particularly as it seen in African communities. This further goes into the relationship that exists between revenge and social justice.

For  Alyward Shorter (1998), one cannot speak and write about Africa as if it were a single, homogeneous society, or even a series of isolated, ethnic groups, all basically similar or comparable, instead there is (and was) social and cultural fragmentations. In the first place, there are diverse physical environments to which the various human groups in African communities have been adapted to both economically and socially. Furthermore, there has been no uniformity in these adaptations, but a variety of independent traditions and inventions even in similar environments. The different traditional systems have also been modified in different ways, according to the effect of historic personalities and the significant contact among ethnic groups. Consequently there is a huge variety of social and political systems, of languages, cultures and religions.1

In the midst of this pluralism it is possible to discover certain regularities. This is particularly because of the notable flexibility and absorbability of traditional African societies, which exchanged ideas and practices over wide areas without the need for great movements of peoples, conquests or reforms. Local cultures accepted ideal on their own terms, integrating them into their own systems of thought and symbolism. The consequence of all this is that, while there is no single concept of social justice which can be called universally African, there are a number of differing experiences which have a relatively wide currency. These experiences relate to different social levels: the family community and the political structure; and to the different styles of life dictated by the various environments and cultural traditions. Considering the foregoing the research and presentation have particular focus on the worldview of Sub-Sahara African.

 

1.1       Understanding African Cosmology

African cosmology simply refers to the peculiar way the African understands the world and operates within it. For the African the world is made up of two inter-penetrating and inseparable, yet distinguishable, parts namely, the world of spirits and the physical world. These two realms are in active dialogue. For Uzodimma Nwala (1985) “there is no sharp line separating the two. The spirits are involved in the day to day affairs of men”.2

Within the aforementioned realms we have some identifiable hierarchy. In the spiritual realm there are as Parrinder (1962) would denote fourfold classification of categories, namely, the Supreme God, divinities or gods, ancestors, and charms or amulets. On the other hand the human realm is made up of human beings, animals, plants and other realities. These are however involved in a progressive interaction.3 There are basically in the strict sense no inanimate realities as even animals and plants are involved the cosmic dialogue. Some African folktales explain this very well. One will notice the interaction with among the various entities in both realms. A deeper appreciation of African cosmology can be seen in the African concept of religion.

 

1.2       African Concept of Religion

African traditional religion has proved to be very difficult to define. There is no single simple and precise definition to describe it. Unfortunately, many writers have misunderstood ATR by trying to define it under misleading terminologies such as animism, fetishism, magic, superstitions, primitive religion, ancestor worship, paganism etc.4 Actually the difficulty to define ATR seems to come from the fact that its propagation is carried out by living it other than by preaching it. Its followers are more preoccupied with its practice than with its theory. In ATR, dogmas and doctrines have a very little role to play in the life of its followers. Its definition becomes even more difficulty because of its integral / holistic character. There is no separation between the religious (sacred) and the profane. Its influence covers all aspects of life, from before the birth of a person to long after s/he has died. It is a way of life and life is at its centre. It is concerned with life and how to protect it and augment it. Hence the remark such as: For the African, religion is literally life and life is religion.

The sense of religion is the most significant of all the values that are pertinent to Africans. J.S Mbiti (1975) was right to remark that in African traditional societies there are no atheists.In a more obtrusive way, he maintained that the African is notoriously religious. This view point is plausible judging from the fact that every activity undertaken by the African has a direct or indirect connection with his or her religious creed. Giving reason for this Oliver Onwubiko (1991), remarked that:

Religion in the indigenous African culture, was not an independent institution. It is an integral and inseparable part of the entire culture. Religion in the African sense was practical. One’s entire action is reflective of one’s religious concept and practice as seen in the ordering of society.6

 

Africa traditional religion is not limited to beliefs in supernatural beings [God and spirits] or to ritual acts of worship, but affects all aspects of life, from farming to hunting, from travel to courtship. Like most religious systems [including Christianity, Islam, Judaism] African religion focuses on the eternal questions of what it means to be human: what is the meaning of life, and what are the correct relations among humans, between humans and spiritual powers, and with the natural world? African religious systems [also] seek to explain the persistence of evil and suffering, and they seek to portray the world as operating with some degree of order and predictability. They uphold certain types of ethical behavior. These ideas are expressed in sacred oral [and written] traditions, handed down from generation to generation through the performance of ritual [dance and music] and through intensive periods of education, including rites of passage.

From the forgoing we understand that religion pervades all aspects of the life of an African. In this direction everything happens under an anticipated religious ambient because of the continuous intervention and obtrusion of the spiritual realm on the physical. We shall be looking at revenge from the point of view of morality.

 

1.0              The Phenomenon of Revenge in African Morality

Revenge generally and from the African point of view implies but not strictly restricted to the following:

  1. The desire to get even,
  2. Retaliation for injury, loss, or humiliation,
  3. An attempt to transform shame into pride.
  4. Seeking symmetrical injury, harm, or loss

 

Morality in Africa in Africa on the other hand has to do with what is right and what is wrong in human actions and relations. Joseph Ilori (1994) sees it as compliance with a code of conduct covering a broader field. In his estimation:

A moral person is one who does what is right, according to approved standards. Or more frequently, he is identified as one who does no wrong. To be moral, for example, a person must not be dishonest, must not steal, and must not hurt other people.7

Notably morality has a lot to do with the religious creed. In fact morality derives its force and mandate from religion. From the viewpoint of T.N Quarcoopome,

In West African Traditional Religion morality is the fruit of religion. This means that in the traditional context there is no such distinction between morality and religion because there is close relationship between religion and the moral life. The social and moral ordinances are the injunctions of God, who had himself, instituted them.8

The consideration of revenge as a negative reciprocal action is based on the fact that it seeks to address an anomie. It seeks to redress some misapplication of justice and fairness; revenge is sought for as a necessary compliance with the ethical prerequisite of the community. In Africa the community is a very important entity. To be is to be a member of a given community. For Oliver Onwubiko (1991) the community is the custodian of the individual, hence he must go where the community goes. The community thus owns the individual.9 It is actually on the basis of what the community says that revenge is applied and used.

2.0              Revenge at the Service of Social Justice

The definition of Social Justice as a concept is notoriously hard. This is on account of the fact that societies and communities differ on many grounds on what is socially just. However we understand in essence that social justice is concerned with equal justice, in all aspects of society. This concept demands that people have equal rights and opportunities; everyone, from the poorest person on the margins of society to the wealthiest deserves an even playing field.

Social justice as a term was the original thought of the Jesuit Luigi Taparelli (1840) based on the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas.10 It was given further exposure in 1848 by Antonio Rosmini-Serbati.11 The idea was further elaborated by the moral theologian John A. Ryan,12 who initiated the concept of a living wage. Father Coughlin also used the term in his publications in the 1930s and the 1940s. Religiously it is a part of Catholic social teaching and the Social Gospel of Episcopalians. Politically it is one of the Four Pillars of the Green Party upheld by green parties worldwide. By the late twentieth century, it became more of a secular concept influenced primarily by philosopher John Rawls.

Many critics are of the view that social justice is a figment of imagination; nay an Eldorado. They adopt this viewpoint on the grounds that equality and solidarity among the diverse elements of a given society are naturally unattainable. In this paper, social justice is seen as productive of peace and social harmony. This is actually the purpose of justice in African communities.

We have so far presented revenge as a payback action for an injury or hurt. In Africa it is not every offense that calls for revenge. In fact a distinction should be made between revenge and punishment. Punishment is a penalty given for a fault or an offense. In the case of punishment the retribution is known to a reasonable degree. Revenge on the other hand is a step above punishment. The offender gets a penalty not basically on account of the offense in question but more on the perceived consequences it brings to the offended.  Hence revenge is only supported when the injury or hurt in question counter balances or is capable of counter balancing peace and harmony in the society. When an act it is capable of aggravating the anger of the spirits and unleashing disaster for the community revenge is necessarily sought. For instance wilful murder of an innocent person is immediately avenged because the blood of the person in question will appeal to the spirits for some form of retribution that can cause cataclysmic distortion of harmony. The spirits are in constant contact with the humans such that human activities receive their infallible approval or disapproval.

Ultimately revenge is sought based on some reasonable grounds which primarily include (but may not be restricted to) the following:

1         For Justice: This appears to be the foremost reason for revenge. It bears on giving each person his or her due. It functions in restoring lost dignity and respect occasioned by the injury or hurt. The Igbos of southeast Nigeria would say: “egbe bere ugo bere nke si ebe ya ebela nku kwakwa ya!” That means “let kite and the eagle perch anyone that says the other will not perch let its wings twist”.

2         For Deterrence: This is a dispassionate response calculated to change the other’s behavior in an on-going relationship or negotiation by imposing a negative consequence (punishment) for their decision. Here revenge functions in precluding a possible reoccurrence of the hurt. The Igbos of southeast Nigeria would say: “onye anu agbara na atu okporokporo ijiji ujo!” “Anyone bitten by a bee fear large fly”.

3         For Reprisal is a retaliation for an injury with the intent of inflicting at least as much injury in return.

4         For Retribution: a measured or restrained reprisal; a proportional response intended to communicate a message:  for instance “this is how wrong your actions were”.

5         For Reparation: This has to do with payments intended to compensate a victim for a loss.  While these may be largely effective in repairing the damages resulting from loss or theft of material goods, it is impossible to restore a lost life, a physical injury, loss of health, destruction of unique objects or those with sentimental value, or a missed opportunity such as a successful career or time spent with a loved one. It is also difficult to restore lost pride. The goal of reparations is to keep promises and restore a damaged community.

6         Eliciting Remorse: Remorse is feeling genuinely bad about the hurt I have caused and taking responsibility for the hurtful choices made. The idea is to make the offender enter into the state of the offended and feel the hurt or injury

7         For Atonement: Atonement is seen as remorse followed by reparations. It is similar to apology but not apology.

8         For Retaliation: This is the idea of fair payback, often expressed as “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” and is captured in many primitive traditions. The concept is to cause as much pain to the aggressor as he has caused the offended to suffer. Unfortunately the magnitude gap—the fact that pain felt is more intense than pain inflicted—often causes the violence of the retaliation to exceed that of the original offense. Unending escalation, destruction, and violence often results. Also, because many losses cannot be restored or undone, the retaliation does not provide satisfying reparations to the victim.

9         As a Precondition for Reconciliation: In some situation revenge in terms of paying back a hurt done to someone serves as a veritable ground for reconciliation. If  an offense is not revenged, the offended often feel humiliated even after peace talk has been made.

3.0              Conclusion

Moral actions in Africa are connected with religious creed. Religion itself forms the basis of African life. Life cannot be lived by the African without reference to spirits. Hence there is a connection between the physical and the metaphysical, the human and the spiritual. Human actions are thus under the surveillance of the spiritual being.

Based on the afro-stated, human actions are continuously directed in such a way that they will be accepted and acceptable to the spiritual segment of the African cosmology. Revenge is one of those actions that are speedily applied to certain offensive actions in view of not disrupting the social harmony in the community and at the same time instituting social justice and peace.

 

 

 

Notes

1Shorter, Alyward. “Concepts of Social Justice in Traditional Africa” in Pro Dialogo Bulletin, 1977, p.32.

2Nwala, Uzodimma. Igbo Philosophy. Lagos: Literamed Publications, 1985,p.57.

3 Parrinder, Edward. African Traditional Religion. London: Sheldon Press, 1962, p.17.

4Quarcoopome, Theophilus West African Traditional Religion. Ibadan: African University Press. 1987, p.5.

5 Mbiti, John ,African Religions and Philosophy. London: Heinemann. 1975, p.262.

6   Onwubiko, O. A. African Thought, Religion and Culture.Enugu: Snaap Press. 1991, p.24.

7 Ilori, Joseph. Moral Philosophy in African Context. Zaria: Ahmadu Bello University press. 1994,p.4.

8 Quarcoopome, Theophilus. Ibid. p.160.

9Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) says, “Justice is a certain rectitude of mind whereby a man does what he ought to do in the circumstances confronting him.”

10  Antonio Rosmini-Serbati was an Italian Roman Catholic priest and philosopher. He founded the Rosminians, officially the Institute of Charity or Societas a charitate nuncupata.

11 John Ryan was a theologian of create repute and thoroughly orthodox. He is also know as the prophet of Social Justice.

 

 

Bibliography

Bujo, Benneth. Foundations od an African Ethic: Beyond th Universal Claims of Western Morality..Kenya: Pauline Publications in Africa. 2003.

Elechi, Amadi.  Ethics in Nigerian Culture. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books.1982.

Ilo, Stan. The Face of Africa: Looking Beyond the Shadows:Bloomington: AurthorHouse. 2006.

Ilori, Joseph. . Moral Philosophy in African Context. Zaria: Ahmadu Bello University press. 1994.

Mbiti, John.  African Religions and Philosophy. London: Heinemann. 1975.

Nwala, Uzodimma.. Igbo Philosophy, Lagos: Literamed Publications, 1985.

Onwubiko, Oliver. African Thought, Religion and Culture.Enugu: Snaap Press. 1991.

Quarcoopome, Theophilus. West African Traditional Religion. Ibadan: African University Press. 1987.

Shorter,  Aylward “Concepts of Social Justice in Traditional Africa” in Pro Dialogo Bulletin, 1977.

 

Boniface Anusiem PhD is the Chief Media Consultant of Trinity Media Consults Abuja, Nigeria. He is a motivational speaker, writer, and human development enthusiast. He has interest in effective media use in human development and African cultural studies. He has authored five books and a good number of articles in magazines, newspapers, and journals. He intends to bring Inter-disciplinary.net to Africa.

 

FORGIVENESS AND CHILD UPBRINGING: AN APPLICATION OF AFRICAN TRADITIONAL ORATURE. BY REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM PH.D. OXFORD UNIVERSITY

FORGIVENESS AND CHILD UPBRINGING: AN APPLICATION OF AFRICAN TRADITIONAL ORATURE

 

 

 

A paper presented at the 3rd global conference on forgiveness oxford college England

17th july 2010

 

BY

 

BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM

University of Abuja, Nigeria.

 

 

 

Abstract

Every aspect of human life is significantly shaped during childhood. This stage in human development is extraordinarily receptive to the values that are obtainable in the immediate social environment. Modern psychologists generally agree that the impressions of early childhood play a decisive role in the process of maturation into adulthood. Albert Bandura (1977) in his Social Learning Theory established that children learn more by imitating what goes on around them, especially what they see adults do. The early stage in human development is thus very fecund for the scaffolding of important socio-cultural, moral and religious values.

 

Forgiveness as a benevolent virtue can be nurtured, expressed, shared and taught from childhood. This happens when the socializing environment provides the necessary grounds for it to be planted and groomed. Significantly this virtue is not a product of scholastic curriculum, but a derivation from affective and effective psycho- social and religious relationships within a community.

 

This paper explores the importance of forgiveness in the process of child upbringing. This outlook is motivated by the conviction that childhood learning has a lot to contribute to adulthood formation. To address this important issue, the paper adopts the African traditional learning process. This is the informal form of education which integrates every member of the community from infancy using what most African scholars (especially Pio Zirimu) denote as African traditional Orature. This oral transmission of narratives and customs from older generations to successive ones is done through folktales, folksongs, proverbs, parables and other symbolic verbal forms.

 

Attentive to the foregoing it becomes the preoccupation of this work to establish how the virtue of forgiveness can be integrated in the process of child upbringing using African traditional Orature as a pedagogical tool. The paper draws strength from African cultural studies and research to propose a more reliable way of inculcating the virtues of forgiveness from childhood using symbolic verbal elements that resonates with the recipients.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.0    Introduction

 

The importance of child upbringing need not generate much debate. This is specifically based on the fact that a lot of things that come up in adulthood are fecundated during the time of the development of the child. Albert Bandura in his social learning theory demonstrated in broad lines that children learn by consciously imitating the sounds and sights that they come in contact with in their socializing environment1. It could thus be rightly asserted that a greater percentage of childhood education is undertaken by the socializing environment where child upbringing takes place. Our contemporary media saturated society lends credence to this fact.

 

 

Life in Africa is traditionally a community life. Individualism is non-existent; in fact to be is to be identified with a particular community. The community as the custodian of the individual is also an institution of non-formal learning. When a child is born he/she is born into the community not into a given family or the other. The community starts immediately to scaffold the child’s upbringing with some basic values. This is notably done using the traditional method of teaching by means of words and other symbolic art forms.

 

This paper explores how forgiveness can be incorporated in the process of child upbringing using the African traditional orature as a learning tool. In view of advancing an ingenious presentation, the paper undertakes some explication to set out the landscape and scope of most of the important terms like forgiveness, child upbringing and orature. It further sets out to make in-depth study on how the African traditional orature can assist in the pedagogy of forgiveness within the context of child upbringing.

 

2.0    The Concept of Forgiveness In African Cosmology

The concept of forgiveness in Africa is better understood from the point of view of its importance. Generally forgiveness is seen as an action that succeeds an incidence of transgression. Based on the continuous link between the human and the divine in African cosmology, forgiveness is viewed as an indispensable condition for peace in the community. This later is important because every activity by human beings is evaluated in the spiritual realm. For Uzodimma Nwala (1985) “there is no sharp line separating the two. The spirits are involved in the day to day affairs of men.”2

 

Forgiveness is necessary for the realization of social harmony in the community; for the African it is at the service of solidarity and fellow-feeling. Using the South African concept of Ubuntu, Desmond Tutu describes the intrinsic network that connects individuals amounting to a unified whole. In his outlook a person is a person through other persons. One’s humanity is defined by identifying with, and participating in the affairs of the community. In a more elaborate elucidation Tutu writes:

Social harmony is for us the Summum Bonum, the greatest good. Anything that subverts, that undermines this sought after good is to be avoided like the plague. Anger, resentment, lust for revenge, even success through aggressive competitiveness are corrosive of this good. To forgive is not just altruistic; it is the best form of self interest. What dehumanizes you inexorably dehumanizes me.3

 

Desmond Tutu’s position discloses the fact that Africans situate the life and destiny of the community within the context of moral disposition of the individuals that make up the community. In view of this forgiveness becomes an indispensable reconstructive arsenal and viable antiseptic to the mortal injury of transgression.

 

 

 

2.1 Forgiveness as a Ritual Process in Africa

There is need to establish here that every aspect of life in African thought and culture is directly linked to the divine presence in the community in question. Generally understood the African cosmology presents a dualism of existence; the human world and the spirit world. The two worlds are inter-penetrating and inseparable though distinguishable. In line with the preceding thought, forgiveness in the African context presents a reconstruction of the vertical and horizontal lines of relationships. Attentive to this fact, it demands a rigorous ritual process which serves both as a deterrent and well as the actual panacea to the transgression in question. The following are the formal ritual process of forgiveness in Africa:

a)     Acceptance of guilt.

b)    Repentance: Deep-reaching inner sorrow and detestation of transgression.

c)     Reparation: Restitution and appeasing of the divine and human realities in the community.

d)    Reconciliation: Making amends and mending broken ties with the divine and human beings.

 

3.0    Child Upbringing  In African Socio-Cultural Context

Child upbringing generally refers to the gradual integration of individuals into the society. In Africa child upbringing is a task that involves not only the nuclear family, but also the extended family and the community as a whole.

 

The community thus serves as an educational institution with extensive and effective social, cultural, economic, and religious curriculum. The community sees the child as an asset of the community in whom it maintains a stake. Attentive to this, every member of the community becomes a potential teacher of the child. The community actually takes the responsibility of care and upbringing of all children. It is a cohesive unit which ideally provides social, cultural, economic and psychological security in the developmental framework of the children.

 

The community defines the social and moral norms and safeguards both material and spiritual customs and traditions. It also provides a variety of role models preparing the way for adulthood. Within this inclusive African community, children occupy a central place and are brought up in close family groups. The social and cultural development of the child is undertaken and shared by members of the community. Attentive to this community based pedagogical disposition, the Igbos of Southeast Nigeria would say: “otu onye anaghi azu nwa” (child upbringing is not a responsibility of one person).

 

Generally the idea of child upbringing in African socio-cultural context is a community initiative and action. Hence the African child has many mothers and fathers. From infancy the community leads the child to develop a strong sense of social responsibility, solid moral base as well as fitting economic and religious foundation.

 

4.0   African Traditional Orature: Meaning and Scope.

Orature refers to the body of values, narratives and customs that are transmitted through spoken words. The Ugandan scholars of East African School of Literary Criticism Pio Zirimu and Ngugi wa Thiong’o introduced the term to replace what has been known as African oral tradition or African oral literature. African traditional orature tells us of the total body of oral discourse, styles and traditions of Africa people including their visual arts.4 Africans make use of orature to embody and transmit those moral, ethical and aesthetic values which form their relationships and worldview. Beyond mere verbalization of past events, Ifemesia notes that African traditional orature involves:

 

A presentation of the ideals and values of society; of the ideological and spiritual patrimony handed down by the ancestors, whose memory the present generation cherishes and reveres.5

 

 

For Ngugi wa Thiong’o orature is not seen as a branch of literature but as a total aesthetic system, with performance and integration of art forms as two of its defining qualities. For him performance specifically distinguishes orature from literature.6

 

Authentic African educational system is non-formal and operates without written curriculum. The moonlight nights are the classrooms; the elders, age groups, peer association and family units form the members of the teaching staff with their creative memories serving as dictionaries, encyclopedias and textbooks. Furthermore the subjects of study include folktales, folklore, jokes, riddles, games, proverbs, traditional songs and other social and cultural activities. Significantly this form of education which is subsisting in most African societies today involves oral transmission, physical interaction, and visual education. This scenario aptly captures the pedagogical environment that plants and sustains African traditional orature.

 

 

5.0  African Traditional Orature at the Service of Pedagogy of Forgiveness in Child Upbringing.

 

 

The African communities are founded on the belief that their future depends largely on the ethical conduct of the individuals that make of the community. Attentive to this fact, education in ethical conduct becomes very expedient in view of maintaining social harmony and peace in the community. Acts of virtues are taught using the vehicle of oral transmission and other art forms that aim at integrating would-be adults in the mainstream of their culture. According to Bénézet Bujo:

The methods used to teach virtues vary in accordance with the age of the children and young people; for example, the fairy tales and legends that are told to children again and again, with special emphasis on the vices and virtues of the protagonists. The children are to internalize these as lessons for daily dealings with their fellow human beings. Proverbs are equally important. These play a decisive role in communicating ethical goods and correct behaviour; they often supplement and correct one another by means of contradictory assertions. For example, the Bahema in east Congo say: “If a tree is not set in an upright position very early on, it remains crooked forever” This means that if the child is not corrected, it will be too late for him /her to learn correct behaviour when he/she becomes an adult.7

 

 

The traditional system of education in Africa is a finely connecting nexus. It is thus intimately integrated to resonate with the social, cultural, artistic, religious, political, economic, and recreational life of the ethnic group. This fundamentally makes every sphere of life to be fecund for learning. This means that the activities named above provide the traditional educational curriculum for the development of the children in the community.

Children who are born into African communities spontaneously become students of their cultural milieu as they go through various developmental stages using the traditional orature. For Edwin Smith reasoned that at the various stages of the development of the African child, folktales are used as educative devices. They are not only used to amuse and express feelings, but also to teach ideal forms of behaviour and morality.

In African traditional communities children learn by listening to the elders, imitating and reflecting them. The stories, jokes, proverbs, games and other art forms that are orally transmitted and emulated are handed down to successive generations. The specific concern of these elements is to induct the developing children into the socio-cultural, political, religious and moral values of the community. The most intensive and important process of learning is through the process of initiation into adulthood. The initiation into adulthood in the estimation of Victor Turner is a ritual process as he explains in the outcome of his encounter with the Ndembu of Zambia in Africa. For Turner in his book Ritual: Anti-Structure and Religion, Turner established the fact that those who go into the process of initiation into adulthood enter into a luminal stage where which a very dense moment of learning of societal values. They reenter the society after their fairly long time of liminality armed with values and ideals that give them strong moral identity as adults.8 Basil Davidson describes this further using the experience of the Tiriki group in Kenya, East Africa:

Until you are ten or so you are counted as a ‘small boy’ with minimal social duties such as herding cattle. Then you will expect, with some trepidation, to undergo initiation to manhood by a process of schooling which lasts about six months and is punctuated by ritual ‘examinations’ Selected groups of boys are entered for this schooling once every four or five years. …All the initiates of a hut eat, sleep, sing, dance, bathe, do handicraft, etc… but only when commanded to do so by their counselor, who will be a man under about twenty-five. Circumcision gives it a ritual embodiment within the first month or so, after which social training continues as before until the schooling period is complete. Then follows the ceremonies at which elders teach and exhort, the accent now being on obedience to rule which have been learned. (Davidson, Basil. 1969. The African Genius: An Introduction to African Social and Cultural History.9

 

Forgiveness is a virtue of paramount importance in African thought and culture. It is very important based on its perceived service to the community especially in appeasing the divine and human elements that are aggrieved at any point of transgression. Among the moral values that are attainable within the process of child upbringing in African traditional community is the virtue of forgiveness. This virtue is of great value because the community demands it for its progress and harmony. From the very tender age children learn lessons from folktales, songs and other art forms about events that warranted forgiveness especially with reference the deities. There are numerous stories and folk songs about individuals or group of persons that committed abominable acts, the effects of the offence on the life of the community and ritual process of forgiveness involved.

 

Children in African traditional communities are taught to regard everyone in the community as fellow brothers and sisters. In fact in the traditional African society nomenclatures like cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces do not exist. Rather you have brothers and sisters substituting for cousins, nephews and nieces while aunts and uncles are regarded as fathers and mothers. That is why in Africa each person is related to everyone. The community is supreme and defines each and everyone. The community sets the tune for the advancement of individuals in the community. This effective connection to the community makes it imperative for members of the community to maintain social harmony and thus seeks for forgiveness in the event of transgression.

6.0  Conclusion

The traditional African community as we have been able to establish is a huge educational institution of varying forms of learning. Children who are born into this community are led through the pedagogical corridors of the authentic African value systems. They are gradually integrated into the mainstream of the community though effective encounter with the living memories that are handed down and taught through oral transmission and other symbolic art forms.

Forgiveness as a virtue that has preoccupied this conference for the past three years can become a feasible virtue in the human society when it impacted during the process of child upbringing. The African traditional community is opulent in the provision of the palpable grounds for the striving of moral values through oral transmission. This African pedagogical disposition from the point of view of the community is being proposed to the world as a viable and involving way of making forgiveness a quality that deserves far-reaching inculcation in the process of child upbringing.

 

 

 

7.0 REFERENCES

1. Bandura, A. Social Learning Theory.Englewood Cliff. NJ. Prentice Hall. 1977.

2. Nwala, T.U. Igbo Philosophy. Literamed Publications Nigeria. 1985.

3. Tutu, D. No Future Without Forgiveness.Image books New York.2000. p.31

4. Ehusani, G. An Afro-Christian Vision “Ozovehe!” Towards A More Humanized

          World. University Press of America.1991.p .121.

5. Ehusani, G.p.122.

6. Thiong’0 N. Penpoints,Gunpoints and Dreams:Towards A Critical Theory of

          The Arts and The State in Africa. Clarendon press Oxford. 1998. p.17.

7. Bujo, B. Foundations Of An African Ethic: Beyond The Universal Claims Of

          Western Morality. Pauline Publications Nairobi. 2003.

8. Turner, V. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. New York Aldine

          De Gruyter.1969.

9. David, B. African Genius: An Introduction to African Social and Cultural

          History. The Atlantic Monthly Press. 1996. P.12.

You will seek God and you…

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