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The advent of Christianity

Author: smith on 16-09-2013, 20:00, views: 3 545


Christian missions penetrated Ikot Abasi area after Jaja's extradition with the encouragement of the British colonial administration.


The Missions 
In Opobo Division the Qua Iboe missions were known for their preaching of the Bible, the Methodists and Roman Catholics - for good education and community services, the African Spiritual churches - for their faith healing and preaching in vernacular.
The orthodox churches attempted to create a literate Christian elite for the needs of their expanding missions and introduced games, sports and patron saints' feasts in their schools.
The first inter-school football match was played at Ete in 1927 with the rival team trekking 14 miles to meet the challenge.
(Ann. Rep.. 1927)
Nearly every village has a mission: the Qua Iboe Mission extending to the North and east and the Methodists - to the west south, according to their agreement; the NDP has a weak hold at Egwanga and Opobo, while the Roman Catholic Church, the late comer, attempts to cover the whole area. (Cheesman, 1932)
In some towns there were two or three different missions competing against each other and enticing away converts to each other's churches. By the 1910 agreement, a line demarcation was made between the Qua Iboe Mission and the Methodist Mission, passing E. W. of Ikot Akan.
(Ann. Reps., 1922, 1944)


Christian missions penetrated Ikot Abasi area after Jaja's extradition with the encouragement of the British colonial administrationChristian missions penetrated Ikot Abasi area after Jaja's extradition with the encouragement of the British colonial administrationBy 1900 the Anglican Mission had been well established in Opobo Town and Primary Schools were set up for the education of the youths (Ejituwu, 1991: 190). From Opobo, Christianity spread to Eastern and Western Obolo (Ibid.). In 1907 the Niger Delta Pastorate built Saint George's Church at Egwanga and later established its presence in a few other southern towns. The Church at Egwanga was devoted more to the training of clerks and factory employers than the winning of souls for Christ (Lovering, 1915).


Other Christian missions, which created some impact in the district were the Methodist, Qua Iboe and the Roman Catholic Missions. The Methodists were particularly active in Egwanga, Ibekwe, and Ete where they established 'good schools'. The Qua Iboe Mission occupied the northern part of the district. The Roman Catholic Mission established in Essene in 1918 fanned out and established churches and schools throughout the district (Centenary Celebration, 1993).


Roman Catholic Central Mission, Essene, 1933
Rev. Fathers 2
Outstations 95
Catholics 2,240
Schools 15
School boys 1.048
School girls 52
Teachers 42
Christian families 125
Marriages 30
Obi. 1985: 190)


The elaborate and colourful Catholic rituals - flowers, lighted candles, incense, colourful vestments, statues of saints and crucifix displays, organ and choir music and Latin services, attracted with their sense of mystery and holiness; people trekked for miles to attend a Catholic Mass.


Burning of Idols
In 1950's and 1960's, the Roman Catholic priests made great bonfires of idols and charms, collected generally from Christians in good standing, during parish retreats. The more surprising thing was that usually, more idols were collected from the same persons, when they returned to that same parish for another retreat.
(Obi, 1985: 46)


Church Associations
Church associations largely replaced the traditional ones. Thus, members of the Roman Catholic Church in Essene Diocese belong to the Catholic Women/Men/Youth/Choir or Altar Boys organisations, the Marriage Association (Nka Ndo) or the Old Girls' (HCJC) Association, among others, which try to embrace every member of the congregation and penetrate all facets of local life. The Essene Women's Congress was formed in 1941 to encourage the spread of education among women. It enjoyed the support of Ibibio Central Council and the village chief, Ntuen Ibok.
(Ann. Rep., 1941)


Missionary on trek, with head porters, 1920 Source: QIM ArchivesMissionary on trek, with head porters, 1920 Source: QIM ArchivesIn spite of all this, the advent of Christianity was seen in some quarters as a threat to traditional practices and devotees of the gods. Consequently, people fought devotedly against the establishment of Christian missions. This was particularly the case in Ogoni, where a serious conflict broke out between members of the Niger Delta Pastorate Church and the practitioners of Traditional religion in 1916 (Sinclair, 1916: 1), and Ete, where the adherents of the Methodist faith clashed with members of Ekpo society in 1918 (Potton 1918: 1).


Christianity vs. Traditionalism
The ekpo society previously ruled the Ibibio country and ruled it quite well too, until Christianity started its opposition... Now the people are scattered as sheep without a shepherd. There is no organisation and no discipline, commented the District Officer in his Annual Report for 1922, noting the constant friction and incessant court cases between young Christians and Ekpo members in the division. Special regulations had to be made in the Native court and the communal palm bush divided between traditional societies and Christians, who used its produce to pay teachers and buy church and school bells and furniture.
(Assessment Report, 1927; Ann. Reps. 1934)

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Category: Colonial Experiences

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