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EULOGY AS UNDERSTOOD BY BOTH CHRISTIANITY & AFRICAN TRADITIONAL SOCIETY

PEACE IS ABOUT FORGIVENESS, LOVE, & RECONCILIATION
Different cultures have different ways of sending off their departed beloved ones. Prior to Christianity in many African societies, people believed that the dead are not dead. The dead are living in form of spirits and their ghosts can still haunt the living if not appeased. In Kenya, the eulogy has taken mostly Christian format. Christianity believes in God the judge of the living and the dead. When a Christian dies, all her or his wrong doings shall be judged only by God but not by mortals.
African traditional belief was totally different. A dead person is alive in spirit and eulogy is also meant to free the spirit. For instance, if the dead had some debt of someone that debt must be settled by the relatives before the body is buried. This was meant to untie the spirit which is also religiously valid since this is to redeem or cleanse the person. If the dead had offended somebody then the person should say it openly during the ceremony before the burial. This meant that he has forgiven the dead and it is a form of liberating the spirit. In some circumstances an animal may be slaughtered to show that the person has been cleansed. The Luo people in Kenya would not bury a dead married woman if the dowry promises were not fulfilled and the bereaved husband would have to fulfill the rite before he is allowed to bury his wife. Various cultures have different ways of perceiving religious concepts.
However, in Kenya people tend to mix Christianity and African traditional beliefs even today. When the Second first Lady, Lucy M. Kibaki passed on she was given great honor for her good service to the nation. The official eulogies were of praise and best wishes for the her bereaved family which is in line with Christianity. This is right since the departed individual was a Christian by faith and only God can judge her spirit. All the living should do is to pray, forgive, and reconcile. Any good Christian believer shall always forgive as Jesus did on the cross. It is not within the Christian ethics to use the occasion of the funeral to curse the dead or show some grudge. Whoever does that may not be a Christian believer but an African traditionalist.
With decorum what good wishers do is to send condolences and prayers to the family members. The reason being, death is for all mortals and sooner or later each one of us will have to die. It is proper to be at peace with the spirits and to allow God to do His part. It is not civilized to use eulogy to pour out grudges or to show how much you disliked the person. The definition of eulogy is all about praise not curse. The praise is about the good someone did not her mistakes and omissions. It is right to praise since it is a prayer. No human being is perfect and it is only correct to praise the good someone did in life and forgive whatever was wrong about him or her. It is not a Christian way to judge or condemn but to forgive for Jesus Christ was a forgiving person. He humbled himself and forgave those who persecuted and executed Him on the Cross.
For the entire family of the former President Mwai Emilio Kibaki I send condolences and May God Rest the soul of Mama Lucy in Peace!
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About Peter Onyango

Dr. Peter Onyango O. is one of our main contributors. He is a senior law lecturer, a writer, a consultant, peace ambassador, and a researcher. He assists so many professionals, legal minds, and debaters with his skills and scholarly wealth! He supports children and village community as a way of giving back to community. He edits, proof reads, and publishes various articles for our page!

8 comments

  1. Some community in the Coastal region of Kenya, celebrate their funeral by celebrating, eating & dancing.They also wear white clothes.Truly there’re many ways to kill a cat! NICE STORY ! Marina Onyango.10 years old

    • In Kenya, some class of politicians use funerals for their political agenda. For instance the death of Mr. Jacob Juma in Kenya has turned to be a political battle between the opposition and the government. How this should reflect the meaning of the eulogy is still a question of doubt. I remember the late Hon. Orwa Ojode prohibiting politicians from playing politics at the funeral of his dad. He was right. The mood at any Christian funeral must reflect the Christian faith and no funeral should be a political platform.

  2. Some people endorse black tunics as a sign of sadness and mourning at the funeral. Death is both celebration and sorrow at the same time. We feel sorry for the departed fellow but also we celebrate his or her life to show happy mood.

    • Thanks so much Marina. Indeed different people express themselves differently at the funerals. We need to honor others and abide by the faith and belief of different people. It is in harmony with our being human that we feel remorseful at someone’s death and show more solidarity. I congratulate those who showed their solidarity with the recent victims of Huruma tragedy in Nairobi. It is in order to show more civility and humanness at someones’ sufferings. Lets be more human and God fearing persons… we need more sense of national cohesion by supporting one another despite our differences.

  3. What is the essential purpose of this type of dialogue? Our understanding of each other’s faith and convictions will assist us not to disfigure each other’s faith and ideologies. Dialogue is a way of obeying one of the commandments given to the Israelites: ‘Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbour’ (Ex 20:16). If we do not dialogue, we shall be ignorant of our neighbour’s faith and we could therefore misrepresent such faith. Dialogue with adherence of African Indigenious Religion (AIR) is a way of expressing our love and concern to our neighbour, which is actually the greatest commandment in the Bible. This means that dialogue without genuine love and concern is not true dialogue. If Christians dialogue with people of AIR, it will mean a proclamation of faith in Christ in the spirit of love. It can also be regarded as ‘authentic witness’ of one’s convictions. In the process of dialogue, essential truth is proclaimed in love (Adamo 1989:82–88), the result of that proclamation should be left to the Holy Spirit, who really converts and not the one who holds the dialogue. The attitude of ‘come-ye-outism’ in Africa should be gone for good. There is a need to go beyond the dismissiveness, antagonism and intolerance that had in the past characterised Christian attitudes towards other religious community (Hospital 2007:356).

    • This is a great comment. Indeed the interfaith dialogue should be encouraged at all levels to avoid intolerance and misunderstandings. Ecumenical movements among Churches should not stop their great effort to make dialogue possible and also to give chance to less recognized beliefs such as the African Indigenous Religion. I am really in support.

  4. I do respect politicians and I appreciate the work they do to bring positive change in the society. Some of the changes we do enjoy are also fruits of political efforts to make change happen. But I believe that funerals should not be turned into campaign grounds. It is not moral to use the sadness of losing a member to push the political agenda. Some Kenyans are perfecting the game of using the death of a person as a tool to throw arrows at the opponent politicians. The mood at the funerals should not be exploited for political gains, I think this is distorting the meaning of funerals. A funeral should be a moment of condolences, prayers, wishing the bereaved family well, showing social, human, spiritual and moral support to whoever is related to the dead. It is a moment to remind us of our own life and our certain appointment with God. Each one of us will one day die and there is no doubt about this. Fellow Kenyans lets change this culture once and for all.

    • Thanks so much Peter for this sharing. It is sad that some politicians render funerals a good ground to tell their opponents off. It would be a good idea to abolish politics at the funerals. Allow prayers and those who are willing to show solidarity to the bereaved should do so. Death is a very serious phenomenon in our life and nobody should turn it into joy or something to trade in. Keep on sharing…

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