Nigerian Igbo Catholic Community, Ottawa, Celebrates Uka Nne (Mothering Sunday)
At Saint Peter's Parish, located at 1640 Hetherington Road in Ottawa, on May 28, 2023, an emotional atmosphere filled the air as Catholic...
Nigerian Igbo Catholic Community, Ottawa, Celebrates Uka Nne (Mothering Sunday)
The Slow, Sweet Death of the Eurocentric Christianity
Are We Culturally or Naturally Homophobic?
The Gangs of Lagos and the Core Yoruba Values
Black Out Loud—A Celebration of Regional Capital Territory's Black Identity and Cultural Heritage
Annunciation of the birth of Jesus, God’s (subtle) Subversion of the Divine History
Synodal Process and the Danger of Manifest Destiny
Une Foi Solide comme la Montagne
The Locus of Decolonization Theology
Le Mois de l’Histoire des Noirs à Sacré-Cœur d’Ottawa
At Saint Peter's Parish, located at 1640 Hetherington Road in Ottawa, on May 28, 2023, an emotional atmosphere filled the air as Catholic mothers were honoured during the annual Uka Nne – Mothering Sunday event hosted by the Nigerian Igbo Catholic Community of Ottawa. The event showcased the significance of mothers in society and celebrated motherhood, faith, and black cultural heritage. The mothers were treated with respect and reverence, creating a joyous atmosphere filled with boisterous laughter. The event demonstrated that Uka Nne is a day to celebrate motherhood and cultural heritage, even outside Nigeria.
The Church's decoration exuded a sacred atmosphere through the combination of Nigerian cultural fabrics and Catholic liturgical colour. As a result, the environment felt genuinely African and authentically Catholic. The mothers dressed up for the occasion, proudly wearing their uniforms and corresponding headgear. The altar and other liturgical furniture were decorated to match the day's uniform. Interestingly, it was Pentecost Sunday, requiring red vestments and decorations in Catholic liturgy. The mothers creatively blended the red colour of Pentecost with the blue apparel of Mother's Day, resulting in a beautiful mix of colours showcasing motherhood's energy and candour.
During the Eucharistic celebration, the mothers served and sang in the choir. It was a refreshing change from the usual Sundays, as the enthusiastic mothers in the choir made it a delightful experience for everyone present. The choir mainly sang in Igbo, executing classical Igbo liturgical hymns that brought back memories of the good old days in the Motherland for the older adults. It was a fantastic day, and the National Capital Region of Ottawa felt alive with the heartbeat of the motherland.
Before the end of the first phase of the day’s celebration, three young ladies entertained the audience with a thought-provoking song where they recounted the sacred roles of mothers in their lives. “When we are in pain or suffering from hardship or difficulties,” they chanted, asking the joyful audience to whom would they turn? And, to each of their question-oriented verses, the enthusiastic audience responded in a loud, thrilling chorus, “My mother.”
After the almost two-and-a-half-hour Eucharistic celebration, the attendees were excited about the promised delicacies. The Catholic Men Association had committed to providing the necessary items for the entertainment part of Mother's Day. During the community mass last month, they reminded the mothers to refrain from participating in preparing the food and materials needed for item seven of D-Day.
The association kept their promise and everyone present was satisfied with the variety of food available. Moreover, the fact that some priests had to assist in serving the table proves that they delivered on their promise, as mothers were asked not to participate in the service. In short, this year's “Uka Nne” event set a record for future years and gave hope that we are slowly recovering from the isolation brought on by Covid-19.
While I may not have the gift of prophecy, I am convinced that change is coming. The era of European theology is ending, paving the way for a new form of theology comparable to Ubuntu, for it is centred around the people. Christianity is facing a new reality that it is hesitant to accept – it is no longer a European religion. While this might not sound obvious presently, the transition from one state to another is always met with resistance. In its current form, Christianity is on its last legs. But we can agree that this is not the first time Christianity has undergone such a transformation.
Before Christianity moved from Jerusalem to Rome, it did not include non-Jews in its community. However, after a Jewish conservative named Paul of Tarsus experienced a transformative encounter with the Holy Spirit, he became a radical advocate for including the Gentile world in the Church. He travelled from Rome to Ephesus and wrote letters to various communities, including the Corinthians, Thessalonians, Galatians, and Ephesians. He even worshiped with Jews, prayed with pagans, and openly preached in synagogues and at the Areopagus. Indeed, despite his previous conservatism, Paul turned out to be one of the most progressive figures of his time.
From that point onward, Christianity has abandoned its traditional Jewish race-oriented tendency to become a beacon of hope for all those seeking God in truth, regardless of their origin and race.
Unfortunately, this gift of openness completely transformed Christianity, Europeanizing, and changing its history.
But this didn't come without a price: philosophers soon became opponents of the new religion. Then, converted Roman scholars took the battle to the door of pagan philosophers. Soon after, Plato was embraced by the Christian community, baptized, and given a prominent place. This resulted in significant Western scholars such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origin, and Athanasius transforming Christianity into a fusion of philosophical and divine ideas.
Furthermore, Aristotle was also quickly introduced into the Pantheon of Christian saints. With his obsession with logic, ethics, science, and dialectics, Aristotle seduced Christianity to become an elitist religion. Thus, Christianity was gradually but finally Occidentalized. Initially, it travelled cautiously until the empires rediscovered how powerful it could be. Then for centuries, Christianity romanced kings and Queens in their high places. And without knowing it, Christianity gradually set apart a reverenced sit for the Kings and Queens within its sanctuary. Thus, we began the era of the Christian empire. A few charismatic leaders engaged in a fight but were ultimately dislodged by the powerful machinery of the empire.
When the discovery of engines made the West thirsty for new heavens, Christianity was vested with a new mission. The expeditions of Western missionaries accompanied the expeditions of the kings' men. Initially, it was mainly the blessing of the exploration ships, but only for a short time. When the kings discovered the richness of the nations beyond the European shores, they needed a powerful tool in the hands of the missionaries. With their guns and unfortunate sickness, the kings required an empire-inspired biblical interpretation to reshape the universe. When they were surprised by the diversity of people they encountered on seafaring, they had to rethink their relationship with the Christian faith. And thus, manifest destiny was born. Europe rapidly claimed the title of the new Israel, and with the coming of the Kingdom, theirs to perfect.
Rather than sharing the Gospel with the nations they encountered, they imposed a European interpretation. This led to the dismissal and condemnation of Native wisdom and cultural and spiritual values.
Regrettably, the practice of Christianity has transformed into a perilous performance, as it has evolved into a meticulously crafted ideology of power, losing, in Christendom, its essential purpose of fostering connections. It instead created European centers in the empires, forming priests, pastors, and theologians to give up their indigenous spiritual treasures and wear European thinking hats. Even today, many of them from colonized nations continue to sing the tunes of their European masters, like parrots. Throughout my Igbo nation to Sri Lanka, from Indigenous Australia to the Mesoamericans, Catholic and non-Catholic theologians have sacrificed their experiences of God at the altar of faith. Instead, they all advocate for theological beliefs that reflect an adopted story of the European view of God and their social-historical circumstances.
Thankfully, in this progressing 21st century, Christianity seems to be breaking, even though slowly, free from its rigid beliefs. Consequently, the grip of old Europe on the world's biggest religion is loosening. Indeed, the hour is coming for: “This cup wants to become empty again, and Zarathustra intends to become human again.”
Yes, the time is now for theologians from the South to climb down from their borrowed thrones. For this, like Zarathustra, I pray:
“Bless the cup that wants to flow over, such that water flows golden from it and everywhere carries the reflection of your bliss!” Yes, it is time to decolonize theology, not by killing those who theologized before us, but by owning our practices and experiences.
For a long time, we’ve danced on a hanging rope, between two towers, with our poles like tightrope dancers. And at every attempt to recreate our narrative, a jester appears from the golden towers, forcing the dancer to fall, head down, to the amusement of the cheering public in our marketplaces.
So, today, I join my brethren to announce the hour of Ubuntu theology, the people's theology. We will gather under our palaver trees and in our sacred places, holding our talking sticks and stones, to express how the God of Jesus Christ appears in our indigenous traditions. Our theology may not follow European customs, but it will truly reflect our beliefs, spoken in our languages and expressed through our sacred dances and colourful clothing. We will embrace vulnerability and seek to understand the realities of all people, from the wealthy and privileged to the poor and disfavored, independent of our different sexual orientations, for we are loved unconditionally by the God Jesus Christ.
This type of Christianity may be accused of syncretism, but it is always a monotheistic religion based on Ubuntu principles. It focuses on our human connectedness and the commonality of our race. Its fundamental theological principle is our responsibility towards others, including strangers, widows, and orphans. It will refer to the approach of the Other in the face, in a dimension of height, in responsibility for oneself and for the Other to whom we are obligated. (Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 1979, 214-5). So, today, I reiterate “Ubuntu,” my brethren, for “Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu.”
As human beings advance, you would expect that we will become wiser. But, in fact, we continue to commit the same crime each century. Over time, we even degenerate. Crimes committed centuries ago keep resurfacing, covered in new doctrines and laws, from religious crusades through the Inquisition, slave trades, witch hunting, and homophobic attitudes based on people's sexual orientations.
Moreover, experts in social and natural sciences and humanities invest their energy in ensuring the marginalization of the victims at every moment. Though some wake up earlier than others, they all contribute to making society unlivable for the victims. It is often said that racism, like all crimes, is perpetuated not because of ignorance but because intellectuals in every field of study are bent on ensuring the masses are fed with wrong information.
A quick look at our recent communal memory line could help me understand what I am discussing here. In between the 11th and 13th centuries, for God and the state, we embarked on a crusade, killing each other for holy war. Men and women dedicated their lives to what we now understand to be madness. Mothers and fathers were often massacred before their children, women were sometimes raped, and boys and girls were taken as prisoners.
And, as we attempted to escape this madness, we discovered the Inquisition. For heresy, people were executed for refusing to adhere to the general belief in the official doctrines of the Church. In addition to the over 8 million victims of the crusade, around 5 thousand others were added during this lunatic called the Inquisition. This time again, valuable men and women were sacrificed to the altar of our nationalistic religions and power-hungry empires. Of course, we should not forget its Islamic quasi equivalent, jihad.
And like a joke, the Inquisition turned itself into a witch-hunt. Thus, from one part of Europe to another, women (mainly), men, and children were torched and burned alive whenever accused of witchcraft. They were sometimes forced to confess something they were unaware of. Again, this is done in the name of God and the law of our civilized nations. Within the late 15th to early 18th centuries, intellectuals and religious leaders appeared to have lost their wisdom and foresight, as 35 to 50 thousand people were burned at the stake. What a civilized society!
Moreover, over 15 million human beings were transported like animals during the tragic transatlantic slave trade. These men and women were treated worse than domestic animals and were sold like animals. One might think that this is the sin of capitalism, but we know that churches denied them baptism, claiming they had no souls and could not be saved in the name of God and enlightenment.
Behind this craziness is the handwriting of the later Social Darwinism. This theory supported laissez-faire capitalism, as well as political and religious conservatism. A pseudo-scientific theory that divides our societies into classes, justifying all the inequalities among races and stereotyping some as drunk people, lazy races, and emotional as opposed to reasonable white people. Thus, the moral standard was measured according to different races in sciences and humanities. While some were considered to be industrious and temperate, others were considered lazy, intemperate, and lecherous.
Following this theory, laws were passed that condemned many black Americans whenever a white woman accused them of rape simply because of their race. Again, social Darwinism has stereotyped them as being naturally lustful because of their race. Furthermore, it is said that in certain societies, certain people are struggling with alcoholism by nature. Throughout all these moments, no one considers social factors and oppressive and discriminatory systems.
In the 21st century, you would expect that humanity has evolved, but we continue to repeat the same errors. In the name of God and the nations, we select a group within our society to oppress and label them as not usual and need to be treated inhumanely. Has our society ever considered that people with different sexual orientations from what our hypocritical society is prepared to accept are victims of the 21st-century witch hunt? Nations and churches systematically exclude them from society, like lepers. Our laws are designed to oppress them and pass bills that strip away their rights to health benefits. We ghettoize them in our Churches and propose therapies to them as if they have mental problems. Our religious groups treat them as if an evil spirit possessed them. Yet, within less than a century, we will all gather and confess that we did not know what we were doing. By then, the men and women we have collectively forced to die in silence will no longer be there to receive our pseudo-confession.
Before criticizing religion, I want you to understand that religion is only one arm of our hypocritical society. Religion requires pseudoscientists, psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers, and law experts to speak in the name of God. I have seen people always point accusing fingers at religion, but the truth is that religion is always the scapegoat of society. However, that does not excuse our religious leaders, for they should be better informed that empathy is not only deserved by those we like but also by those who appear, to our shallow minds, to be at fault.