Christianity has united more instead of dividing the people of Umuchu. There are many important opportunities for religious interactions; pathways are created for people to ascend to their Godly purposes and needs as epitomised by the existence of many religious bodies, churches, priests, pastors etc. for guidance and succor. There are opportunities for Christian education for spiritual, moral and intellectual outreach and upliftment.
Prof Boniface Egboka
On Saturday, September 3, 2016, the Igwe Umuchu in Council, Umuchu Improvement Union Representative Assembly (UIURA) and entire sons and daughters of Umuchu together with their friends and well-wishers will come together at the Umuchu Civic Centre in great happiness to thank God and celebrate the Hundred (100) Years Of Christianity (1916-2016) In Umuchu. Umuchu is an ancient but progressive town in Aguata L. G. A. of Anambra State. The epoch-making occasion will be marked with an Inter-Denominational Religious Service, goodwill messages, preaching by one indigenous prelate, songs of praise, traditional dances and presentation of a Historic Book that choreographed the advent and impacts of Christianity in Umuchu from the ingress of Christianity to the present day. The Dictionary states that Christianity is “the religion based on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, its beliefs and practices”.
Thus, Christianity and Christians came to Umuchu in the year 1916 through the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and, further, in 1918 through the Roman Catholic Church (RCM) while the other religious groups such as the Salvation Army, the Cherubim and Seraphim, the Jehovah’s Witness, the Pentecostals etc. came at later dates in the growth of Christianity in Umuchu. The emergence of Christianity together with its fast growth throughout the community resulted in almost total virtual death-blow on paganism and fetish cultural practices in the town as many people quickly-embraced the then new God’s own religion. Christianity in Umuchu owes special tribute to Mr. Emenike Orachusi of Ugwuakwu village of Ihite Clan who because of his sick wife, travelled to Ogidi in Idemili L. G. A. of Anambra State near Onitsha where he took the sick wife for treatment at Iyienu Hospital that is owned by the Church Missionary Society. Because he received Christianly-treatment from the Doctors and nurses at the Iyienu hospital, he begged the officials to bring their religion and acts to Umuchu; which they eventually did.
The people of Umuchu had religious practice of paganism in History even before the advent of Christianity with some remnants of pagan practices still existing up to this day. According to the Oxford University Dictionary, Religion is “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods…” while Paganism is a religion of “a person, pagan, holding beliefs other than those of the main world religions“. Then in Umuchu, but little or no more today, the town celebrated the Uchu goddess and the Ala shrine while the various villages had their own gods or shrines to whom they celebrate during annual festivals. There is Awuo at Ozara-Akukwa, Ogwugwueke at Umugama, Orashi at Osete, Uku at Amanasa, Uchu at Ibughubu etc. It is most interesting to note that as a result of the advent of Christianity in Umuchu, there are no more many pagans as well as few pagan practices and worship in Umuchu today as the community advances in measured socioeconomic growth and development.
The people of Umuchu are naturally-religious and God-fearing in aplomb. That is why they are called People of Alanso or Holyland. Umuchu is a Geographically-large area of high population density with rich agricultural lands and other bounteous socioeconomic resources. Umuchu has three major clans of Ihite, Amanasa and Okwu-n’Achara with each of them having a composite of many thickly-populated villages. This large and great town of Umuchu is bounded in the north and northwest by parts of Aguata Local Government Area, in the south and parts of the southeast by Imo State and in the northeast by parts of the Orumba South Local Government Area. These communities are peopled by great men and women of diverse strengths, moral fibre, socioeconomic potentials and capacities with slightly-different linguistic Igbo dialects that tend to combine dialects and cultural attitudes from both Anambra and Imo States.
Umuchu is blessed with abundant socioeconomic resources being harnessed through proper channels as a result of the positive influences from the advent of Christianity that imbued the people with good moral and positive conscience, belief and worship of the true God, good and appropriate education, proper social order, law and justice etc. These have ennobled the people of Alanso to positively-harness their economic potentials and resources. There are bounteous water resources from groundwater in huge aquifers, springs or ogbanelu streams (Uku, Ubo etc.), Uchu Lake and Uchu River.
There are commercial centres and markets that attract business men and women from parts of Anambra, Enugu, Imo and Abia States. There are many agricultural products harvested annually in quantum in form of foods and market products: yams, cassava, cocoyams, palm oil and palm kernel, poultry products, bananas, plantains, vegetables, fruits such as oranges, apples, pears etc. The Nkwor and Afor markets are busy with trades almost on a daily basis. Solid minerals abound in Umuchu such as ironstones, clays, shales, slate, sharp sands etc. There are entrepreneurs and some industries such as for poultry, piggery, fishery, oil mills, bottled water etc. There are big churches and cathedrals and many Christians that belong to the different religious denominations.
There are still pockets of paganism referred to as Ndi-omenala who still stubbornly-stick to their weird traditional religious practices.
There are five secondary schools that were built by the community before they were taken over by Anambra State government. There are two hospitals and some private clinics. There is a thriving mortuary at Holy Name Catholic Church; a Centre for Handicapped Children at St. Thomas Anglican Church. Umuchu is blessed with many ordained men and women such as Bishops, priests, pastors, Rev. Brothers and Sisters. Two major tarred roads with drainages criss-cross the community, namely, the Igbo-Ukwu-Umuchu-Umunze road built by HE Chris Ngige administration and the Ekwulobia-Nkpologwu-Akpo-Achina-Umuchu road built by HE Peter Obi administration. The HE Ngige road also serves to check major gully erosion that ravaged parts of Osete village. These two roads have exposed the town to increased commerce and tourism as well as ingress of mobile criminals. In all intents and purposes, there is a lot of self-help activities by the people of Umuchu.
The aims, purpose and scope of this celebration project on the advent of Christianity in Umuchu is to give a proper Historical perspective and evaluate the total effects of the coming of Christianity and her impacts on the development of Umuchu community and her people. The full write-up in the book to be presented that day would explore situations in which Umuchu was in existence before 1916 and how Umuchu and her people have developed and changed from 1916 to 2016 and assess what the future still holds for the community vis-a-vis the impacts from Christianity. Even before the ingress of Christianity, Umuchu people were well-cultured and peace-loving people and were worshipping their God.
The advent and practices of Christianity reinforced the unity of purpose and enhanced law and order and improvement in cultural values. These characteristics have been enhanced by the coming of Christianity which is a symbol of order and peace. Even though they were pagans, they believed in a Supreme Being. There were fetish and demonic sacrifices such as killing of humans and twins, maltreatment of widows during burial rites, neglect of girl-child etc. The impacts of Christianity had dramatic effects on the conscience and morality of the people. Christianity made profound impacts on commerce and industry. The critical roles played by Christian education in uplifting the lives of people and protection of environment are numerous. The Christian religion brought about positive impacts in social values, norms and mores of the people.
There are unifying factors and notable impacts of the advent and development of Christianity on the community and the lives of the people of Umuchu. The impacts on the morality and conscience of individuals, groups and the Umuchu community are tremendous. Christianity has united more instead of dividing the people of Umuchu. There are many important opportunities for religious interactions; pathways are created for people to ascend to their Godly purposes and needs as epitomised by the existence of many religious bodies, churches, priests, pastors etc. for guidance and succor. There are opportunities for Christian education for spiritual, moral and intellectual outreach and upliftment.
The well-seasoned interactions between the different religious bodies, churches and their organizations enhance the spirit of religious ecumenism that pervade the community. Religious ceremonies such as Christmas, Easter, church services, weddings and burials provide opportunities when people from different religions come together in devotion and prayer. Even during town or national politics or in the traditional institutions, people do not allow religious differences to interfere with their practices. Rather, such events are refined or restructured to fall in line within approved church values. It is on record that priests, pastors or ordained people from different denominations have actively-participated together in some of such ceremonies in the community. Umuchu people should use opportunities offered by Christianity for upbringing of children through good moral values and Christian education
The laudable stance on the united nature of the different religious bodies in Umuchu, despite their heterogeneity, should be well-promoted and strongly-encouraged nationwide. Umuchu people have benefitted immensely from the advent of Christianity into the community since 1916/1918. Umuchu has extensive lands, varied natural resources and great potentials for modern socioeconomic development such as building of major industries and estates; takeoff of a big specialist hospital, a Polytechnic and/or a University as well as other commercial ventures and centres of excellence. There are peace, law and order townwide. Governments and public-spirited groups and individuals are invited to access such opportunities and assist for economic and social development. Because Christianity has had such positive impacts on the History and lives of the people and their environment, there is a great deal of encouragement for more reverence for and promotion of the Christian religion and values which highly-portend more positive outcomes for the future. The entire scenario is worth celebrating; and you are invited.
- Prof Boniface C. E. Egboka, PhD, is Chairman, Centenary Committee, Umuchu, Aguata LGA, Anambra State; E-mail: email@example.com