Social Conflicts and Violence among Christian Churches and Denominations in Igboland

by Damian Emeka Ikejiama (Author)
©2016 Thesis 284 Pages


This book is about the dangers of religious intolerance, conflict and violence oriented strategies in our contemporary society. It exposes the evangelical strategies of Christian Churches and Denominations in the Nigerian society. The process of the enthronement of ‘prosperity theology’ has led to manipulation of individuals and events through demonization, deliverance, organized healings and miracles. This type of Christianity destroys religious values and exposes the society to the danger of materialism. Christian Churches should be advocates of empowerment, freedom and dignity instead of victimization of its members. This study argues that authentic Christian witnessing can only be achieved through holistic and proper integration of its teachings into socio-cultural values of its local setting. It insists that religion should enhance good core values and not destroy it. It critically analyses the elemental causes of conflict and violence in Igboland and concludes by making recommendations towards a peaceful society.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgement
  • Table of Contents
  • General Introduction
  • i. Background of the Thesis
  • ii. Statement of the Problem
  • iii. Aim and Purpose of the Work
  • iv. Scope of the Work
  • v. Source and Method of the Research
  • vi. Structure of the Work
  • vii. Necessity of the Work
  • Chapter One: The Explication of Key Terms
  • 1. Conflict
  • 2. Violence
  • 3. Christianity
  • 4. Church
  • 5. Conclusion
  • Chapter Two: View of African Traditional Religions in Nigeria
  • 2.1 The People in the Pre-colonial Era
  • 2.2 African Traditional Religions
  • 2.3 Ethnicity and Religion in Nigeria
  • 2.3.1 The Hausa-Fulani (North)
  • 2.3.2 The Yorubas (West)
  • 2.3.3 The Igbos (East)
  • 2.3.4 The Minority Tribes (Tiv Religion)
  • 2.4 Evaluation and Conclusion
  • Chapter Three: Christian Missionary Strategies in Nigeria
  • 3.1 The Beginning of Christian Missionary Enterprise in Nigeria
  • 3.1.1 The First Missionary Attempt
  • 3.1.2 The Second Missionary Enterprise
  • The Protestant Missions
  • The Protestants’ warning of the Advent of Catholic Missionaries
  • The Roman Catholic Missions
  • The Society of African Mission
  • The Holy Ghost Fathers
  • 3.2 Christian Missionary Strategies in the Pre- and Colonial Eras in Nigeria
  • 3.2.1 Schools and Education Strategies
  • Formal Introduction of Western Education in Igboland
  • Introduction of Boarding Schools
  • The Establishments of High (Secondary) Schools
  • Government Interferences in Mission Schools
  • The Use of Local (Missionaries) Agents
  • The Establishment of ‘Confrontational’ Schools
  • Local Political Influences on School Establishments
  • 3.2.2 Other Humanitarian Services’ Strategies
  • The Slave Method
  • The Option for the Rejected of the Society
  • The Material and Medical Approach
  • The Missionary’s Internal Crises
  • The Conversion of Protestants’ Local Agents
  • The Establishment of Dispensaries and Hospitals
  • 3.2.3 The Use of Organised Propaganda
  • 3.2.4 Attempt for Boundary Demarcation
  • 3.2.5 Agriculture and Plantation Projects
  • 3.2.6 Christian Missionaries and Politics
  • Leadership (Chiefs/Elders) of the People
  • Christian Missionaries and Traditional Religion
  • 3.3 Post-Colonial Christianity in Nigeria
  • 3.3.1 The Traditional Christian Churches
  • 3.3.2 The African Independent Christian Churches (AICC)
  • African Native/Initiated Christian Churches
  • African Indigenous Christian Churches
  • African Zionist Christian Churches
  • 3.3.3 The Pentecostal Churches
  • 3.3.4 Christianity in Conflict with African Traditional Values
  • 3.4 Evaluation and Conclusion
  • Chapter Four: Conflicts and Violence in Christianity
  • 4.1 Conflicts and Violence in various Christian Traditional (Missionary) Churches
  • 4.1.1 Catholic Church
  • 4.1.2 Anglican Church
  • 4.1.3 Methodist Church
  • 4.1.4 Other Traditional Churches
  • 4.2 Conflicts and Violence among Christian Traditional (mainline) Churches
  • 4.3 Conflicts and Violence among African Independent Christian Churches (AICC)
  • 4.4 Conflicts and Violence between Christian Traditional Churches and AICC
  • 4.5 Conflicts and Violence among Pentecostal Churches
  • 4.6 Conflicts and Violence between Traditional and Pentecostal Churches
  • 4.7 Conflict and Violence between AICC and Pentecostal Churches
  • 4.8 Evaluation and Conclusion
  • Chapter Five: Elementary Causes of Conflict and Violence in Christianity
  • 5.1 Church Leadership and Membership
  • 5.2 Doctrinal Differences and Prejudice
  • 5.3 Traditionalism and Fundamentalism
  • 5.4 Pentecostalism
  • 5.5 Fanaticism and Urbanisation
  • 5.6 Evaluation and Conclusion
  • Chapter Six: Christian Conflict and Violence Management Bodies
  • 6.1 Governmental General Approach to Conflict and Violence in Nigeria
  • 6.2 Christianity in Conflict and Violence Managements
  • 6.2.1 Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)
  • 6.2.2 Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN)
  • 6.2.3 Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (CPFN)
  • 6.3 Ecumenism in Nigeria
  • 6.3.1 Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Ecumenism in Nigeria
  • 6.3.2 Problems Associated with Ecumenism in Nigeria
  • 6.3.3 Ecumenical Dialogue in Resolving Christian Conflict and Violence
  • 6.4 Evaluation and Conclusions
  • General Recommendations and Conclusion
  • Bibliography

← 10 | 11 →

General Introduction

i.  Background of the Thesis

Religion has always been implicated in most of the world’s conflicts and violence. At the dawn of the 21st century, the situation has not changed, rather there has been more growing instrumentaliation of religion in the spread of hatred, bitterness, intolerance, conflict and violence of all kinds, especially against adherents of other religions. It is arguable whether this is part and parcel of religion. Admittedly, it is evident that factors other than religion play a large role in instigating and sustaining such acts of inhumanity.1 As this problem ranges between religions, there is evidence that some of these factors exist and perpetuate internal conflicts and violence in different religions. Christianity, as one of the world’s major religions, is not an exception. There is consistent evidence of conflict and violence in its establishment, development and expansion.2

The establishment of Christianity in Nigeria by European missionaries was greeted with mixed feelings, especially in the eastern part. While many welcomed it because of its new religious nuances due to its western origin and culture and the promised civilization, others rejected it based on the same reasons and the system of its establishment.3 However, the inability of the Protestant and Catholic missionaries to foster denominational co-operation among themselves,4 their inability to apply inclusive missionary strategies, their incapability of comprehending the deep religiosity of the people, their failure to establish a Christianity that is anthropologically ← 11 | 12 → enhancing, culturally liberating and religiously fulfilling in the African context, gave birth to the formation of African independent Christian churches.

These African independent churches were prelude to the establishment of Pentecostal Churches with their unique belligerent spirituality. This new kind of spirituality later influenced the entire Christian worldview. The present practice of Christianity exhibits a lot of innovations and new conceptions. There is an abject fusion and mixture of African traditional religious values into Christianity, which is seen as the return of the gods. There is much manipulation, intimidation and negative exploitation of the people’s genuine religiosity by some ‘religious entrepreneurs’ which leaves society befuddled. There is enthronement and applauding of some constitutive aspects of Christianity as the primary basis and essence of faith.5 Such developments depict great danger for Christianity if it not properly addressed.

ii.  Statement of the Problem

In the last few decades, there has been an uncontrollable proliferation of churches and Christian activities. The formation of churches has become like the establishment of companies. In many places the churches are situated in such a way that they confront one another, as for instance, when more than five churches are located on different floors of the same building.6 They are likened to social clubs and ‘spiritual’ houses,7 where a lot of unfathomable activities take place. The formators often claim that they have been ‘arrested’ by God or ‘God-sent’ to deliver society. In the long run, they only enrich themselves and further plunge the people into a more pitiable quagmire. The situation is worsened by the nature of their evangelism leading to the evolution of intolerance, conflict and violence-oriented strategies ← 12 | 13 → like healing, deliverance, prosperity, curse, intimidation and manipulation as a demonstration of ‘spiritual’ powers or an exhibition of spiritual gifts.8

Healing, deliverance and prosperity have not only become the central theme and the propelling evangelical message in the present Christianity, but they have also become the aim of faith in God. They are over-emphasised and propagated as the primary essence of a good Christian life. This has led to the establishment of thousands of healing houses and ministries. In most of these churches, daily ministrations are organised, arranged and executed. In that way every problem, misfortune or negative is demonised and spiritualised. In the process, innocent people, relatives, friends and neighbours are falsely accused of being responsible. This leads to intimidation and forced administration of oath-taking and similar things.

There are also phenomena of ‘family’ or ‘community deliverance’, where families or the entire community is made to believe that their problems have ancestral causal origin. In them, the people are daily meant to understand that they are under bondage and must be delivered and protected as directed by men of God. In the same vein, there are also daily ministrations for prosperity through tithings, donations to the Church and organised testimonies.9 The execution of such programmes has left families and communities manipulated, exploited, embittered and divided. These, among other developments, create within and outside these Churches, the erroneous belief that the ‘end justifies the means’ in Christian spirituality.

With the Pentecostalisation of the mainline Churches, or the strong influence of Pentecostalism in mainline and African independent Churches, Christianity in Igboland became infected with ‘pentecostal spirituality’ in ← 13 | 14 → which materialistic holiness, gospel commercialisation, crossless world views, power structures and immorality are enthroned.10 The development and practice of these have encouraged conflict and violence in Christianity. For instance, equating Christian blessing with material success, affluence, a healthy life, lack of suffering or poverty is tantamount to encouragement of survival of the fittest. This is potentially inimical to Christianity as it affects the core of its religious tenets. Basic Christian teachings like repentance, salvation, endurance and new creation in Christ are short-changed with the above spiritualities.

Consequently, these new Christian world views, new doctrines, new ideologies, new concepts of reality and teachings are fast spreading through hordes of attractive literatures and songs on demonology, deliverance methodologies and prosperity skills. The practice of this form of Christianity has injurious ethical consequences. It has a serious effect on society as the ingredients of normal family life and community activities are gradually destroyed. In this atmosphere alienation reigns as communal solidarity, which is at the centre of peoples’ values and lives, and is gradually being eroded on the platform of Christianity.

iii.  Aim and Purpose of the Work

This research sets out to study the sources of crisis and violence in Christianity. The aim is to find out the cause/s of social conflicts among Christian churches and denominations in Igboland. We wish to critically examine the factors that led to these disingenuous developments in Christianity. To achieve this, we are confronted with these questions: What are the present realities of Christianity in Igboland? What are the fundamental problems that encourage these developments in Christianity? What are the effects of these developments on Christianity as a whole? What ethical implications do these have on the individual as well as on society? Do these developments have pastoral implications? What factors are actually aiding and abetting these developments? To what extent are the Churches perturbed? Are the proposed solutions relevant or part of the problem? These fundamental questions and others are very pertinent. They form an important aspect of ← 14 | 15 → this research work. They seek solutions and propose ideas that could help to reduce or even eliminate sources of confusion, destruction, conflict and violence in society. This work is therefore a contribution towards encouraging better and harmonious human existence among the adherents of different Christian Churches in the world. We addressed this problem from the perspectives of social conflicts among Christians and denominations in Igboland in Nigeria.

iv.  Scope of the Work

The main concentration of this work is conflict in Christianity in Igboland. This work however, will not claim to have covered all the aspects of this conflict and violence. Hence our focus here is on the developmental processes of these new Christian world views and why they are at variance with each other and thus lead to conflicts of different kinds among their adherents. In light of the above concern, this work sets out to examine all the various strategies used by the missionaries (both early and present) in Igboland, the general elemental causes of these religious conflicts and how the Christian Churches and denominations have made concerted efforts to overcome and manage these teething challenges. Our strong belief for setting this limit and the use of this approach is that they contain the embodiment, reality and summation of the present situation of the nature of these conflicts among Christian religions and their social effects in Igboland.

v.  Source and Method of the Research

In order to realise the objective of this research work, we deemed it very pertinent to consult widely, study and investigate the various aspects related to the different topics of this research work. As a follow-up, we made use of the verifiable facts written down by historians of church history in Nigeria, sociologists, anthropologists and above all theologians of different churches and denominations. The inputs of journalists were not left out.

Our methodology for this exposé is historical, analytical expository, comparative and evaluative, since to effectively tackle and realise the objective of this research work, the ideologies of these churches and denominations should be seen, re-presented and analysed in line with the vision of the research. ← 15 | 16 →

vi.  Structure of the Work

This work is structurally divided into six chapters. Chapter one deals with the explanations and analysis of the basic concepts of this project like: Conflict, Violence, Christianity and Church. These analyses give us functional directions. They also lead us to the obvious reality that no human society including Christendom exists without conflicts. However, the inevitability of conflicts is not only a negative phenomenon but also has positive implications. In this chapter, we also address the nature and formation of denominations and Churches in Christianity in eastern Nigeria.

Chapter two will concentrate on the locus of the project: Nigeria. The country is analysed from the viewpoint of traditional religions in the pre-colonial era. These analyses are situated within the background of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, namely: the Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo, together with the ‘Tiv’ representing the minority tribes. We acknowledged in the course of our research that the people were deeply religious before the advent of the Christian missionaries. Each tribe had its own unique system of worship. There were little or no religious conflicts or violence among these traditional religions, since they had no religious influence on each other. But, the contemporary religious situation clearly indicates that although the country has ethnic, social and political problems, the religious differences are the most exploited and abused for egoistic purposes.

While it is not totally adequate to blame the past for the present inadequacies, it is at the same time very difficult to understand the present without at least a good knowledge of the past. Chapter three, therefore, deals with the historical aspect of our work. We will examine the advent of Christianity in Nigeria. The first Christian missionary enterprise in the western part of the country in the 16th century, which was undertaken by the Catholic missionaries, was unfortunately a failure. The second and successful missionary enterprise of the 19th century was propelled by the economic expansion of the industrial revolution and humanitarian exploitation against slave trade. This was initially undertaken by the Protestant society Church Missionary Society (CMS) from London. The Catholic missionaries Congregatio Sancti Spiritus (CSSp) from France, coming into the scene after more than three decades of Protestant monopoly, changed the tempo of the missionaries’ strategies. ← 16 | 17 →

We shall make a comparative analysis of these two main missionary organisations in order to extract and understand their antithetical use of strategies. For instance, in the application of education, there were establishments of schools first before churches, the plantation of ‘confrontational or propaganda’ schools, the use of local agents and the influencing of the people against other missionaries to gain a denominational advantage. There were also humanitarian strategies to attract the targets and especially for the conversion of Christians from other Churches. For instance, the use of the strategy of redeeming slaves; the option for the rejected; medical and material services; bribery and organised propaganda took centre stage.11 The missionaries worked tirelessly first to annihilate the traditional religion and culture and secondly for denominational supremacy. These led to an unfortunate exhibition of antagonistic rivalries, intolerance, conflict and violence in the name of Christianity. Also the missionaries portrayed their national bias against one another.12 An attempt to eliminate these unchristian systems led to the option for missionary boundary demarcation. This as well could not succeed because of the desire for denominational control of the regions. The missionary rivalry and enterprise led to the exhibition of antagonistic strategies of conflict and violence against each other, which, coupled with the attempt at the annihilation of the people’s culture, culminated in avowed reactions which led to the establishment of African Independent Christian Churches.

The people fell prey to the enticement of the new religion, mainly because of enthusiasm and its attached culture of civilisation. Such enthusiasm is displayed in the manner in which the Igbo people embraced education and their quest for medical and material enhancement, which the new religion promised to offer. However, it should be noted that the arrival of this new religion in different forms and the display of divisions among the precursors tore the local people apart. Religious issues which were before now unquestionable axioms, were belittled by the same precursors. The missionary strategies resulted in the implantation of a divided, intolerant, conflict- and violence-oriented Christianity. ← 17 | 18 →

In the post colonial era, Christianity also witnessed aggressive and intolerant strategies between the missionary-established Christian Churches and the newly formed African independent Christian Churches.13 This later synthesised into the emergence of Pentecostalism. The modus vivendi and modus operandi of the African independent and Pentecostal Churches, in relation to those of the missionary-established Churches, intensified the conflicts and violent situations, giving birth to intolerance and an antagonistic form of Christianity. Communities, families and friends became overnight enemies on religious grounds. The conflicts also raged in the people’s lives as they were meant to reject and annihilate their former religious conceptions which gave them identity. This development does not only range across Churches, it also affects the internal organisation of the Churches. Corollary: this resulted in much sectionalism in Churches leading to the splitting and proliferation of Churches. Given this situation, these internal rivalries and conflicts of one church with another or other churches becomes our central focus in the next chapter.

In chapter four we painstakingly examined the spiritual and social situation within the various Christian Churches. We critically analysed the conflicts and violent situations in the different missionary-established Traditional Churches, the African-established Indigenous Christian Churches and the contemporary sprouting Pentecostal Churches. The ugly strained relationship within the various Churches and also in relation with one another, shows the fragile nature of Christianity in Nigeria as a whole and in Igboland in particular. The expansion policies or evangelical strategies or survival tendencies of the missionary days continued unabated or became intensified and more complicated.

We shall also delve into the analysis of the elemental causes of conflicts and violence in Christianity in chapter five. We wish to analyse various factors like leadership and membership roles and their contributions toward conflict and violence in Churches. We intend to make an expository analysis of over-zealous activities and the lack of collaboration among the Church leaders in order to make evangelical gains, and how these affected ← 18 | 19 → the Church members and strained the spiritual-social functionality of the Church in relationship with values, which led to splits. The causes of divisions in Churches are often not based on doctrinal differences, but on prejudices and hidden motives other than spiritual convictions. We also analysed the basic dangers of traditionalism, fundamentalism, pentecostalism, urbanisation and fanaticism in Christianity. Churches are often conceived and established based on unchristian principles and spurious claims.14

While observing the big role which over-zealousness, poverty, ignorance, intimidations and manipulations play in fuelling these extreme religious tendencies, we identified the many dangers of inauthenticity in the Christian religion. The course of this research leads us to the exposition of the effects of conflicts and violence-oriented theologies, whereby Christians glory in the misfortune of others. There seems to be a widespread wrong perception of Christianity based on material and social grounds, because of the effects of mundane world views like prosperity.15 Christianity is understood from material gains, and based on these, Christians are often manipulated and exploited. Christianity in the proliferation of Churches seems to be the best booming industry in the country. The people are getting poorer and religious leaders or ‘Church founders’ are getting wealthier.16


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (June)
Christianity Missionary-Strategy Pentecostalism Ecumenism
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 284 pp.

Biographical notes

Damian Emeka Ikejiama (Author)

Damian Emeka Ikejiama is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Okigwe in Nigeria. His academic background is in Philosophy and Theology. His research focuses on Social Ethics.


Title: Social Conflicts and Violence among Christian Churches and Denominations in Igboland