CONFLICT OF TRADITIONS: AFRICAN AND CHRISTIAN.
The persistent increase in the number of new converts attending religious instructions in the mission and the number withdrawing from the same were in direct proportions. Notwithstanding, the missionaries heedlessly continued to teach catechism through rote memory as “condition sine qua non” to receiving baptism and getting incorporated into the church – “Roman Katholika”.
Meanwhile, Father Mario Turbo's enthusiasm in instructing groups of young men to treble the numbers of the Christians was unequaled. He now broached a new subject - the christian origin of death. From the very start the new subject was alarmingly inconsistent with the Imenti concept of death.
"The insipid subject of Father Turbo is very wearisome and unvaried," Kathendu a staunch christian convert condescendingly said.
"It is totally discordant subject”, retorted Mwarukia with a sneer.
Mwarukia too was a dithering convert, - a nominal Christian who admired the new name he acquired through baptism."I will have you know that Colombo will be circumcised again if he doesn't beat you to pulp!” He really boasted of his new name - Colombo. Baptism was nothing more than an initiation like the circumcision. Why not! He was now preparing himself to be initiated into the 'Njuri Ncheke' - the supreme governing council.
Even more baffling to the elders was the biblical story of creation.
"Just try to imagine the stem cruel God portrayed in the Biblical story of creation!" shouted Kathendu. "One can’t help remembering our Father Turbo of course!" Said Mwarukia with a sneering face.
The whole group burst into a crescendo of laughter as they stared at Mwarukia'a face. The latter was in the habit of quickly changing the sneer on his face into a grin with bared teeth. None has seen him laugh openly.
"Quite. Just imagine that God endows man with a free will only to curse him out of Eden for exercising this very free will!" Said Kathendu thoughtfully and added, “Cursing the serpent- the innocent creature of the wilderness is bafflingly over whelming to say the least of course. He even went into the trouble of placing a cherubim at the gate of paradise to keep Adam and Eve away. The christian God is here portrayed as a God of war, oh yes, a God of vengeance. A jealous God!"
"I now wonder what would have happened to both Adam and Eve should they have dared to return," wondered Muketha, the senior elder thoughtfully as if talking to himself.
“The cherubim would have slayed them and I..." Kathendu stopped abruptly like one that had bumbed against an object as he talked while he walked.
The senior elder continued to stare at a point in front of him and continued as if none had spoken. He said, "I wonder now if He wouldn't have welcomed them into His open hands of course. What does this book say about the Father of that prodigal son, Theodore? You are better informed on these matters than any of us is.”
None dared to interrupt. Not even Theodore said anything in answer to the latter question. The senior elder would have to reach his own conclusion.
"Didn’t this Father welcome the prodigal son with open hands and call for great feasting? The African religious traditions should be given a judicious circumspection. Relying wholly on this new religion would ultimately tear asunder the Africans. What do you say Theodore?"
Theodore bashfully looked at the senior elder who now looked fully on his face. This demanded a serious answer.
"Aba-father, I should think you are right there. One can not help seeing that these missionaries are quantitatively rather than qualitatively alluring Africans to Christianity; to Christianity? Or is it the European way of life - I begin to have doubts here," Theodore pensively concluded.
"To the European way of life, of course!" shouted Mwarukia interruptedly. "Why else would they nauseatingly condemn African religious traditions whole sale!".
"I often wonder who is tearing the other asunder", Kagane calmly thought loudly.
Mwarukia could not help looking contemptuously on Kagane whose face was downcast as he studied his left hand finger nails as if searching for some wisdom there.
"Time will tell," cautioned Kagane unperturbed. "You will also understand with time of course, he added as an after thought.
To say the least Kagane was one very disturbed man indeed. He could not understand what had become of some of his brothers. Some like Kathendu had become too womanish for his liking Mwarukia could not help agreeing with Kagane.
"Father Mario has a very bigoted and prejudicial attitude to our religious beliefs. This inflexibility and the contempt he has for our culture has made me renounce my faith in the white man's religion. What for goodness sake has made you so submissive to the missionaries! What? Tell me now," shouted Mwarukia excitedly as he stamped on the ground with his feet.
"Play it cool brother," Kathendu pleadingly begged Mwarukia "I will address this thorny issue to Father, Giusseppe tomorrow. He is unlike Father Turbo a humble man, isn't he?" Kathendu asked condescendingly.
"Certainly do it," now admitted Mwarukia who now realized that he had reduced Kathendu to his size.
Kathendu was quite aware that Mwarukia flirted, albeit secretly, with the white man's religion. But he was equally aware that it was not for the salvation of his poor soul. Oh no! Mwarukia was simply enamored with the beautiful lady Caroline; a staunch convert to Christianity. This much Mwarukia had proudly divulged to Kathendu as they discussed their love affairs with the village girls.
"She is the darling of the entire village," confided Mwarukia in a whisper." I can part with the white man's religion any day but not with Caroline - the better half of me. Only death would make us part!"
In these circumstances Father Turbo derogatively referred to as 'Mubea' became the main subject of ridicule in the village. He had uncompromisingly discarded the African religious traditions as worthless in the eyes of the 'Roman Katholika'
There was soon a widespread out cry in the village. The elders saw Father Turbo's attitude as contemptuous and demeaning the senior elder of the clan who had so willingly given Father Giusseppe land to settle on.
“Before the snow-capped mountain impressively stood where it is, our religious traditions were there”, calmly asserted the senior elder as if talking to himself. “These traditions have withstood the passing of time and space. Generations come and generations go. But there stood our traditions - the core of our society. Nothing short of 'Uria-Uri '- He who is who He is - God can shake this core! The likes of Turbo are just passing crowds; take no heed of them."
However, due to the gravity of the matter, two junior elders were sent as envoys to Father Giusseppe to learn the latter's stand on African traditions.
"We have unpleasant and disturbing news for your immediated attention, Father," said Kathendu without preamble.
"Yes my sons, what is boiling in your youthful minds?" calmly asked the old priest.
"Some of the junior elders are withdrawing from catechism and..."
"And they are not attending sunday services either!" interjected Mwarukia impatiently.
“‘Porca Miseria!' 'Mama mia' why now? Satan is encroaching on the Christian community." The otherwise cool Giusseppe was all nerves now. The blue pale colour on his face told tales. At no time would this saintly man swear other than in a situation of serious mental pain.
Everyone was quiet and uncertain. For endless moments there was utter silence as Father Giusseppe stared unblinkingly at the two messengers with eyes that showed pity on other than annoyance. It was only the daring Kathendu who saved the situation.
"Father Turbo has been instructing us on the christian original death, " said Kathendu with a sigh. “The elders cannot help but compare and contrast it with the African concept of death," he concluded.
The old priest took a pinch of snuff as he hearkened patiently. He sneezed and slowly shook his head. "Compare and contrast what?" He asked thoughtfully.
"Our legend about the origin of death has cultural and religious teachings behind it. The moral of this legend is the basis of our ancestral religion," calmly asserted Mwarukia.
"Ours is compare and contrast the two concepts," added Kathendu in a way of explanation.
For a time Father Giusseppe kept staring at a point beyond them. "Yes! Yes!" He kept saying as he nodded to some unseen inner person. He then came to with a start.
"We never came to destroy”. Father Giusseppe emphatically asserted. "We came to perfect the religious traditions of the natives, where is the point of contention then?"
"The elders have denounced the Christian faith!" said the two messengers simultaneously as if they were in a telepathy. Looking at each other, Kathendu left Mwarukia to continue the discourse.
"The elders have vowed not to attend Sunday services. The Njuri Ncheke has sworn an oath to ban your Father Turbo for ever, ever from having contact with our youth. They are infuriated by the Turbo's contempt of our religious traditions and practices!"
"The thorny issue can be redressed though", diplomatically asserted Kathendu, now sympathetic with the shocked saintly man of God. “Withdraws would cease." I assure you Father," he added decisively.
" A very timely information indeed”, said Father Giusseppe as he blinked his eyes. This requires prompt action. Tell me now my sons, what does the tradition say about the origin of death?"
"I beg you good Father, " Kathendu said submissively. " You have to hear this wisdom from the horse's mouth itself, the sages and the custodians of the traditions. They alone, the elders can with authority talk on mattes relating to traditions and customs."
The weather was hot and even more so under the corrugated -iron sheets. The white old man had already started to doze. He could no longer be heedful so he realized. He called Eusebio, the house servant, to serve him a cup of coffee while he served the two with a bottle of soda each.
"Thank you my sons. I will tackle the issue with the elders of great wisdom. There is no cause of alarm. The situation will be retrieved for I know how to reconciliate the two traditions."
"Thank you. Thank you Father," Kathendu said cheerfully. Both left the office enchanted.