Obstacles to Christian Witnessing: igba afa

By Rev. Fr. Eva Chuma Nnamene

Igba afa, ije n'ugegbe, ibu odu, ije n'oju ese, and others are serious obstacles to faith formation and faith development - anywhere they are found. And as such, they are obstacles to Christian witnessing. But what are they? They are various ancient and pagan systems people used in Igbo land cum Nsukka to posse perennial questions on the causes and effects of evils, sicknesses, hardships, and deaths, and other human circumstances in life.

When, for instance, a family is befallen by sudden and consistent deaths, that family could be overwhelmed by that. In the olden days, one of the panaceas proffered to such family would be to consult medicine men/women (dibia afa, ugegbe, odu, oju ese) as the case may be to find out the cause of such deaths. In the process of verification, the medicine man/woman uses some instruments with incantations to invoke the particular deity or the spirit of the dead who is believed to reveal the cause of the incessant deaths, for instance.

The medicine man/woman demonstrates with some rhythmic movement of hands and torso as if he/she receives some message from the said deity or spirit. But at the end, all those are only sham and deceptive moves to extort money or to sustain cheap popularity. The results from such medicine men/women would vary as many as the number of them who were consulted. Even, with the same medicine men/women, repeating the same verification is certain to give different results. All those differences made their system unreliable.

Because of poor standard and unscientific verification methods used in the rituals of the medicine men/women, persons whose deaths may be very natural end up being interpreted as having been killed by one evil or the other. In a certain village, there was a case of a young-man who fell from the palm tree, and died a day or two after.

The dibia afa diagnosed the cause of his death as punishment from his late father who accused him of abandoning the family deity to become a Christian. There was a case of another man whose symptoms of ailment were indicative of a liver disease. But because he had a strange and an inexplicable protruded stomach before his death, he was thrown away in the evil forest as having been punished by the gods.

There are thousands of similar cases that happened in the past, and unfortunately, some Christians have allowed to happen even in our own time in the 21st century. Across continents, races and times, humans have used various means of verifications to find out causes of things in their lives, their environments and even their future.

In Scriptural times, people have consulted soothsayers, sorcerers, astrologers, magicians, dream interpreters, and other agents to find out or to interpret their circumstances or their future. Why do people do all these? Uppermost among the reasons why people do all these verifications was the fear of the unknown. Man has constantly feared the unknown. Man has longed to be in control of his life and circumstances. The fear of the unknown has constantly fired up the zeal to find out how the future would be like, or to find out if the past had any hand on what is happening at the present.

As mankind continued its sojourn on earth, over centuries, man developed or discovered other systems of verifications; thus providing better answers to his fear of the unknown. Some of such new systems of verification became more objective, verifiable, reliable and therefore, more scientific.

Quickly, in some quarters, these new systems began replacing the previous ones which were more subjective, unverifiable, unreliable, and as such, unscientific. The new systems use apparatuses that are available and accessible; and they also use methods that are repeatable at different laboratories and at different times, and that have highest chances of providing the same results.

For instance, a particular young man has been constantly sick went to a laboratory test; he was diagnosed with persistent malaria. He went to over ten laboratory test, the results are the same. The old system of verification will hardly give the same results, and that is why the new system is better and clearer.

When someone consults afa, ugegbe, odu, oju ese, and other ancient systems, the results are not the same. In fact, they may not even be close to each other. One result says one thing, and another says a different thing. Oftentimes, results from such ancient systems stir up controversies in families, and communities. Such controversies end up in broken relationships, and thus sow the seed of discord among family and friends.

What is wrong with consulting afa, ugegbe, odu, oju ese, and others is not just because they are antiquated, and their results controversial and unreliable, their sources of information are likewise devilish and manipulative. Their methods are cultic and never open to study.

And as Christians, we are forbidden from using them (Lev. 19: 26; Deut. 18: 10-12; Jer. 27: 9; Ez. 13: 3; Acts 8: 9; Acts 16: 16; Gal. 5: 19-20; Rev. 21: 8; Rev. 22: 14-15). They prohibit Christian witnessing which Christ has mandated to His Church. Let us then, get against them with the faith of the children of God.

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