Have you tried to correct something that was wrongly taught or explained? Let take the example of a song that was initially taught to a choir without following the music notes. Or correcting the pronunciation of some words which were taught wrongly. It is always a difficult task. In our mission in Simanjiro, the people were either taught wrongly the precepts of the Christian faith or they understood it wrongly.
In the parish that covers more than 6000 square kilometers and comprising of over 20 villages, we have more than 10,000 baptized Christians. However, more than 90% of men are polygamous. These and their wives were baptized and given other sacraments including the Holy Communion but they did not bless their marriages.
For many decades these people became comfortable with their Christian identity and thought that they were ok. Coming to Change that misconception or rather misrepresentation of the Christian faith is not an easy task at all. It is like trying to unteach what has been the norm for decades and replace it with something that seems impossible.
When someone in authority misguides the population, it is very difficult for someone else in the same authority to correct the mistake. One needs a lot of courage, patience, and consistency to convince the people that the new teaching is the right one. This is our greatest task in the mission with the Maasai pastoralist community who accepted the Christian baptism yet remained polygamous for decades.
It is not justice for the Church to require those with many wives to abandon them and get married to only one. Many are already old. in addition, women in the Maasai Culture are not allowed to remarry when their husbands die or abandon them even if they are young. They are either inherited by the next of kin or live under the shadow of their late
The best remedy is, to tell the truth to them and phase out the polygamous generation without making them feel rejected. One needs to get the elderly polygamous generation to come on board and help do things the right way. They need to understand why it is not right to get married to more than one wife. Actually, in the Maasai traditions, though men marry many wives, the wedding ceremony is only performed with the first wife. The rest are brought in without any ceremonies and are aids to the first wife. During serious cultural rites and ceremonies, it is the first wife who has recognition. This tells that polygamous was established upon social-economical reasons which are not necessarily inherent in the initial way of life of the Maasai People.
As we open new communities in the interior villages, we are doing our best to make sure that this time we tell the truth about our Christian faith and values and give the people the liberty to choose whether it suits them or not. Luring people with gifts to fill the churches and fearing to offend their feelings when teaching matters of faith is a big blunder in the entire missionary mandate of the Church. In the Gospel of John 6: 60-69, many followers of Jesus turned back because his teachings about the bread of life seemed very hard for them to assimilate. In Verse 67, Jesus asks his apostles if they too wanted to leave.
The Gospel message cannot be preached by coax or sweet-talking. People need to know the truth so that they have options from which to choose. When the truth is concealed because of any reason, People are denied a chance to make an informed decision. Many people have abandoned their faith in different parts of the world because for some reason they were not taught the truth. It is our missionary responsibility to let people know what Jesus teaches them and let the growth in the Holy Spirit work slowly on their conscience. Everyone deserves to know the truth no matter the circumstances of his or her life.
Fr, Lawrence Muthee, SVD