A STUDY ON THE CHURCH AS GOD’S FAMILY IN RELATION TO THE CHEWA TRADITIONAL PRACTICE OF NYAU IN CENTRAL MALAWI
This dissertation seeks to explore the Roman Catholic Church’s understanding of itself as the Family of God2 in Africa taken after the example of a traditional African understanding of family. The study highlights the nature of the traditional African family as a spiritual reality where the members are said to live their family life under spiritual influence – the acknowledgment of God and communion with the ancestors in their dayto-today life experience. Furthermore, the study values the nature of Nyau in placating the ancestors as a sacred phenomenon that ushers the Chewa people into the sacred presence of God. This understanding of Nyau and the traditional Africa family of the Chewa people will be studied comparatively with the Roman Catholic Church’s understanding of God’s family as meaning a people gathered in the presence of God and in communion with the saints. The dissertation reflects first on how Nyau can be considered as fundamental to the Chewa people’s understanding of themselves as God’s family. Second, the dissertation reflects on how Nyau can be said to influence the Roman Catholic Church’s understanding of the Chewa people’s experience of God. Thirdly, the dissertation reflects on how the traditional practice of Nyau can be seen as a Christian practice. And finally, the dissertation argues that the Roman Catholic Church, in being the Family of God, is indeed in the same Family of God together with Nyau. This understanding of the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and Nyau has been explored against the background of conflicting relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Nyau. It has been acknowledged that the Roman Catholic Church has moved from an era influenced, in its negative position on Nyau, by the scientific theory of evolution, the impact of western civilization and the theological maxim that no salvation can be found outside the Roman Catholic Church. The dissertation notes that the influence of western civilization on the Roman Catholic Church has not stopped – i.e. the Roman Catholic Church’s new evangelization is using still using the western form of civilization. The prevalence of western civilization has bearing on Roman Catholic Church’s efforts on inculturation and mission in Africa and still stands a challenge to dialogue between Nyau and the Roman Catholic Church in our contemporary time. However, the dissertation holds that the traditional practice of Nyau cannot be treated as an isolated item in the well-being of the Chewa converts to Catholicism in Central Malawi.