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Old Wine in New Wineskins. Traditionalists and Christians among the Rukuba / Vin vieux, outres neuves. Traditionalistes et chrétiens chez les Rukuba - article ; n°1 ; vol.38, pg 49-62

15 pages
Archives des sciences sociales des religions - Année 1974 - Volume 38 - Numéro 1 - Pages 49-62
Cet article examine les raisons données par les Rukuba chrétiens pour leur conversion et celles données par les traditionalistes pour leur non-conversion. Les premiers prétendent — s'appuyant sur des preuves tirées de certains rituels traditionnels — que tous les Rukuba étaient déjà chrétiens auparavant et que le christianisme apporté par les missions n'a fait, en quelque sorte, que les remettre sur le droit chemin. Les traditionalistes, de leur côté, s'arrangent pour ne voir que les similitudes entre les dogmes chrétiens et certains aspects de leur pratique, et estiment qu'en fait les deux doctrines sont si semblables dans le fond qu'il n'est pas nécessaire pour eux de se convertir. L''analyse, d'une part, des raisons qui ont motivé la conversion des Rukuba chrétiens et, d'autre part, de révolution de leur communauté chrétienne, permet de démontrer que les facteurs « intellectuels », qui seraient, selon certains auteurs, les principales raisons de conversion en Afrique, ne le sont certainement pas pour les Rukuba. Ceux-ci sont, en effet, plutôt déterminés par les facteurs socio-économiques lorsqu'ils se convertissent.
14 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.
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Old Wine in New Wineskins. Traditionalists and Christians
among the Rukuba / Vin vieux, outres neuves. Traditionalistes et
chrétiens chez les Rukuba
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 38, 1974. pp. 49-62.
Cet article examine les raisons données par les Rukuba chrétiens pour leur conversion et celles données par les traditionalistes
pour leur non-conversion. Les premiers prétendent — s'appuyant sur des preuves tirées de certains rituels traditionnels — que
tous les Rukuba étaient déjà chrétiens auparavant et que le christianisme apporté par les missions n'a fait, en quelque sorte, que
les remettre sur le droit chemin. Les traditionalistes, de leur côté, s'arrangent pour ne voir que les similitudes entre les dogmes
chrétiens et certains aspects de leur pratique, et estiment qu'en fait les deux doctrines sont si semblables dans le fond qu'il n'est
pas nécessaire pour eux de se convertir.
L''analyse, d'une part, des raisons qui ont motivé la conversion des Rukuba chrétiens et, d'autre part, de révolution de leur
communauté chrétienne, permet de démontrer que les facteurs « intellectuels », qui seraient, selon certains auteurs, les
principales raisons de conversion en Afrique, ne le sont certainement pas pour les Rukuba. Ceux-ci sont, en effet, plutôt
déterminés par les facteurs socio-économiques lorsqu'ils se convertissent.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
LABBENS. Old Wine in New Wineskins. Traditionalists and Christians among the Rukuba / Vin vieux, outres neuves.
Traditionalistes et chrétiens chez les Rukuba. In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 38, 1974. pp. 49-62.
doi : 10.3406/assr.1974.2040
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/assr_0335-5985_1974_num_38_1_2040Arch Sc soc des Rel. 38 1974 49-62
Jean-Claude MULLER
Traditionalists and Christians among the R-ukuba
Benue-Plateau State Nigeria
pour nécessaire tirées tionalistes non-conversion chrétiens les fait dogmes fait les Cet leur de deux certains article en auparavant pour conversion chrétiens de quelque doctrines leur eux examine Les rituels côté sorte de premiers et et certains se sont arrangent traditionnels celles que les convertir si raisons le prétendent les données aspects semblables christianisme remettre pour données par de que ne leur sur les dans tous voir appuyant par pratique le apporté traditionalistes droit les que le les fond Rukuba les chemin Ruku par et similitudes sur il estiment les ba des étaient Les pour ni chrétiens missions preuves est tradi en entre déjà leur pas
analyse une part des raisons qui ont motivé la conversion des
Rukuba chrétiens et autre part de évolution de leur communauté
chrétienne permet de démontrer que les facteurs intellectuels qui
seraient selon certains auteurs les principales raisons de conversion en
Afrique ne le sont certainement pas pour les Rukuba Ceux-ci sont en
effet plutôt déterminés par les facteurs socio-économiques ils se
HIS article will endeavour to show how Rukuba Christians and Traditionalists
perceive each other both vis-a-vis the newly introduced religion and vis-a-
vis the traditional Rukuba creed It will be shown that both groups have good
ideological reasons stemming from traditional dogma either for becoming Chris
tian or to remaining Traditionalist One of our tasks will also be to ask how Chris
tians justify their conversion and how Traditionalists view Christianity
In order to do so we shall have some methodological points to examine along
the way because it appears to me some problems have too often been dealt
with in the wrong perspective First regarding the spread of Christianity iti
wrong to state simply that such and such people resist missionization as it
is so often summarily done By talking of resistance one can consciously
or unconsciously be led by our ethnocentrism which takes Christianity as being
better and this is still to be proved than paganism Or an anthropologist
Fieldwork was conducted from 1964 to 1967 when was employed by UNESCO in the
neighbouring town of Jos Subsequent stays in the summer 1968 and in the winter 1971-72 were
respectively financed by the University of Rochester N.Y the Canada Council
can be on the contrary non-Christian for whom evangelization
is what people should do by definition Pagan religion is here seen as better
priori Both attitudes are generated by false assumptions and the relevant question
to investigate seems to me rather why people get converted in the first place
Only after putting the question in this form can one query the next point about
resistance or indifference to the new faith There may be reasons for resistance
stepping from the local theology and creed for instance outright rejection of
anything foreign can be embodied in the local dogma but there may very often
be another little studied aspect of the question when people submitted to
missionization does not follow the creed presented or sometimes imposed
to them there must be factors stemming from certain knowledge of the new
creed knowledge either directly imparted by the missionaries or indirectly by the
new converts which lead them to refuse the new religion
When missionization is under way even the most sceptical Traditionalist
has at least rough knowledge of what the advertised product is all about It
seems that anthropologists who study traditional religions do not ask pagans
what they know of the new faith introduced in their midst this possibly to
preserve the idea that pagans are not yet polluted even by mere knowledge
of the new ideology This to me is serious shortcoming for Traditionalists
know certainly more about the new religion than one may think and their reactions
to it and the ideas they cultivate about it may enlighten us on some of their
religious conceptions and on their world view
How Traditionalists and converts debate these issues among themselves
seems also to me to be an essential part of any anthropological investigation
Unfortunately most studies in religion deal with this point tangentially if at
all one is presented more often than not with either the Traditionalist view or
conversely we are told what happens in revivalistic or syncretic movements
after Christianity has been adopted These studies focusing on specific problems
leave aside the interactions of Christians and Traditionalists in daily life and they
do not deal with the reciprocal opinions of both communities regarding the relative
validity of their respective creeds Of course there are few exceptions and
perhaps an explanation for the most common attitude is that in many places
anthropologists have already found on the one hand heavily or totally Christia
nized populations very often with some kind of syncretism or on the other hand
they have met with two groups the Christians and the Traditionalists within
one population and the study concentrates from personal interest and/or for
lack of time on the one deemed the most important
Our description and analysis will also permit us to assess in conclusion the
value of the intellectualist approach versus that of the socio-structural
approach to conversion in West Africa
Among the Rukuba missionization started early after British conquest It
was not very harsh and the missionary efforts were not too overtly backed by the
British administration this explains partly why after more than fifty years of
evangelization the number of Christians is only to of the total popula
In order to discuss the relationships between the two groups brief outline
of Rukuba social organization is needed The Rukuba patri-virilocal agricultural
people numbering around 12.000 live immediately south-west of Jos the capital
HORTON African Conversion Africa 41 1971 pp 91-112 IFEKA-MOLLER
White-Power Socio-Structural Factors in Conversion to Christianity Eastern Nigeria 1921-
1966 Canadian Journal of African Studies 1974 pp 55-72
Ph MAYER Townsmen or Tribesmen Xhosa in Town Cape Town Oxford University
Press 1961
HORTON op cit
50 THE
town of Benue-Plateau State Nigeria They are grouped in more than twenty
villages each ruled by chief who is religious head as well The chief is assisted
in his task by several other ritual leaders who perform distinctive rites for the
benefit of the village as whole The Rukuba are almost all farmers who sell some
of their crops or go to the nearby tin minefields for short periods in order to get
cash to be able to pay their taxes or to buy clothes post-colonial introduction
Men may have several wives if they can persuade them to stay with them
whereas women can have several husbands simultaneously but they can cohabit
with only one at time The whole tribe is united among other things by
pan-tribal ritual calendar which takes if we follow the Rukuba ideal view of
things fourteen years to complete Each geographico-ritual section there
are five of them performs the various rituals and initiation ceremonies in their
own turn within the ritual calendar but their respective performances are eagerly
awaited by the members of the other sections who attend either as guests or as
private onlookers Every fourteenth year the tribe stages the same day the ritual
kugo which is at the same time the end of ritual cycle and the beginning of
new one Besides these sectional and pan-tribal rituals each village chief and each
clan head carries agricultural rites throughout the farming season
In spite of the number of rituals they perform Rukuba have not very much
to say about them They are not given to very great exegetical efforts contrary
to some well known African people like the Nyakyusa the Dogo or the Ndembu
It is more important for the Rukuba to perform the rituals and to see them
i.e. to participate in them than to explain their meaning Rukuba people have
no proclivity to speculation and metaphysical ideas are not favourite topic
one receives more often than not the answer Our fathers were doing it this is
why we do it also when enquiring about ritual and religious subjects
Since missionization has continued for more than fifty years among the
Rukuba one must expect that its impact has changed in the course of time so
that the way was perceived by both Christians and Traditionalists
has also changed good way to tackle this matter is to follow the history of
missionization step by step This approach will permit us to unravel certain
periodization of missionization We shall see how the present situation has
been reached and what factors were responsible for it One cannot speak of the
interaction between Christians and Traditionalists today without an historical
background The practical implications of being Christian as opposed to the
ideological ones have changed through time and we shall examine this aspect
very closely
The first missionary an American from the Sudan Interior Mission S.I.M.
settled within the tribe in 1912 shortly after the British conquest of the Rukuba
in 1905 Since he was from the side of the conqueror nobody dared to object and
he chose to settle in the most populated village Kakkek where the village chief put
the entrance hut of his compound used as parlour at his disposal He was
permitted to go everywhere and do his evangelical work but he was consistently
denied the right to see any ritual as it is the custom for any uninitiated person
This treatment differs somewhat from that reserved for Hausa missionaries
Muslim population north of the Rukuba The Hausa tried to conquer the Rukuba
by force of arms at least twice in the two decades preceding British rule These
J.C MuLLEB <i On Preferential Prescriptive Marriage and the Function of Kinship
Systems The Rukuba Case Benue-Plateau State Nigeria American Anthropologist 75 1973
pp 1563-76
In reality the ritual cycle covers ten year span rather than fourteen
attempts were thwarted but the memory of these events is still vivid After the
British had pacified the Plateau party of Hausa missionaries coming from
Fadan Chawai one of the nearest Hausa outposts tried to convert the Rukuba
The party came to Kakkek village and the then chief Azabagun came out to
meet them after they had shown Koran and made the prayer before the assem
bled group The chief ordered his retainers to make some grass torches to sweep
the prayer ground with them and to burn the book No more attempt at Muslim
evangelization was staged after this except on one of the late Premier the offi
cial title of the head of the then Northern Region evangelical tours in 1965 8)
After learning the language the missionary asked on purpose for particular
track of land which was said to be passageway for bad spirits unary sg.
bary pl. as site on which to build his house These baro are believed
to be dangerous and any building at that place would have meant the death
of its inhabitants The missionary asked for the site in order to prove to the people
that the spirits did not exist However the establishment of the house and the
survival of the missionary had quite another meaning for the Rukuba when
they became persuaded that the missionary would not die they did not believe
in the non-existence of the spirits but instead they became convinced that the
spirits had merely used another way afraid of the medicines of the missionary
The first church was built in 1916 Its membership was about twenty con
verts in 1920 this number grew slowly and attained in 1936 one hundred con disseminated in the various villages the largest concentration being at
Kakkek the village where the mother church had been built
What is striking is that all the Rukuba agree on the motives for conversion
and on the kind of people who were converted at the beginning People living
near the church got attracted first and the members of these families are still
strong Christians Those families were all from clans or sub-clans deprived
of politico-ritual offices and other first converts were attracted by the material
gifts provided by the missionaries as well as by successful medical cures effected
by the mission Nobody from chiefly families holding office ever became Christian
at this time Christianity was seen as religion for non-entities as many Rukuba
from chiefly families told me Economic motives as well as belief in the superiority
of the medicines provided by the Whites are reasons stressed by both Traditio
nalists and also by old Christians who tend to lump with the teaching of Chris
tianity such things as hygiene and medical cures devoid of magical practices 10)
The Premier tour followed the conversion to Islam for political reasons of the
Rukuba Administrative Chief Prior to the tour the Chief asked who among the tribesmen
would like to become Muslim Those who agreed to were to be presented to the Premier and would
receive gifts About thirty to forty people said they were interested Many confessed later that
the gifts and the occasion to shake hands with the Premier were the prime movers of their apparent
religious interest After the presentation Koranic teacher was sent at the expense of the Premier
to assist the converts but after month or so the curiosity waned and nobody showed up any
longer at classes so that the school closed down Except for the Chief and two of bis sons there
were only two avowed Muslims within the tribe one was very old man who had been employed
as local policeman at the early stage of British administration he later on became stationed
in Jos where he said that he got to know and appreciate civilization i.e Hausa manners He
got converted to Islam and married Hausa woman His urge for assimilation pushed him to
refuse to speak Rukuba language for some years he modified bis attitude later on but he never
went back to the tribe even for visits The second was man from Imbop who acted as barber
for the Hausa settlement at Binci He was eager to perform menial tasks for the Hausa at social
functions i.e. sharing kola nuts and passing plates However ias wives did not convert and he
was regarded with some irony by both Muslim and Rukuba for his over-obedient attitude
The most important original cluster is found among group of ritual assistants devoid
of political power
10 Rukuba Christians however do not scom local medicines used with success in
the curing of some specific ailments What is rejected is divination and medicines not proved
good Many Christians cure known diseases with herbs and roots as our herbalists would do and
this is justified as long as no divination sorcery accusations etc... are involved in the cure
This small community gravitated around the mission had daily contacts with
the missionaries and they got employment and or betterment through their
assiduity Thus socio-structural factors were at work to attract converts as
Ifeka-Moller argues it was the case for the lbo but these factors prevented most
of the Rukuba from joining the church because this sort of clientship is frowned
by self respecting Rukuba Only poor people lower themselves to get bits and
crumbs from prominent men such people are called in derogatory manner bani
sobiga people who sit under the igo igo being sort of open shed made out of
guinea corn stalks which is put in front of the houses of important people The
attendants sitting there are poor ready to do menial works such as sharing and
pouring the beer for those inside expecting only the dregs for their work For
most of the Rukuba going to the church was seen as lowering of status true
Rukuba being dependant on nobody
In the early twenties the church forbade its young female converts from
contracting the Rukuba type of prescriptive marriage 11) measure which
brought some resentment but since the number of converts had never been very
large the matter had little practical importance However by the late twenties
early thirties the church and the Christians alienated themselves from the rest
of the Rukuba by denoucing to the British administration some local abortionists
The have compulsory pattern of premarital relationships in which no
children could be borne if pregnancy occured abortion was procured and if it
failed infanticide was resorted to 12 The mission was widely believed to have
interfered with the British administration in this matter and this resulted in the
imprisonment of several chiefs in the early thirties Christian ideology ran counter
to this pattern of premarital relationships and to the pattern of prescriptive and
secondary marriage which implied polygyny for the men and sort of polyandry
for the women Since both things were among the most important backbones of
Rukuba social organization it is not difficult to understand why mission teaching
was ignored the whole of the social structure would have had to be changed and
the people were not prepared for this
The abolition of the institutional premarital relationship pattern was seen
by the mission as the way to make people adhere to Christianity as if by disci
plining sex one had improved chances to understand the gospel The result
of Christian denunciations was that abortion was made illegal but premarital
relations were still allowed by the administration
In 1930 the mission opened Bible school which started to teach the Gospel
in the vernacular some of the Books were translated and published in 1932
Rukuba language had been learnt from scratch by the first missionaries who
later on devised spelling in collaboration with the first converts 13 The school
gave some opportunities to train local preachers Some of these who also got to
know Hausa language which was spreading rapidly all over the Plateau as
vehicular language were employed as by the mission The mission also
gave some employment such as carpenters bricklayers dispensary attendants in
Jos and elsewhere to some of the most promising converts The church also
embarked on scheme aimed at teaching people to grow fruits lime and grape-
fruit but this met with little success since the converts were more interested in
salaried jobs
This opened new period for Christians and for the church period which
widened the outlook of the converts towards the outside world and which started
the assimilation of Christianity to modernity By 1935 the best pupils were
11 MULLER art dt. 1973
12 J.C MULLER <i Preferential Marriage among the Rukuba of Benue-Plateau State
Nigeria American Anthropologist 71 1969 pp 1067-91
13 During my stay thirty years after the publication of these books only very few people
were still able to read them the books had been replaced by Bibles written in Hausa language
taught at school during the four first grades
sent by the mission for further training to Kagoro College not too far
from the tribe The first batch of these trainees came back by 1942-43 as verna
cular teachers i.e. without great knowledge of English but with command of
Hausa which permitted them to teach the first grades Upon their return they
asked the mission to open proper primary school in Rukuba country This was
done in 1944 and the first pupils to attend were almost all the sons and daughters
of the first converts After finishing their primary education several of the stu
dents were sent on mission scholarships for further training as teachers nurses
and dispensary attendants All got jobs fairly easily after completion of their
course and mission teaching started to be seen as means to get economic better
ment relatively well paid jobs could be given by the mission but also by the
Native Administration now Local Administration since the education to acquire
these jobs was dispensed only by the mission within the tribe It was also highly
belieded that appointments to positions needed by the Administration within
the tribe were discussed by the District Officer and the missionary in charge of
the congregation and that for these reasons Christian stood better chance
Entry to the school called for conversion but the staunch Traditionalists who sent
their sons to had them initiated anyway if initiation time within the ritual
calendar meant that the boy had to undergo his after entering school
instead of before
Many Christian started adopting western individualistic values among
them the acquisition of material goods The jobs provided by the mission helped in this but another factor was here very important Christians could muster
more economic opportunities simply by being Christians The Rukuba employ
part of their crops for brewing beer and for marriage prestations sacrifices also
call for goats and beer All these expenses were forbidden to Christians who could
market them instead This made Christians both envied and despised envied
because of their wealth and despised because beer drinking and feast giving are
part of pattern of reciprocity with kin neighbours and allies pattern that
Christians did not follow any longer The higher economic status of the Christians
made it easier for them to send their children to school since school-fees and
uniforms were requested Ordinary men had yet to be convinced of the tangible
benefits of education this stage came later when they saw the jobs provided for
the school leavers
All these activities cut the Christians from the community and they came
to regard themselves as group with interests diverging from the other members
of the tribe This all the more since Christians tended to marry Christians thus
forming sort of endogamous group Up to that time church members had tried
as group to have yoice in tribal affairs but the administrative structure made
no provision for them Subsequently after several internal reorganizations seven
among the most important traditional chiefs formed sort of loosely knit Tribal
Council where Christians were not represented Then the opportunity to play an
active role in tribal affairs came soon through proposed reorganization of the
District This opened new period where Christians took leading role in politics
Just few years after the primary school got under way in 1949 proposal
made by the Birom tribal authorities invited the Rukuba tribe to join them as
district within the Birom Federation to form together with few other
districts the Jos Division under single Local Authority In order to do this
the Rukuba were to select tribal chief who was at the time supposed to repre
sent in Jos the seven Rukuba traditional chiefs who were the most prominent
members of Rukuba Tribal Council Since none of the traditional chiefs was
prepared to acknowledge the supremacy of any of the other their representative
was to be sought elsewhere preferably among those who had experience both with
the Whites be they missionaries or Government Officials and of the outside
world namely the town of Jos where he would have to go often All these condi
tions obviously called for Christian to fill the post The Christian community
was very much interested in the political campaign for several reasons the
new administrative set-up would provide jobs where literacy read here Chris
tianity would be needed facilities such as dispensary and the establishment
of market within the tribe had been promised by the Birom if the Rukuba joined
the Birom Federation it was hoped that Christian innovations and or
interdictions could be enforced throughout the tribe through the channels of
the new structure Traditionalists and Christians agreed on the principle that
Christian would be the best choice the battle was fought between two Christian
The elected candidate was shortly expelled from the church 14 but he agreed
to enforce some of the measures he had promised the Christians to carry out if
elected The result was that jobs were effectively provided and market and
residence for the Administrative Chief the new title of the elected candidate
were built by the Local Authority As for the measures against customs repulsive
to Christians the Chief forbade the preferential marriage and few years later
premarital relations the latter custom nevertheless continuing sub rosa
The Christians also started informally Rukuba Progressive Union in
1948 through Birom influence on three active Christians who very often
attended the meetings of the Birom Progressive Union in Jos where politics and
ways of improvement for the tribe were discussed 15 One of the Rukuba Pro
gressive Union schemes was the creation of teams of youths for repairing the
motorable road leading to the district These youth teams competed with one
another but this form of self-help soon died out Some years later contributions
were asked from Rukuba Progressive Union members for the purpose of sending
back to the tribe people who had died in Jos and to pay medical expenses but
much of the money collected was wasted on court cases The first real
achievement was the sending of the first four Rukuba children through this fund
to secondary school in 1961 this was done with the active participation of the
Christian women The Union had no regular existence and the membership became
more and more restricted to the few who were living permanently in Jos and in
1963-64 when they tried for the first time to elect president they failed to
agree on name
Thus around 1950 the Christians despite their small number were
embarking on vast modernization scheme through their Union and through
the political game As far as the latter was concerned their aims to bend the tribe
to their wishes with the help of the Administrative Chief failed since apart
from forbidding the preferential marriage and premarital relations he did not
interfere with local customs at least not in the sense Christians had wanted to
However Christianity had another impact for by this time the first students
graduated from the newly built school and got scholarships for further training
either at Gindiri secondary school or at Kagoro College Several continued
their training to become nurses or dispensary attendants and from then on the
school was really seen by all as provider of jobs Those who did not pursue their
training under the aegis of the mission were employed by the Nigerian Police Force
or by the Local Authority
This second generation of Christians who had far less personal contact with
the missionaries than their parents had became somewhat critical of some of
the mission teachings Roman Catholics known to them and it was
surprise to hear that they were allowed to smoke and drink The Rukuba had been
told that smoking and drinking were cardinal sins that would lead the culprit
straight to Hell and the knowledge of these variations within Christian doctrine
added to the criticisms directed against the Church However this knowledge did
14 As soon as the elected candidate got the post he started by marrying several wives
and he was expelled from the congregation
15 The Rukuba Christians were not at that time as much interested in national politics
as were their neighbours the Birom and the Kagoro Cf DUDLEY Parties and Politics in Nort hem
Nigeria London Frank Cass Co. 1968 SMITH Kagoro Political Development
Human Organization 1960 pp 137-149
not shake the first batch of converts who simply concluded that their brand of
Christianity was superior to all other
It must be said here that the S.I.M Church jealously preserved its mono
poly on teaching Christianity within the tribe and this protectionist attitude can
be best illustrated by its reaction against Roman Catholicism The Catholic
Fathers tried in the early fifties to establish small branch of their church in
Rukuba district through the labour of their first Rukuba convert This convert
was bright young man that the Roman Catholic Fathers sponsored and educated
away from the tribe When he came back from school as teacher he was employed
by the Catholic Fathers at Udu neighbouring village in Birom country with the
task of setting up an embryo of Catholic Church at his village Egbak This attempt
was ruthlessly suppressed by the missionary in charge with the help of the Rukuba
Administrative Chief whose election had been actively supported by the mission
The Chief threatened any would be adherent with outright imprisonment This
stand was endorsed by the rest of the Christian congregation although by now
some of the old converts think that diversity in outlook would perhaps have
benefited the tribe Nevertheless the young Christian generation is less purita
nical than the first fact often noted in Africa they now indulge in smoking and
drinking They even stage marriage ceremonies including dancing another
cardinal sin forbidden by the mission
Another point of criticism aimed at the preceding generation is that their
members did not live up to the principles they advocated In fact during all my
stay the Christians were busy excommunicating one another and the church
was rife with tensions 16 Young Christians were very well informed of all the
breaches of Christian law committed by those who tried to pass for holy men and
it was widely shared opinion among the younger set that Christianity had come
to mean hypocrisy Many of these Christians of nowadays as they call them
selves do not attend church any longer and several told me that by now they
rather followed their own mind and decided for themselves what was good for
them without taking into account any particular doctrine be it Traditionalist
or Christian
With the increasing availability of material goods and jobs not depending
on church affiliation Christianity quickly became dissociated from these wordly
considerations particularly after the Local Administration established non
religious school at Binci at the heart of the District where all could attend
However the pupils still remained somewhat in the clutches of the mission because
the their Binci primary school training taught had only to the finish first four it at grades the Kakkek and those mission who wanted school to pursue
The school and the outside world widened the number of young critics within
the tribe many Western educated people professing to believe only in God and not
so much in His representatives These young people in unique God
which Christian and Traditionalist doctrines alike have taught them but they
claim not to know how to really worship him
Christianity has somewhat mellowed and the number of sceptics has increased
among the Christian who it should be repeated are only small minority within
16 After the departure of the missionary in charge in 1964-65 the church members
who had up to now been kept under close supervision started quarelling about the leadership
There were several branches of the church scattered in various villages Small church buildings
were found at Kishika Kishi Uzel Uyo and Ubumu villages all concerning several villages
and other buildings were established at Binci Kissaloy and Assak hamlets Quarrels revolved
around the appointment of preachers differing factions supporting their respective candidates
and on the fact that several of the church branches had secessionist tendencies in the Rukuba
sense Once month it had been the established custom that all Christians within the tribe
attended service at the mother church Kakkek After the departure of the missionary the
Kakkek Christians wanted to keep this custom for their own benefit this is how the other
churches took it and this brought endless troubles
the tribe Some of the younger ones are not Christians in the eyes of the church
since they smoke they drink etc. or even worse they are polygamists and have
by these actions been expelled from the church although they still profess to be
However there are still staunch Christians and of course staunch Tradi
tionalists who debate their specific doctrinal points They have ample occasion to
do so if they want to since Christians and Traditionalists live together it is not
rare to find both creeds within single compound Rukuba compounds can
house several different families or within single family Cohabitation does
not bring about too many problems contrary to what happens in some other
tribal populations
At the ideological level Christians label Traditionalists with the term banici
the people of id id signifying traditional ritual here taken with very
derogatory meaning Christians also speak of their pagan brothers as banaship
the people of darkness this with an air of evident superiority Both Christians
and Traditionalists refer to Christians as ba ado pl. ado sg the worshipping
people after the Hausa name for worship adua This last term has been adopted
by the missionaries to refer to God in general There is no term for worship
ping God in Rukuba religious practice the term igon to bless to make an invo
cation being somewhat different since it ranges from benediction to his
son to an informal speech after sacrifices and rituals have been performed
Most discussions between the partisans of the two creeds center around
compared behaviour Christians despise Traditionalists chiefly because they
drink they smoke they dance they have premarital relationships and the con
comitant pattern of abortion they are polygamous and of course they practice
barbarous rites Christians also do not admit the traditional Rukuba belief in
reincarnation which stipulates reincarnation for some people and the disintegra
tion of the soul for some others 17 For the Christians there is no reincarnation
and the soul will go either to Heaven or to Hell the latter believed to be the place
with the Eternal Fire or with the boiling cauldron
Many Christians have adopted the mission teachings about hygiene and
cleanliness as part of the new religion One of the central point of mission teaching
is that people should avoid anything which would spoil their mind and body
like alcohol tobacco etc. and that they should try to improve hygiene to fight
disease another bad thing which spoils body and soul Rukuba formerly went
naked except for penis-sheath for the men and two bundles of leaves for the
women but nakedness was not an aspect of Rukuba life fought by the mission
Buying cloth would have forced the Rukuba men and women since women
have to acquire their personal clothing by themselves if they choose to wear some
to go to the tin mining camps scattered over the Plateau where promiscuity
was and still is rampant Thus in order to protect the virtue of Rukuba
women it was better not to insist too much on clothing
Christians also find Traditionalists guilty of following the tribal rituals but
ironically enough it is the traditional setting which provides the Christians with
the weightiest argument to sustain their case first this argument justifies their
adoption of Christianity and second it permits them not to feel too estranged
from their Traditionalist fellows
The latter argument is as follows Rukuba Christians simply believe that
the Rukuba tribe was Christian long ago and that it somehow lost the faith until
17 J.C MULLER <i Of Souls and Bones The Living and the Dead among the Rukuba
Africa forthcoming)

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