23 Mar 2015
Moral values can be said to be the ideals of good and evil, which oversees a person's deeds and choices. Individual's morals can be drawn from society and government, from religious conviction, or self. Moral values can also be defined as generally accepted, empathetic, caring, Christ-like philosophy. The bible states that good moral values can be observed in the ideology and manner of behavior taught by Jesus. It seems just to tie the definition of moral values to what is right and what is wrong conduct held by individuals.
Morality denotes a coordination of behavior that distinguishes intent, choices, and events between those that are right or wrong. Immorality is the reverse of morality.
According to Mbiti (1990), the African is notoriously and incurably religious. Hence a conclusion can be drawn that African morals are elaborately entwined with culture (African) which is greatly dosed with spiritual beliefs. Consequently in order to comprehend the African moral values, an outline of African religion and culture is necessary.
Culture refers to the following ways of life, including but not limited to:
Art and Sciences
African Traditional Religion (ATR) has proved to be extremely complex to define. There is no single easy and accurate definition to explain it. Sadly, many writers have misunderstood ATR by attempting to define it under deceptive terms such as magic, superstitions, primitive religion, paganism etc. The struggle to describe ATR seems to come from the fact that its propagation is carried out by living it other than preaching it. Its supporters are more preoccupied with its practice than with its theory. ATR influence wraps all aspects of life, from before the birth of a person to long after s/he has passed away. It is a way of life and life is at its core. Thus comments such as: For the African, religion is factually life and life is religion. Mbiti offers a summary of where to search for and locate ATR: belief and customs; rituals, ceremonies and festivals; shrines, sacred places and religious objects; art and symbols; names of people and places; music and dance; myths and legends; proverbs, riddles and wise sayings.
The beliefs and practices of ATR are based upon the faith of the old native people (Ancestors). This is the reason why it is said to be traditional in contrast to other religions, e.g. Christianity and Islam, which are considered as foreign since their dogma and practices came from outside of Africa. There has been considerable awareness of the dialogue between Christian and African Religion. This has been made possible through ways such as bible translation. African moral values can complement Christian moral values through the spirit of interreligious tolerance, dialogue and mutual respect. Also, Christian spirituality is greatly shaped by spirituality of African religion. Praying unites Africans and Europeans (West) at a spiritual level.
Intellectuals who study religion in Africa inform us that every African society have a belief in God. Some African religions have faith in one supreme God who formed the world and all that is in the world. Other African religions have faith in more than one God; nevertheless even in these religions, typically one of the Gods is said to be the supreme God who created the world. The way God is seen in most African religions is both alike and dissimilar than the way monotheistic religions characterize God for example Christianity. It teaches that there exists only one God. African religion can complement Christian moral values by sharing concepts about God for example; God maintains creation, God is the creator of everything, God provides for and guard's creation, God is omnipotent and omniscient, God supports fairness. The supernatural is also significant to African religious belief. Spirits exists between an all- powerful God and humans. Spirits in African religious traditions share a number of characteristics with angels in the Christian traditions. Good spirits assist in shielding against ill health and misfortune and aid humans by offering rain required for crops as well as animals used for food. On the other hand, not all spirits are good. Some are viewed as evil and are thought to be the responsible for illness, and other.
One African proverb puts across the African sense of community. It says "Go the way that many people go; if you go alone, you will have reason to lament". The African thought of security and its value depends on personal identification with and inside the community. For that reason, the authentic African is identified and known, by and through his community. The community is the guardian of the individual; therefore we must go where the community goes. In another meaning, the community offers the African the psychological and decisive security as it gives its members both physical and ideological identity. It must be mentioned that in the African way of thinking, the community as an entity remains, while persons, come and go. As a result, the Africans stress community life and communalism as a living principle of which the fundamental ideology is community-identity. Its goal is to produce and present an individual as a community-culture bearer. Culture is a community asset and must therefore be community-protected. In addition, the individual in an African community is under the clan's care. His individuality is not given emphasis at the expense of his community identity. This is the reason why individualism, as a dogma and code of life, is not encouraged in Africa. The social principles spelt out above are expression of African humanism.
According to Lambo (127), the African man is first and foremost a member of his family, the extended family, the community and his society in that order before being an individual. Compared to the West's individualism, the African man has a social and communal nature. The African culture can complement with the Western culture by integrating individualism with the communal nature of life.
Sense of hospitality is innately crucial in the present survival of African values. At all times, there is always unprompted welcome and accommodation to unfamiliar persons and visitors. Africans effortlessly incorporate strangers and offer them lands to settle hoping that they would leave one day, and the land would be returned to the owner. This is usually carried out with the conviction that one will never opt out of his own community. Unlike the West, no appointment and special invitation are required for one to call on a distant family member or neighbor. On arrival, when there is food the visitor is invited to dine. He is handled kindly, just as one would want to be treated when visiting another home. Africans possess a symbolic way of showing welcome. This is done in a variety of ways for example; in forms of presentation of coconuts, kola nuts, traditional brew, groundnuts etc. in different communities. These are offered to demonstrate that he is welcome and safe. Onwubiko has observed that "a guest must not harm his host and that when he departs, he should not develop a hunch back on the way home". (Onwubiko, 23). This social value can complement Christian moral values to enhance integrity among Africans. The bible says that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. By integrating these values into Christianity, uprightness is enhanced among Africans.
For there to be growth and development, African value system must be promoted by the leadership. Falling into or imitating Wstern values will only wreck humanity as they are strange to the philosophy of humanism which is the basis of the African value system.
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