(Bishop of Fort Portal, Uganda)
Inculturation is a culture appropriated in terms of its own cultural matrices. It means the insertion of Christian faith into a culture, generally outside the Western Judaeo-Christian context and that culture's response to the Christian message (Instrumentum Laboris, 49).
St Paul was a champion of inculturation as Christianity sought enfleshment in different ethnic groups with cultural practices and laws.
The Second Vatican Council vigorously reaffirmed the validity and urgency of the Church's incarnational approach to all peoples. Such a process demands serious research. These are basic principles on which to base research:
a) A deep understanding of Christianity and the local culture.
b) To conscientise the whole Christian community and to seek its total involvement.
c) It should respect the central doctrines of unity and necessary communion between the particular and universal Church.
d) Diffusion of ideas and openness to others: attention to be given to current socio-cultural problems.
Values which need to be deepened
- supernatural life given through baptism that makes Christians share in the divine life. There is need to distinguish these from purely human values.
- Christian love and its implications: love of one's enemies.
- the seeds of the Word "vestigia verbi" (AG 11, AG 17). Because of human sinfulness, deviation from God's will is inevitable which develops negative values. Research is essential in those elements which must be purified, replaced, rejected or incorporated in Christianity.
Fields of research
These are innumerable:
- oral tradition as suggested in chapter V of the Instrumentum Laboris, proverbs, etc.
- the spiritual universe, Christian spirits range from angels to devils.
- African spirits, supreme spirits, ancestors, living dead and nature spirits can enrich each other. Research work could concentrate on how two worlds can be integrated.
- The spiritual world is another focus of research: Rituals and symbolism will deepen the meaning and decipher which are to be retained or dropped.
The research into symbols is essential to interpret the supernatural world, not only the one outside us but also the one inside us through the sanctifying grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Keeping in mind the love of Africans for rituals, it is important that their meaning interiorises the values involved.
1) It is an open interdisciplinary process involving experts from within the community and beyond.
2) It should involve the community.
3) Co-ordination from the small Christian community to national level is essential with a centre to monitor all the proceedings and conclusions.
4) Professional dedicated and committed experts must be entrusted with this ministry, supported by all means possible and available.
Original text: English