By James Chege
Head librarian
Maryknoll Institute for African Studies

Second Pastoral Reflection: Miracle Rain, Childless Unions and Leaking Roofs.

The second pastoral reflection (PR) of the semester was held on Nov. 2. Having had a successful PR earlier the onus rested on the remaining three classes to put on the very best skits they could. The three classes with skits were: African Traditional Religion: Major Beliefs and Practices taught by Prof. Douglas Waruta; African Marriage and Family: Challenge and Change taught by Dr. Michael Katola and Sage Philosophy, the Root of African Philosophy and Religion taught by Dr. Oriare Nyarwath.

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MIASMU students and field assistants follow one of the skits during the PR.

The first class presented a skit where a community living in the highlands was suffering from a prolonged drought. They were Christians and went to church to pray for rain but to avail. After discussing this among themselves they sent emissaries to a diviner/rainmaker so that they could consult with the ancestors and hopefully get a solution. After animated consultations with the spirits of the dead, the ancestors, the diviner prescribed a sacrifice and prayers which were said while facing the great mountain, Mt. Kenya. Upon doing so, it miraculously began to rain. This skit highlighted the enduring nature of African Traditional Religion. Consultations with ancestors, who are the mediators between God and the living, were commonplace whenever disaster struck. Usually the living had to atone for their wrong doings and offer sacrifices to God for the natural order to be restored.

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Members of the community pray for rain while facing the great mountain.

In the second skit a young man and his wife were going through marital troubles as they had not yet sired a child. The man blamed the woman and naturally the woman blamed the man. Elders were called in to help solve the issue. One elder recommended that the man should get another wife if this one was unable to bear children. He believed that perhaps the family line of the man’s wife had been cursed. The other elder was a little cautious in his assessment of the situation acknowledging that maybe the fault may lie with the man. In African marriage childlessness is not accepted. It would be seen as intolerable to marry and not want to bear children. For this reason various remedies ranging from herbal medicines and consultations with the ancestors were sought. When all else failed, and it was clear that when one spouse was barren, alternative solutions were sought as highlighted in the skit.

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Community elders deliberate over the issue of a childless marriage.

In the final presentation, a young widow who had recently lost her husband found herself in a difficult situation. The roof of her house was leaking and she needed some repair work done before the heavy rains. Unfortunately she did not have anyone to help her as her husband’s brothers refused to help. This was because she had resisted being inherited and chose to live alone. In a gathering of the elders the matter was discussed at length where some disadvantages of wife inheritance were adversely mentioned. The elders concluded that regardless of her refusing to obey traditions it would be unfair to let her and her children sleep in the rain. This presentation showed how more and more African traditional cultural values and activities are being re-interpreted in the light of contemporary situations.

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Young widow being addressed by the community elders.

These presentations gave rise to discussions on the various themes raised. Students and field assistants joined in the conversation by dividing themselves into three discussion groups where they munched on snacks as they debated key points. Thereafter they convened for a plenary session where the various points raised in the discussions were presented.

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