A re-examination of African traditional religion: A comparison between the spirituality of the Igbo people and St. Francis of Assisi

Godfrey Anyaka, Fordham University


This dissertation studies the spirituality of the Igbo people as a form of African traditional religion as well as the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi. It compares both spiritual experiences in order to locate the Igbo spirituality among the world religions and to determine the capacity of Igbo spirituality to provide an adequate substratum for Christian religion and for the inculturation of Christian theology in Igboland. This study examines systematically Francis' love of nature and the Igbo people's belief system which expresses itself in love of nature. It, further, uses insights from the theology of St. Bonaventure, the interpreter of St. Francis' spiritual experiences, to examine the Igbo spirituality. It explores Francis' vision of the six-winged Seraph at Mount La Verna, as interpreted by St. Bonaventure, to articulate the Igbo people's spiritual journey which starts from the material world. This dissertation also compares the "dibia" among the Igbos with St. Francis in the areas of vision, healing and teaching. The study bases its reflection about the Igbo people's spirituality on the previous works of some authors and on the personal experience of the writer, born and raised among the people. It bases its reflection about St. Francis on his life history according to Celano and St. Bonaventure whose other works has given Francis' spiritual experiences a metaphysical grounding. The study discovers that the Igbo people, like St. Francis, recognize the reflection of God in the material world and the presence of God in the soul as well as the belief in one God. The dissertation, therefore, blames certain factors that impeded inculturation theology in mission lands on the Church as well as on the colonizers and urges efforts towards it because a gospel which ignores the way of life of a people will not address real people. Further, in the conclusion, the dissertation considers the developments in the world and notes that the era of divergence is giving way to the era of convergence. In this era different religions or cultures are likely to recognize a common center in their spiritual journey.

Subject Area

Religion|Cultural anthropology

Recommended Citation

Anyaka, Godfrey, "A re-examination of African traditional religion: A comparison between the spirituality of the Igbo people and St. Francis of Assisi" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9025011.