1.0. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Christianity originated with the ministry of Jesus in the 19thcentury Roman Province of Judea. According to the Gospel, Jesus was a Jewish teacher and healer who proclaimed the imminent kingdom of God and was crucified at 30- 33AD. His followers believed that he was then raised from the dead and exalted by God and would return soon at the inception of God’s kingdom.
In the early middle ages, missionary activities spread Christianity towards the west among German people. During the high middle ages, eastern and western Christianity grew apart, leading to the East-West Schism of 1054. Growing criticism of the Roman Catholic ecclesiological structure and its behavior, led to the protestant movement of the 16th century and the split of western Christianity.
Christianity in Nigeria by the early missionary activities began between 1472 and 1621 when the king of Portugal launched pioneering missionary enterprises in the kingdom of Benin and Warri. This attempt did not yield any lasting fruit. More attempts were also at entering Borno and Hausa lands by Catholics and Protestants alike, but it also failed. However, the story of modern missionaries in Nigeria began with the freed slaves in the Americas and Great Britain. They became the pioneers and the instrument of spreading and building Christian missions on the west coast of Africa especially in Yoruba land, the Niger and Cross River. One of such freed slaves was Bishop Samuel AjayiCrowther.
Umuowa is a town in NgorOkpalaLocal Government Area of Imo State in Nigeria. It is situated within kilometers 23 and 28 along Owerri–Aba road in Imo state. Its headquarters is in the town of UmunekeNgor. It has an area of 561km² and a population of 159,932 at the 2006 census. It is a notable place in Imo state because of the Local Government Area locational position. It connects Abia and Rivers state of Nigeria. There are many communities in NgorOkpala. They include; Umuowa, Obiangwu, Ntu, Alulu, Amala, Oburu, Obokwe, Eziama, Ohekelem, Nnorie, Umuhu, Ihite- Okwe, Obike,Elelem, Umuohiagu, Imerienwe, Nguru- Umuaro, Orishieze, Upe, Umuekwune, Logara, Umukabia- Ogodo and many others. It is the largest local government area in Imo state and one of the largest in Nigeria. The Imo Airport officially called Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport is situated at NgorOkpala with its busiest junction at Umuowa along Owerri– Aba road.
Christianity came into NgorOkpalain 1902 and from there dispersed into other communities which Umuowa was inclusive. Umuowa means sons and daughters or descendants of Owa. In Umuowa, the man Owa had five sons which made up the five villages in Umuowaclan which are Nnamawa, Egbelu, Awuka, Umuonyenwereand Umuotukwe.
Before the advent of Christianity, Umuowa people worshipped the Supreme God through the deities which are all gods. These gods have different names, notable among these gods are Ogirichi, whose wife is called Alakumeze. While the tabernacle of Ogirichi was with Awuka( the third village), that of Alakumezewas with Nnamawa ( the first village). There are other gods like Amadioha or the god of thunder, Agwuetc. These gods are usually represented physically by images made to look like human beings and are provided with shelters where those who worship them go to perform sacrifices.
However, the situation changed after the clan embraced Christianity and decided to worship the one true God and this made the people to see the worship of other gods as meaningless. The aim of this study is to give an account of the advent of Christianity in Umuowa clan and its impact in the socio- cultural history of Umuowa clan.
1.2. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
In the works of Quebedeaus and Gallup in their book titled Black Christians and White Missionaries,Quebedeaus argues that "Christianity may be increasing its impact but to Gallup saw morality losing its hold" From the above quotes, one will notice that there is a wide gap between religious belief and practices. Again, the problem here is that the depth of studies of the impact of Christianity in remote Igbo culture areas is yet to be explored. Researches have been made on the socio- cultural benefits of Christianity in other communities in Imo state and other states such as the Umunakanu community, Orji community, Orlu community and others and how it has impacted in history of such community in Imo state and Nigeria at large. However the case is different about Umuowa clan as no effort has been made to discuss the impact of Christianity in the area.
The purpose of this work is to add to existing research about the advent and impact of Christianity to the socio- cultural history of Umuowa clan and how the people reacted to their new faith.
1.3. OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The main objectives of the study are;
· Trace the background and the establishment of Christianityin Umuowa clan,
· Identify the origin, migration and settlement pattern of the people of Umuowa clan,
· Examine the pre colonialUmuowa clan in terms of political administration, socio- cultural life and their religion and beliefs,
· Analyze the advent of Christianity and its impacts in the socio- cultural history of Umuowa.
1.4. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of the study is to justify the impact of Christianity in the socio- cultural history of Umuowaclan.
As earlier noted there is no existing research on this topic and s such this work or study is an original research, showing the advent of Christianity, the reaction of the people to their new faith and the impact of Christian in the history of Umuowa clan.
1.5. SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This research seeks to identify the advent and impact of Christian in the life of Umuowaclan. The per iodization will span from the inception of Christianity in the community in 1902 till 1970 when the civil war ended with the people fully involve in their new way of life.
The limitation faced during the course of this work is the lack of existing work on the town and the inability to get enough facts about the work as the custodian of such information are dead and some of them cannot talk.
The source of information used in the course of this work is both primary and secondary sources. The primary sources used are oral interview while the secondary sources include journals, articles and books.
1.8. LITERATURE REVIEW
Christianity has been a popular and well recognized faith in Igboland. This is becauseof its distinct and valuable contribution to the life or the people, which other religion does not seem to afford. According to Parrinder in his book entitled “African Traditional Religion” he emphasized that, "the missionaries in condemning the traditional religion called it idol or pagan worship. They failed to realize the very fact that no heathen in his blindness bows down to wood or stone. The ‘heathen' worships a Spiritual being who may be approached through material objects".
According to Yinger in his book entitled “Religion, Sociology and Individual said that, "religion is a system of beliefs and practices by means which a group struggleswith the ultimate problem of human life? It is the refusal to capitulate to death, to give up in the face of frustration, to allow hostility to tear apart one's association". The importance of Yingcr'sdefinition lies in the fact that Christianity (Religion) is an inevitableaspect of human life, for the problemmentioned in thedefinition are universal human problem. The missionaries who had brought the religion thought that the people had suffered enough through ignorance. 'This ignorance they felt can only be overcome by knowledgeso that the people could be restored back to their former glory.
Also Achebe added in his book “Things Fall Apart”that "the white man had indeedbrought a lunatic religion but he had also built a trading store and for the firsttime,palm oil and kernelbecame things of great price and much money flowed into Umuofia''.
According to Cook in his book titled “British enterprise in Nigeria” asserted that European missionaries have been in Nigeria in three centuries, but had not exercised much influence on the native institution. Perhaps the missionaries are notused to see anything good in the native institution. He maintained that the development of trade, the building of telegraph lines and the growth of facilities for inland communication have brought the native closer or in contact with white man’s civilization. This process was greatly accelerated by the effort of the missionaries, to convert the native and suppress certain barbarian customs. If one considered the handicap under which the missionaries labored, civilized and humanized the primitive natives, the fact that many natives were able to speak and write English bears the testimony as to the effectiveness of their labor.
Similarly, Uchendu in his book titled “Missionary Problem in Nigeria Society” holds the view that a segment of Nigeria society has identified itself with Christianity but that there are many areas of tensions which remains between a forces of changed and the forces which resist change. Christianity has maintained forms of the cultural focus of a religious innovation. In terms of the number of converts Uchendu argues that the missionaries activities in southern Nigeria must be described as very successful but the Christian religion has not satisfied the psycho-cultural needs provided by the traditional religion. The traditional sanction has been discredited and nothing has effectively replaced them. This goes to point out why there has always been disunity between Christian and traditions or African religion. The missionaries condemned traditional religion as fetish, but never explained the fetish attitude in it. They introduced their new religion which was almost completely different from native religion, the missionaries condemned ‘OZO’ title taken and this has always been a bone of contention but did not explain much of what is fetish in the title taking.
Also, Anyabuike in his book titled ‘The Niger Mission Origin, Growth and Impact’ he highlighted the origin of Christian mission in Igboland;
By the 18thcentury Christianity witnessed a wave of spiritual upheaval bubbling of the Holy Spirit in the heart of men like John Wesley, Wesley for example, challenged the established Anglican church into action, generating a kind of evangelism that demanded a renewed zeal, revivalism and commitment on the part of the individual Christian and a deep and genuine concern for a personal act of conversion. Wesley’s approach greatly strengthened the deepest motives for missionary work overseas. Consequently enthusiastic and committed Christian groups constituted themselves into various missionary society one of which was formed by the evangelical Anglicans in 1799 and called it the Church Missionary Society ( C. M. S ).
Admittedly, the 18th century evangelical move was not the first move to evangelize West Africa and Nigeria. The first move failed because of the following reason;
· The missionary effort was to effect a total change in African culture by transforming great areas of the African world into faithful copies of European culture. This was practically impossible.
· The Portuguese missionaries at that time were intimately dependent on colonial and commercial expansion. The Portuguese claim of having secured a monopolistic over appointment of Bishops, clergy and missionaries in Africa and East Indies made Christianity in Africa then, merely the religious arm of an increasingly secular institution , a decadent echo of the medieval union between church and the state.
· The other problems like inadequate means of mobility and funds, insufficient personal, limited health facilities, the hostile climate, problem, made missionary expansion extremely difficult.
In the works of Ayandele titled ‘The Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria’states that “ Even though prejudice has weighed heavily against the mission, the missionary is necessarily a revolutionary on a ground scale. No society could be Christianized without its being upset to a considerable extent.” He maintained that one can argue against the fact that Christian missions broke into tribal solidarity with their denominational varieties and rivalries.
According to Grooves in his book titled ‘The Planting of Christianity in Africa asserts that “ The history of Christianity in Africa is a cheered one since the missionary expedition in the fourth century”. (His reason of saying this was that Christianitybrought to the Africans by the missionaries has good and bad effects. Good effects like introduction of education and bad effects like abolition of polygamy.
According him, it was a sort of an experimental era in the advent of Christianity in Africa. Notably, during the first phase were the Portuguese missionaries. At that time, missionary activities were a failure due to a number of reasons.
· The first was the issue of moving into a land where the cultural background of the people was not known
· The wrong strategies which the missionaries themselves adopted in the missionary work.
According to Grooves, this was the vital issue that caused the failure of the first missionary activities in Africa. Other problem encountered by the missionaries includes poor weather conditions and language barriers. This constituted serious obstacle to the growth of Christianity in Africa. It was during the second phase that much was achieved by the European missionaries as far as missionary is concerned.
Although, Mbiti in his book titled Introductionto African Traditional Religion he reviewed the poor response of the traditionalist to Christianity. This form of Christianity the traditionalist said ‘made no positive attempt to incorporate ancestors, songs and dances of their tradition in the Christian scheme’
In the perspective of Neil in his book titled “Colonialism and Christian Mission”explains that the study of the past, present and future of Christian missionaries did not deserve high marks for all they tried to do. He also argues for a more positive appraisal than some would allow and support the continuation of Christian missionary endeavor.
However, Uzodinma in his book titled “Mbaise in Contemporary Nigeria” concluded that for a heterogeneous society to stand the test of time, there must be superior cultural trait which can be super imposed over the other mini trait and to which every group can owe allegiance. This can be explained in the solidarity of the United Kingdom with its traditional respect for the monarchy.
Another important contribution indicated remained that Christianity, colonial education and Christian missions were allowed to set up schools to influence the minds of the young people.
1.8. ORGANIZATION OF CHAPTERS.
This work has five chapters, with chapter one as the introduction, chapter two as the geographical location and the origin, migration and settlement pattern of the study, chapter three as the pretty colonial Umuowa clan, chapter four as the Christianization of Umuowa clan and its impacts and chapter five as the summary and conclusion of the work..