Nigeria

Conflict with Tradition

The Igbo feared that if they become Christians, their gods would bring disaster to them. Diviners and medicine men reported that the divinities were angry because of the new religion and warned that nobody should join the missionaries. Others refused to embrace the new religion because they thought that the missionaries wanted to destroy their culture. Despite these reasons and threats, Christianity began to win converts in Igbo land. They had village church-school teachers called church agents. These agents were very active in molding the attitude of the converts, especially the young, toward the traditional society. Most of them, half educated and in many cases utterly misguided, contributed significantly to open disrespect for and disregard of the society’s time-honored customs and religious practices. … At different times and places, there were face-to-face encounter with Christians and traditionalists, because the early Christian missionaries behaved like social revolutionaries. They plunged into the condemnation and eradication of traditional religion. Traditional music and song, drama, and dance were totally denounced as bad and immoral. Statues, images, and emblems of remarkable artistic work and aesthetic merit were wantonly destroyed by some of the overzealous converts as idols and works of the devil. The missionaries were not prepared to face traditional religion. These acts set the stage for conflicts, which soon ensued between the Christians and the traditionalists.

Chukwuma O. Okeke, “Conflicts Between African Traditional Religion and Christianity in Eastern Nigeria: The Igbo Example,” Sage, 2017

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