Over the past two decades the family life and institution have come under serious threats and attacks by the same ideologies that sought to destroy Faith in God in the wake of the so-called Enlightenment.
The Church which has been at the forefront of defending the sacredness and inviolability of human life from womb to tomb, has also been the great protector of the sanctity of the Family institution.
The Church herself has come under serious attacks based on her persistence and consistency in the protection of the divine institution of marriage and family life against the waves of contemporary and post-modern ideologies.
Individualism, Egoism and what Martin Buber calls ‘I – alonism’ has now been globalised and from its origin in the far West has found its way down into Africa for instance.
Naturally, the African Family system gives no room for ONLY “I”, “Me”, “Myself”, “My Nuclear Family” etc. A typical African Family is not made up of only Father, Mother and Children but also include Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, Cousins, Nephews, Nieces, In-laws etc. It is a communal system that helps safeguard and brings to consciousness the family collective values and moral systems.
Over the years, what has happened to this Family system and how can we restore its former beauty? “I am because we are” is naturally the African Family Mentality. I invite you to think about what has gone wrong in our various families in this Holy week and see how we can restore its glory. Destruction of the Family is destruction of the human (collective and individual) patrimony.
In a typically African Family Value system, pre-marital and extra-marital sexual intercourse was an abomination; abortion was unspeakable, pregnancy out of wedlock was never acceptable, same-sex madness never existed and inconceivable. Killing a brother or relative was an abomination as waging war with an in-law. Dressing naked, tattered or shabby looks were not accepted. Grandchildren were priceless and always welcome to their motherland, strangers were welcome and treated with the best hospitality. Family quarrels were settled in the family meetings and not in lawsuits. Children were taught virtues both by words and examples. Although few families were separated along the lines of Faith and Religion, moral principles were the same. Respect, love, obedience, modesty and courage were some of the key family virtues. Helping each other was not a matter of convenience but an obligation. This list is endless. Although, we may not be able to recover the already lost ideals, we have so much to learn from the family moral value system. We will be better of if we can recover only 50% of them.
Ette Norbert Okon, my grandfather of blessed memory always advised: “To be happy in life, respect the customs of grandchildren, Relatives and in-laws” – Nim mbet Ayeyen, Iman ye Ukod.
If you feel you weren’t treated well by your in-laws, uncles and aunts as is always the stories making round these days, you have a challenge to be a better in-law, Uncle or Aunt yourself. Together we can save the African Family and value system from collapse… The Family is our identity. The Church is God’s Family… and we are all sons and daughters of One God and Father…