The Social Impact of Western Christianity on Marakwet Traditional Funeral Rites
This paper investigates the adopted, abandoned and retained funeral rituals by Marakwet people as a result of contact with western missionaries in the 1930s. This is based on the fact that Christianity clothed with western cultures had misconceptions about Marakwet cultural rites and the bearers of the Christian message saw themselves as having the role of bringing the Marakwet out of what they considered backward cultures. The study area is in Elgeyo Marakwet County, Marakwet West Sub-County, Moiben/Kuserwo Sub-Location in Yemit and Jemunada Locations. The paper was compelled by the persistent problems faced by Marakwet Christians in their attempt to be Christian and Marakwet simultaneously. This raises the question of whether it is necessary to discard one's cultural background in order to be a Christian. This in turn raises the question of whether one can be a true Christian and remain a true Marakwet. This paper highlights the Marakwets’ interaction with missionaries and their cultural traditions relating to funeral rituals before the arrival of western Christianity. The impacts of western Christianity on Marakwet funeral rites are explored to bring out the interaction of two cultures for mutual enrichment. Descriptive design was used in this qualitative research and purposive sampling was used at two levels; first to identify African Inland Churches (A.I.C) established in the area and two; to identify traditional religious specialists who are converted members of A.I.C. Other informants were identified by snowballing through the church pastors. Tools of data collection included interviews, observation and focus group discussions. Data was analyzed qualitatively. The findings revealed that western Christianity, coupled with other factors like westernization, have played a major role in changing Marakwet funeral rites in Marakwet West Sub-County. These changes include; the abandonment of some ritual; burying barren corps in middle of forests, dumping and killing deformed children. Others were incorporated and merged to the Marakwet culture include; cleansing, cursing of murder, memorial service (keam kindo), corpse cleansing and handling of the dead. However, some Marakwet traditional rituals retained include; night rituals, marrying the corpse and consulting the dead. This paper recommends integration of Marakwet death rituals into Christian rituals because they provide solutions to some cultural death problems.
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