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Ala di Mma in Umuohiagu

An Igbo Concept of Reconciliation and Peace

Gerald Njoku

Among other relevant issues, this book adds new insights to the proposed Igbo Christian rites of reconciliation. Towards an inculturation, the resolutional equations of the Igbo cultural method of reconciliation – oriko in ala di mma – are balanced with the sacrament of reconciliation in operational life of the people who are pastorally concerned. In this context, the author refers to the Owerri archdiocesan working document on emume nsacha na ndozi, meaning a ritual of purification and peace, as well as to the Igbo Christian rite of reconciliation proposed by Augustine Echema. The method of these new rites is para-liturgical in nature which highlights the importance of reconciliation of human beings with themselves, their neighbours and God, whenever sin has taken place. Paradoxically, this new method of reconciliation can broaden ecumenism and strengthens the social, cultural, political and religious lives of the people. In this sense, reconciliation can be seen as a natural spiritual cord that ties people to themselves and to God in a communal and Christian environment.
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In the Igbo traditional religion the earth or land is regarded as something very sacred: It is for this reason that Imeru ala, the defilement of the earth or land constitutes a very serious transgression which necessarily requires an appeasement or ikwala ala. It is also believed that whoever refuses to appease the land after a defilement should be ready to bear the consequences in any form or shape. All this has a resemblance with the Christian doctrine of sin, punishment and forgiveness.

The author goes into details to describe the role of Ala-dimma as a means of ensuring security, orderliness and righteousness in the traditional Igbo society.

Reconciliation is singled out as a means of making amends for whatever did not comform with good conduct and straight-forwardness in the past.

Oriko, the act of sharing food and drinks, is also mentioned as the apex of the reconciliation ceremony which projects the spirit of sharing, solidarity, unity and love. This has a resemblance with the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation in the Catholic Church.

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