|dc.description.abstract||The aim of my research project is to give a theological reflection on the practice of initiation rites within Masasi district, in south-east Tanzania. While initiation remains a very significant tradition among the Yao, Makonde and Makua tribes in Masasi, the ancestral cult and the content of sex related education in these rites have presented challenges to the Christian communities. Some Christians do not feel comfortable with the inclusion of the ancestor cult since this does not immediately seem to agree with Christian doctrine. There is also a general acknowledgment that the rites could be partly responsible for the premature involvement in sexual activity
by young people. In the past theological attempts were made to Christianise Masasi initiation rites with the hope of addressing these two issues highlighted above. This approach had its difficulties and limitations since not all communities in Masasi villages are Christian and since religious diversity has to be respected. Furthermore, in areas where Christianisation has been put into effect, not much change has been recorded with regards to the two main problems noted above. Christianisation simply touched on the form but did not influence the content of rites. Other theologies, especially in missionary circles, viewed initiation as an antithesis of Christianity, a view which undoubtedly discouraged constructive Christian dialogue with the practice. African theologians on the other hand seem not to have produced much systematised treatments on the subject of rites which otherwise would have been useful materials to various African Christian communities. As a result of these and other inadequacies we have a problem as far as what should be done to have the Christian faith inform the processes within the rites of passage. What kind of theology will respect the culture and yet uphold teachings of the biblical tradition in
addressing cultural initiation? In this project I am proposing a theology of
‘inculturation and transformation’ to address the impasse described above.
Inculturation “describes the process of integration of the faith and life of the church in a given culture” (Pobee 1992:35). The aim of inculturation is to express the Christian faith in a culturally relevant manner so as to transform the culture. Initiation rites will be made to engage with the Christian theology in such a way that the precepts of biblical theology will be applied to rites with a view to moulding those aspects of rites that are not consistent with the teachings of the Bible. The good elements already found in these rites will be maintained. The goal of inculturation is not to
destroy the rites but to present the rites “in a far more perfect way on an essentially different and infinitely higher level” (Nyamiti 1971:6). Through inculturation the underlying cultural worldview behind rites is taken into account. Inculturationtransformation theology aims at addressing the inner levels of culture. For this to happen the Gospel has to go in-culture and mould it from within.September 2009||en_US