THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN MEETING THE GROWTH AND SURVIVAL OF THE SOCIETY
- BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
There has been a debate on the contribution (or lack of it) of European Christian Missionaries to the development and self-understanding of Africans since the publication of the book, The mission on Trial (1977). Some acute observers of the history of ideas have recently reopened the same debate on a local level with particular reference to the Church in Nigeria. A quarter years after the first centenary of the coming of the first missionary heralds of the Gospel in Eastern Nigerian in 1885 is a landmark. In the history of the universal Church, it is a brief period. In the history of evangelization in the Eastern part of Nigeria, it is a vital period. The faltering steps of early days have gradually given way to a robust and fast-growing community of faith, with elements of joys and sorrows, problems and plans, the successes and failures. It helps us to understand better the growth of social, intellectual, political and material development brought to the people of the area by this Church.
The social, cultural and political problems hampering Nigeria’s quest for unity and appropriate human development have become major staples of contemporary concern of the Church in Nigeria (Obinna, 1995).
The multi-dimensional aspects of development in the various facets of the Nigerian Society have received the attention of the Church and still beckon on the Church for dialogue, critical and constructive dynamism if the church must continue to be relevant today and into the future. Indeed the history of the Church in Nigeria does not make full appreciative sense without a decisive entry for the better into the economic, cultural and socio-political development of the nation (Onwuanibe, 1995). Only with such vigorous engagement for the authentic progress and development of the nation can the Church’s message be welcome in the seeking of solutions to emergent development problems facing the country. Ultimately, human development is about the realization of potential. It is about what people can do and what they can become–their capabilities and about the freedom they have to exercise real choices in their lives.
The Holy Ghost Fathers had been in Eastern Nigerian for about eighty-five years. Not until after the Nigeria-Biafra war has their influence been somewhat minimized. Arriving originally from France in 1885, the Roman Catholic Missionaries exerted a considerable influence on the lives of the people of the region far out of proportion to their number. They became a factor to reckon with in the history of the development of the region.
The former Eastern Nigeria has been carved out into nine separate States of Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Akwa-Ibom, Cross-River, Rivers and Bayelsa. The missionary efforts of the Holy Ghost Congregation covered the above-mentioned areas with their take-off point at Onitsha, Anambra State. There were only four missionaries who arrived at Onitsha in 1885. By 1918, there were a total of thirty-two Roman Catholic missionaries—Priests, Brothers and Sisters. The beginning of the Church in Nigeria was slow and arduous, but persistent as those great missionaries such as Fr. Leon Alexander Lejeune, Monsignor Pierre Le Berre, Fr. Joseph Lutz, Fr. Horne, Brothers Hermas and Jean-Gotto, Mr. Charles Townsend and Bishop Shanahan courageously made their way into the hinterland to bring the light of Christian faith in Nigeria especially in Eastern Nigeria in the early 1900s (Onwuanibe, 1995, 66). The missionary activities continued to spread to reach the remote part of Igboland, Efikland and other parts of Eastern Nigeria.
The impact of the Church can be felt in the dismantling of inhuman practices and institutions such as slavery, human sacrifice, killing of twins, and in the establishment of Christian villages which eventually gave way to schools for formal education. Translation of the Gospel into the vernacular languages and the production of catechisms in vernacular languages showed the good sense of recognizing the native culture, for language or tongue is a main vehicle of culture and development. Many local customs were banned as “pagan” and there is need today for inculturation in terms of appraising and recognizing good traditional values (Onwuanibe, 1995).
By building schools which range from the primary to secondary levels the Church recognized the importance of education in development. The Church has also had a programme of medical, social and personality development. She lays great emphasis especially through the voices of recent ecclesiastical hierarchy on the determining role of a just and widespread development for all the corners of the globe. She sees this condition as a prerequisite for world
peace via international solidarity. She even gives development a new name: peace (Paul VI, 1967). The Church therefore stresses on the true condition of integral development, one that does not disfigure the human person by a neglect of any of the important constituents of his personality.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Communities in Nigeria have been bedeviled by numerous development challenges which include: severe economic, political and social crises, decline in the standard of education, moral and infrastructural decay, cultural crisis predicated on the fact that traditional values in the people’s cultures have been heavily impacted by materialism, science and technology and ideologies. Health facilities are in total decay.
All these problems call to question the role of the Church in still contributing to the provision of needed succor in these problem areas. In view of these problems and issues, the big question is the relevance of the Church in the present situation. Since relevance is an important feature of any meaningful phenomenon, event or institution, especially in the sphere of human life, the Church’s role in the solution of problems in the 21st century Nigerian society may be definitive in the justification of its existence among the Nigerian people.
Moving from the great signs of vitality and great contributions of the Church to growth and survival of the community since the advent of the early missionaries to Eastern Nigerian, this work will look at the role of the Church in Nigeria today and set how it can help address itself to several problems of poverty and other social problems facing the people and see how it can further join the government and other stakeholders in bringing sustainable development among the people for which it was a source of hope in the past.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The specific objectives of the study include:
- To identify to what extent the Church can contribute to growth and survival of the community.
- To determine to what extent the Church has been vital and relevant in growth and survival of the community of
- To determine the problems of development still facing the Church and how it can still contribute in developing the communities in
- Has the Church played any role in growth and survival of the community in Enugu State?
- To what extent has the Church been relevant in growth and survival of the community of Enugu State?
- How can the Church help provide sustainable development in Enugu State in the 21st century?
Ho The Church has played a significant role in the growth and survival of the community of Enugu State.
H1 The Church has not played a significant role in the growth and survival of the community of Enugu State.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is significant in various ways:
- It will provide valuable insights into existing relationship between the government and the church in providing development in our rural communities.
- It will bring to the fore the prominent roles the Church has been playing in development since she made her advent and the situation
- It could also motivate the various stakeholders in growth and survival of the community to partner well with the Church in bringing development to the
- It will add to existing knowledge and equally serve as a benchmark for further
- It will serve as a model to other NGOs in their contributions to growth and survival of the community.
- It could also bring to the knowledge of other religions that religion is not just “otherworldly,” that they work for the material and psychological well being of men and women when they are being well
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
To determine and study the various roles the Church has been playing in the field of development in Nigeria. It is restricted to the socio-economic, cultural and political roles of the Church especially in Enugu State. The choice of Enugu State is based on the centrality of the state, the capital Enugu metropolis being the capital of the defunct East Central State of Nigeria.
LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
Among the limitations include, time, resources, human factor, limited data and information.
THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN MEETING THE GROWTH AND SURVIVAL OF THE SOCIETY