Dec 10 2007
Christian doctrine speeds destruction of artifacts [Excerpts]
Born to a family of traditional priests, Ibe Nwigwe converted to Christianity as a boy. Under the sway of born-again fervor as a man, he gathered the paraphernalia of ancestral worship -- a centuries-old stool, a metal staff with a wooden handle and the carved figure of a god -- and burned them as his pastor watched.
“I had experienced a series of misfortunes and my pastor told me it was because I had not completely broken the covenant with my ancestral idols,” the 52-year-old Nwigwe said of the bonfire three years ago. “Now that I have done that, I hope I will be truly liberated.”
Generations ago, European colonists and Christian missionaries looted Africa’s ancient treasures. Now, Pentecostal Christian evangelists — most of them Africans — are helping wipe out remaining traces of how Africans once worked, played and prayed.
Achina is typical of towns and villages in the ethnic Igbo-dominated Christian belt of southeastern Nigeria where this new Christian fundamentalism is evident. The old gods are being linked to the devil, and preachers are urging not only their rejection, but their destruction.
The Ezeokolo, the main shrine of Achina -- a community of mainly farmers and traders in Nigeria’s rain forest belt -- has been repeatedly looted of its carved god figures. While no one has been caught, suspects range from people acting on Christian impulses to treasure thieves.
Recently, a village civic association volunteered to build a house to keep burglars away from a giant wooden gong decorated with carved male, female and snake figures. The gong in the market square is reputed to be more than 400 years old, and in decades past was sounded in times of emergency.
“We feared it may be stolen or destroyed like so many of our traditional cultural symbols,” said Chuma Ezenwa, a Lagos-based lawyer.
[TBC: In Acts:19:18-19, converted sorcerers and practitioners of magic brought their magical objects and burned them. These were their own possessions, however, and they did not destroy someone else's property. Nigerian believers view these “artifacts“ as representing bondage and oppression. In Acts we are told that, "mightily grew the word of God and prevailed" (Acts:19:20). That was why the sorcerers burned their own books. It wasn't that others had to burn the books for them.]