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There is no doubt that the rise and spread of the socialist movement has largely contributed, directly or indirectly, to the retrieval and sharpening of the social consciousness in Christianity in general and in the Roman Catholic Church in particular. Papal Encyclicals -Rerum Novarum (1990), Centesimus Annus(1989),
Redemptoris Missio(1990), Evangelii Nuntiandi(1975), Populorum Progressio(1990), Ad Gentes(1965) to name some important ones as well as Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes(1965) have been quite instructive in this regard. Theological currents include some of the indications and fruits of this heightened sense of social responsibility. The social consciousness belongs to the very essence of Christianity since the salvation it proclaims affects not only the individual but also the whole human society, indeed, the whole universe itself, in its sociological, economic and political dimensions. Consequent upon this, the 1971 Synod of Bishops says that “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.”
The Triune God is a God in mission, who, acting through his Church reveals his universal plan for the world- with the intention that all of creation be freed from its slavery to corruption and to obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:21). Hence, the Church, established by God in order to take the world into her, is in extension “a church-in-mission”.
The Church always did and still does teach to order the human society in the light of the Gospel and right reason. The synod of Bishops (1971) posits:
The Catholic Church possesses a corpus or social doctrine, although this
corpus is not a closed treaty complete once and for all. This social
teaching grounded in Scripture and rational study is enriched by a long
tradition, but it remains open to a world in evolution.
According to Dorr (1984:77), the official teaching of the Church aims at “a defense of the poor and the powerless in society and an encouragement to them in the struggle for justice”. The term “option for the poor” is not so old in Catholic theology. He clarifies that:
To make an option for the poor is not to opt for poverty but to opt for people. It is to commit oneself to acting and living in a way that respects people, especially those who are not treated with respect in our society. It is to proclaim by one’s actions that people are more important than the systems that deprive them of their basic rights – the right to eat, the right to work, the right to participate in decision-making, the right to worship according to their conscience, and even the right to life itself.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals include the reduction of poverty in all nations by 50% on or before the year 2015. At the rate incomes are tumbling as inflation soars, it is estimated that poverty in Nigeria may grow by 50% instead of dwindling by that date. When the abundance of natural resources in Nigeria is viewed against the situation in other developing countries, it becomes a paradox that a nation so richly endowed should remain poor and undeveloped. Since most Nigerians are energetic and hardworking, the poverty in the polity must be attributed to poor governance, non utilization or relegation of talents, lack of selfless, inspired and visionary political leadership and widespread corruption and avarice. Conflict scenarios are emerging on several fronts in response to unjust, unfair and dishonest governance. All these are the consequence of man’s unfaithfulness to his maker.
In the case of Otukpo Diocese, our culture area, the Idoma person is religious by nature, even his religious disposition served as a source for his primordial development. This religious disposition can be utilized today in the light of Christian truth to advance his spiritual development.
1.1 Background to the study
Human Development has been the focal point of the Churches mission. However, the approach of the early missionaries was tilted towards the material rather than the spiritual. They were engrossed in structural and institutional development to the detriment of the spiritual and human development of the Idoma person. The missionaries’ materialistic drive destroys the communal cohesion of our socio-cultural formation and systematically implants capitalism.
With the introduction of capitalism come individualism, property accumulation and the development of repressive institutions to protect the new system. Consequently, the missionaries materialistic style of human development redefines (in the understanding of the idoma) the worth of a person based on his/her material possession. This materialist tendency breed vices like: corruption, nepotism, tribalism and violent political tussles of betterness. This, ultimately is against the letter and spirit of the gospel.
Moreso, with the colonial and missionary incursion into Idoma land, the colonial government created a system of indirect rule. This system, according to Erim, (1981:15) showed more concern for administrative tidiness and efficiency than for cultural identity. The Colonial and Missionary activities attacked the rich cultural tradition of Idoma. Rather than promote our cultural identity, they facilitated its disintegration through the outright and total condemnation of the Idoma tradition. They engender a system of rapacious capital flight from the land, and promoted the establishment of institutions that serve to enhance their interest. They left the land disarticulated; and the people vacillating between their cultural values and European cultural values and belief. This double minded tendency breeds conflict and contradiction in the society. This tendency is the antitheses of human development in the diocese. This is because a double minded person can not grow but stagnate. And stagnation breeds inferiority complex and dependency; the loss of self confidence in our culture.
One of the avowed policies of Roman Catholic missionaries in Africa in the pre-vatican II is the development of the people. But the conceptual framework on which this development is based is a univocal structure without a cultural base. It is a well known fact that Idoma never really benefited adequately in the colonial regime. However the missionaries erected structures like schools, hospitals and churches of foreign models where candidates will be groomed in western technical ways of thinking and behaving, completely emasculated from their traditional culture. These tendencies persist till today even though Vatican II and Papal encyclicals guaranties inculturation. Thus in the words of Ekwunife (1995:24):
The missionaries in the execution of their tasks did not shade off the concomitant colonial mentality of their time. Rather they mixed it up with the good news of Jesus Christ and bequeathed a distorted image of Christ to their teeming followers who in turn are perpetuating it today.
Thus in the Catholic Diocese of Otukpo, mission schools, hospitals and churches are still based on foreign models emasculated from traditional culture (that is, without any concrete church effort towards inculturation). For instance, the inclusion of traditional culture in school curriculum; using traditional medicine or herbs in hospitals, as proposed by Adodo, (2000) would help promote our tradition and culture. The unserious approach towards catecheses constitutes an important Otukpo Diocesan shortcoming for human development.
1.2 Statement of the problem
Before the advent of Colonial and Missionary apostles in Idoma/Otukpo area, there was a traditional and cultural way of life of the people. This traditional cum cultural way of life had its world-view, had religious undertones on the Idoma. The entire life of the people, including their moral, value system and development was regulated by their world-view and belief. In the words of Apochi (1999:5-6); “their religiosity permeated every aspect of their life”. Therefore the incursion of missionaries marks the beginning of conflict and contradictions in the land.
The colonialists came with their ideals and beliefs which they claim was superior to our tradition and culture; tagging our tradition and culture as “barbaric”, “uncivilized” and “primitive”. These created a sharp contradiction in the life of the people leading to inferiority complex on their part. Thus the Idoma became enslaved ideologically, politically, educationally, socially and religiously.
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