THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF EASTERN AFRICA
GHISLAIN INAI, SMA
SALVATION IN ATR
Could the Mask of the Guere People be Seen as a Means of Salvation for Them?
Rev. Dr. Fernando Domingues, M.C.C.J.
An Essay Submitted in Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements for the Baccalaureate in Theology
To my “Sweet” Mother, Inaï Flyer Banseï Marthe, my Dad Inaï Gabriel, in loving memory of Séa Joséphine and Séa Anne-Marie, also to all my sisters: Juliette, Agnes, Virginie, Hortense, Agathe and Edwige this work is dedicated.
When many people have been helpful to some one and the person has to tell them how grateful he/she is for their help, but cannot mention all of them individually, there is a story told to say thanks to every one.
“There is this type of lizard with red head and black body. It likes climbing walls and goes even on the top of roofs. What happens sometimes is that the reptile loses balance and falls on its stomach to the ground. When it falls, it looks to its right and sees some people. Then looks to its left and sees more people. It also looks at people in front and then at those behind. By this, it wants to be sure that the people present have noticed how it, the Lizard, is a brave creature.
Some of the people present may have seen the event and others may not. In any case, there is often no sign of appreciation from the crowd. So the Lizard decides then to knock down its head and says to itself ‘Well! I have done well’, and then runs back to the wall to climb it again.”
This story is to say that many people’s efforts need to be acknowledged here, but only, a few will be mentioned. So those who will not figure among those named should also know that they have not been forgotten. Should they think so, the attitude of the Lizard in the story should be theirs, and they should thank themselves for their support.
The writing of this essay, in one way or another, was made possible by many people. I shall mention but a few. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to my friends O’Brien Jeannie, Juliet C. Sakwa, Kone Rokia, Kone Lucie and Francis Kabore.
My thanks also go to the SMA Students of Nairobi who have supported me in this investigation and I am grateful for that.
My gratitude also goes to Pascal and Larissa Paroiëlle, Cécile and Koffi Kouamé the family that accepted to represent my parents during my stay here in Nairobi. I am also grateful to Mr. and Mrs Bah, the Inaï and Flyer. Thanks also to Jean-Camille, Zréwon Michel, Paterson, Thomas, Mman Djaï and a special thought for Mman Tao Josephine.
I would also like to thank the formation team of Nairobi Fr. Hugh, Fr. ‘Yalo’ who was a ‘Big Brother’ to me and especially Fr. Cornelius Murphy who helped me with mastery of the Queen’s English.
I cannot forget the priests who have welcomed me into their parishes for mission experience. I would like to mention in a particular way Frs. H. J. Daudé, SMA, who made me discover the SMA, J. Haverty, SMA, with whom I did my ‘Stage’ in Kachia, Nigeria, John Dune, SMA and F. Hevi and A. Bikini, SMA with whom I did my ‘Diakonia’ in Nairobi.
A special thanks to Fr. Fernando Domingues, MCCJ and through him to all the Tangaza College staff. I did “drink” from the spring of their knowledge and experience.
Above all, am very grateful to my Triune God who has called me to serve Him. May this God who sent us the Saviour par excellence, Jesus-Christ, Bless us all.
I, the undersigned, declare that this essay is the result of my personal reflection, reading, scientific research, and critical analysis of sources. It is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Ecclesiastical Degree of Baccalaureate in Theology. This work has never before been submitted for academic credit to any other college or university. All sources have been quoted in full and acknowledged.
Name of Student: Inaï Ghislain, SMA.
Date: 03 February 2004
This essay has been submitted for examination with my approval as the college supervisor.
Name of Supervisor: Fr. Fernando Domingues, MCCJ.
Date: 02 February 2004
When a child, there used to be “Festivals of Masks” in Tinhou, some which we attended. This festival has a double function. The first one, which is the obvious one, is to express delight about the year that is finishing and the second is to give thanks to God for all He has done for the village over the year. The reasons for which the village thanked God varied from one family to another, but the common ones were good harvest, less deceased members of the village and above all, to get into contact with Gnonsoa, who is represented by the Mask. It is interesting to note that in western Cote d’Ivoire, and probably in other parts of the world, Masks are associated with ceremonies like funeral customs, fertility rites, curing of sickness, and festive occasions.
The rejoicing aspect is experienced through the whole liturgy of the festival, which includes songs from a given group of women, beating of drums by a specialist and the dancing of the Mask. After two weeks of celebrations, nan lan di are slaughtered for sacrifice and consumption. On the very last day of the ceremony, the oldest Mask does the libation on the public place of the village, and prays for a successful year ahead. With the mud collected from the libation place, the villagers make some marks on their foreheads as a sign of Pongne. This act is done while one expresses his/her personal intentions silently. It is also interesting to notice that it is the only time when people are allowed to look into the face of the Mask. Before that, one’s eyes were not supposed to meet those of the Mask because the Mask is a supreme being and because of this, the human person owns him respect.
More than twenty years after our childhood, here we are in Tangaza College Nairobi, reading theology. At the end of these studies, we would like to bring our little contribution to the building of the edifice of an African Christian Theology. In this investigation, we would like to deal with Salvation in ATR with particular reference to the Ceremony of Mask among the Guere people of Western Cote d’Ivoire. More precisely, we wish to focus on how the Guere people could have experienced Salvation through their Masks.
Masks represent supernatural beings and as a matter of fact, are considered to be means of contact with various spiritual powers in order to protect the clan or the village against evil situations such as famine, plagues, failure in war etc.
As theology is defined as “faith seeking understanding” and “discourse on God and anything related to God”, we would like to discourse on a specific belief of the Guere people and how that belief can be related to our Christian faith in God. We know that this enterprise will not be easy, but we are interested in this topic and would like to do some research on it.
It is undeniable that one of the burning issues in theology today is the question of knowing how do people experience God in religions other than Christianity. In addition to this, we have the controversial topic of Salvation in these other religions. Whether such Salvation is possible engrosses many theologians today too.
It is usual that when one goes to the Nairobi City Centre, he/she encounters some people who claim to be saved and would like to know if their interlocutor is also saved or not. Statements such as “my name is N, I was saved since 1985 by Jesus my personal Saviour. How about you?” This is a relevant question that needs an answer from each and every one of us. So the question that comes to mind is, what could the answer of the ATR adherents be? Apparently, members of non-Christian religions have no personal encounter with Christ, so who could be their saviour?
Our brothers and sisters from other churches, and probably some Catholics also, often tend to demonise ATR, its practices and adherents. This could be due to the missionary mentality of old which believed that all African religions and religious practices were evil, if at all they existed. Some of the philosophers and anthropologists said that Africans had no religions. Investigating this latter statement would seem like beating a dead horse. However, it is important to know that this statement, some would think, had shaped the missionary mentality of old. For example, “[Christians] have too, often (…) seen their mission narrowly as persuading or reinforcing their particular religion, sometimes even to the extent of imposing it on others.”
How could an ATR adherent answer the question, “Are you saved?” To find an answer to this question is a real puzzle.
While as an individual this question arises, we believe that it could also be the case for the millions of ATR followers. Consequently, we would like to try and find an answer to the question whether or not there is Salvation in ATR with special reference to the Guere people of West Africa and their Masks. Precisely, we would like to know whether or not the Mask could be seen by us Christians as a means of Salvation for the Guere people. This also means that we are going to highlight the religious function of the Mask. How are we going to reach this goal?
To achieve our target, we have divided this work into five parts including the introduction and the conclusion. In this introduction, we will try to give the definitions of some key terms such as ATR, Mask and Salvation, terms which we are going to use throughout this investigation. By this, we want to be sure that there is a clear understanding of these concepts should any reader come across this essay.
After the definition of those concepts, we will present briefly the Guere people. Perhaps, a chapter should have been reserved for them, but since this paper is not an anthropological or ethnological study, we decided to mention them in the introduction so that the reader will have a succinct idea about this group of people.
In the second chapter, we will try to see how ATR members, specially the Guere people could experience Salvation. Also, we would like to see if the presence of the Mask could be seen as a divine presence. For us to be able to answer this question, we will tell a story that portrays how the Mask came into the lives of these people.
In the third chapter, we will examine what the Catholic Church says about Salvation in other religions. Before reaching that point, we will have presented the view of some theologians on the matter.
Our fourth chapter will deal with some propositions on the relationship of Christians with ATR, particularly the Guere people and their Mask. Also, we shall try to look at the possibility of using some elements of these peoples’ religion in our Catholic liturgy.
It is after these four parts that we will be able to draw the conclusion which will contain an attempted answer to the question that stimulated this investigation. In other words, the conclusion will contain a tentative answer to the question whether or not the Masks of the Guere people could be seen by Christians as a means of Salvation for them.
This is any traditional religion which originated in Africa. Usually, followers of these religions have “belief in a Supreme Being, the Creator and Father of all that exists; belief in the ancestors and spirits; belief in two worlds, the visible and invisible, their interaction, their community and hierarchical character, the way of celebrating.” In ATR, God is not absent from ordinary life. God is neither abstract, indifferent nor solitary. God is a being of relationships whose actions in the history of humanity and the universe pass through the spirits that take care of daily life.
The Mask that we are talking about here is not that likeness of a person’s face or that of an animal made either in clay, wax or wood to conceal the faces of people during a masked ball. What we are talking about here is a human person dressed in a costume. This costume is believed to make a new being out of the person that wears it. This new being is imbued with symbolism and ascribed spiritual powers.
According to Nilson, Salvation is “the condition of the ultimate restoration of fulfilment of humanity and all creation effected by God’s action in Jesus-Christ through the Holy Spirit.” Christian tradition says that human capability alone cannot bring about the needed reconciliation and restoration. Only God can do so. The CCC is more categorical “Salvation comes from God alone.”
There are two ways of understanding Salvation in ATR. On one hand some ATR adherents consider a saved person one who lives life in its fullness in this present life. Salvation is concerned with people’s present life. It is something of the present reality. Krong says:
One can describe African religion as a this-worldly religion of salvation that promises well-being and wholeness here and now. It is a religion that affirms life and celebrates life in its fullness; this accounts for the lively and celebrative mood that characterizes African worship in all its manifestations.
On the other hand, some other adherents of ATR believe that Salvation is the fact that one lives in the community of the Ancestors after one’s death. It means that one becomes an Ancestor too after death.
The Guere or Wè also known, as Wègnon, is an ethnic group found in West Africa, precisely in eastern Liberia and western Côte d’Ivoire, an area of rain forest. In comparison with other African people, we can say that this group has not been studied a lot. They live principally by agriculture and hunting. These people uphold their ancient tribal customs against Islam and Christianity, although recently the Christian faith has been spreading among them. “Their cosmology is quite complicated,” says Kovach.
Having presented the state of the problem that led us to embark on this investigation, we tried to present what the objective of this investigation is. Now, how we were going to tackle the problem? In other words, we presented our methodology of work and then we gave the definitions of some terms so that the reader will be informed on the meaning of the concepts that we are using. In the process of giving the definitions, we presented the Guere people including where they are found. And now we would like to tackle our next chapter, which consists of studying a possible experience of Salvation in an African Traditional Religion: the Guere people and their Mask.
A pastoral letter of the late Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga, former Archbishop of Nairobi, concerning salvation was published as an appendix in the book written by P.N. Wachege. This letter was a response to some Christians who criticised his homily of Easter Sunday at the Holy Family Cathedral in the year 1993. What His Eminence said in his homily was not reported in this book. However, in the response to his detractors, the Cardinal did say: “If you are asked: ‘Are you saved?’ answer in this way, ‘Yes I have been saved. Through faith and baptism, I have received forgiveness: I am a new creature and I share in the new life. I have the firm hope of heaven (…) see Phil 3:12-16” This answer provokes a question: What could be the answer of the people who are not Christians? This part of the essay will not aim at helping the followers of African Traditional Religions to answer the question whether they are saved or not. It will rather be presenting how some elements in the African Traditional Religion could be means of salvation for its followers for indeed, “a study of the beliefs and practices of the African peoples leads to the theological observation that African traditional religion is a religion of Salvation and wholeness.” We shall be more specific by referring to the Guere people and their Mask. In order to help us reach our objective, a story will be told. This story will show the salvific role played by the Mask in the life of the Guere people.
Because African Traditional Religions are usually handed down orally from one generation to the next, we would like to write a story that was told by an elderly person from the village Tinhou. This story portrays the role of the Mask in the life of the Guere people and to an extent how it is experienced as a means of salvation for them.
Way, way back, there was a small village called Tinhou. This village had something particular that no other village had ever had. That particularity is that all the living beings were living together. All kinds of animals were living together with humans. All trees were covering the grasses that could not bear the sunshine. A river called Kinniwen was flowing through the village and made sure that it gave itself to the trees so that they grow to cover more grass. All animals went to quench their thirst from Kinniwen and so did the human beings. Children were running naked all over the village and the human baby could breastfeed on any animal that was around, should its mother go to fetch some water or some firewood. There was peace and harmony, rejoicing and happiness. There was neither sound of weeping nor of crying.
Life expectancy in Tinhou was one hundred years and those who lived longer lived as long as a tortoise. The first chief in Tinhou named Kaїdgea Flyer Banhi lived as long as a tree and he saw his children’s children up to the twentieth generation. All beings living in Tinhou spoke the same language, Gbôholu.
One day, something special happened. Out of curiosity, the family of Bohodê, decided to taste human flesh. Bohodê’s family therefore killed a human baby and had it for supper. The family of the human baby cried bitterly. It came as a surprise to all the villagers that one of them disappeared. This never happened before in Tinhou.
Only Gnonsoa and Kaija flyer Banhi knew what had happened. Of course, Bohodê and his family knew too. Foreseeing that the same thing would happen repeatedly with other animals, Gnonsoa decided that Kaija Flyer joins Him in the place where He lived so that He will take some actions against Tinhou and its inhabitants.
When Flyer joined Gnonsoa where He lived, He decided to send a servant Gblôh Kalah to separate the animals from the human beings. Gnonsoa then instructed Gblôh Kalah (the Mask) saying: “Go and sing in Tinhou:
‘Pongné pâh oh, Pongné pâh oh.
Pongné pâh oh, Pongné chê pâh oh
Any being that hears this song and is not of the same being with my daughter Bah Gnompoh shall lose its voice and run into the forest where it shall live for good.” The Mask was so ugly that no animal could look at it and live. They all run to the forest except the domestic ones, which include the Nan Lan di.
When the living beings, especially the wild beasts and the reptiles left Tinhou, Gblôh Kalah remained to explain to those who remained in Tinhou why this happened and that from now on, it will remain to protect them. “In addition to this”, says the Mask, “you will be called Lôgnon. And you have the authority to kill and eat any living being. Except that which is of your kind, you shall not kill because “ka Gnonsoa nean, konoamon nien”
This story teaches us four main points:
1. Kalah (Mask) was sent to save Lôgnon from Bohodê’s future killing acts. Can we say from this that Gnonsoa saved Lôgnon because Gnonsoa loved it above all else as Gn.1: 31 seem to imply in the creation story.
2. Lôgnon (the being-in-the village) is made in Gnonsoa’s (God’s) image. Is this not what Gen 1:26a says about human beings?
3. Lôgnon has authority over all the beasts as Gn.1: 26b also says about human beings.
4. Lôgnon should not kill its fellow Lôgnon like Ex.20: 13 asks believers not to do.
After this story, which portrays clearly the work of God among the Guere people through the Mask, it is now appropriate to ask whether the Mask could be a way divinity is present to us.
Having accomplished its mission, Gblôh Kalah remained in Tinhou. If we can recall that Gblôh Kalah came from God, we will quickly accept the fact that its presence among the Guere people could be experienced as the presence of God. We have to bear in mind that God uses a means that is understandable to a community to reveal God's self.
God used Buddha to be present to the Buddhists; God used the Koran to be present to the Muslims; why can God not use the Mask to be present to the Guere people? It was the will of God that the Mask be known to the Guere people whose culture is only transmitted orally. This, therefore, makes it difficult for the Mask be known to other people. The Mask has no “dignity or beauty” to make people, other than Guere, take notice of it as God's presence. There was nothing that could draw people to it (see Is. 53:2-3), despite the fact that it was a manifested presence of God. Take for example an ambassador. When representing his/her country, the diplomat is not there in his or her own right. Whatever he/she says will be considered said by his or her country. So his or her presence in that country is the presence of the country that sent him or her. Likewise with the Mask; its presence to the Guere people is the presence of God. Moreover, why is it that the terrorists attacked the American Embassies in some countries? It is because the embassy is considered to be the country that it represents. If an embassy is seen as a country present in another country, then the Mask is God's presence to the Guere people. This may seem unconceivable, but Cantwell says: “Whether articulated in a great or in unsophisticated conceptual pattern, or not articulated, our knowledge of God (…) is the form in which ideationally God appears to each of us, less or more richly.”
God had been present to us in many different ways and most often, we have not been able to recognise that presence because “our eyes were kept from recognising him” (Lk.24: 16). Because God is God, we expect some extraordinary things from God, and yet God uses means such as the Mask to be present to us. Lane reminds us “God in the normal course of events and especially in the history of salvation addresses the person in human condition.”
One thing is sure; God manifests God's self in ways and times that we least expect. For example, the disciples of Emmaus; their eyes were kept from recognising Jesus because they did not expect him to appear in the form he did. Neither were they expecting him at that time. Yet, that was really Jesus. Peoples’ eyes may be kept from recognising God in the Mask as the disciples’ eyes were kept from recognising God with them on the road to Emmaus. How can God manifest God's self in a human-made piece of art? One may wonder. However, it will be interesting to have in mind that the more a mean seems unrealistic to manifest God's presence, the more likely it is to be God’s revelatory work. How many times was Jesus accused of blasphemy because he called God his father? For the people of his time, it was inconceivable. The Jews thought that the messiah could not come into the world in the way Jesus Christ came; born of a human person. Yet the truth was that Jesus was the Messiah. God always comes to us in experiences, ways and time that we least expect. No one can expect the Almighty God, Creator of everything to be present in Kalah. Nonetheless, it is necessary to bear in mind that
The presence of God in the world communicated through the religious dimension of human experience, is neither a presence directly available only to a privileged few nor a presence mediated simply through logical deduction to the learned. Instead the reality of God in the world is a presence that is accessible to all.
To date, there has never been an unmediated revelation of God in the sense of God, speaking directly to God’s people without any intermediary. In other words, there had never been “direct epiphanies which manifest God in se.” If the previous statement is true, and we know that before Jesus Christ came, God revealed God’s self to humanity of which Guere people are part. Then God did not reveal directly God’s self to the Guere people. God certainly used a means, which the Guere people believe to be the Mask. Moreover, “It must be noted that God is not absent from ordinary life. The God of the Africans is neither abstract, indifferent nor solitary. He is a Being of relations; his acting in the history of man and the universe passes through the spirits that take care of daily life.”
Having tried to show that the Mask is the presence of God, we are led to the question, could the Mask be considered a sacrament?
The quick answer that comes to one’s mind after having gone through the previous section, which showed the mask as the presence of God, is yes!
However, this question needs a thorough study before giving any answer. Consequently, the first step we are going to take here is to know what a sacrament is.
This question has been dealt with from different aspects. Here, we would like to deal with it in the sense of its definition. The word sacrament is broader than the seven different moments of liturgical celebration that we have in the Catholic churches. Schmaus puts it clearly: “Neither in the New Testament nor in the early Church is [the term sacrament] limited to those actions which we call sacraments [today].”
This word sacrament is the Latin designation of the Greek word mysterion designated. There was a great leap from the use of the word mysterion to that of sacramentum. In the early Church and in the time of the New Testament era the expression that was used to describe what we call today sacrament is mysterion. This word could express three different things in the New Testament.
As we know a word used many times loses its original meaning, so too, the word mysterion was used a lot especially in the cultic milieu and it had a rather negative connotation. Tertulian being an apologist used a new word to transliterate
the concept mysterion. He therefore talks of sacramentum, a word he picked from the Roman culture.
As time went on, and reflection deepened, the concept sacramentum, brought into theology by Tertulian, underwent many changes, major and minor. Today, sacramentum, can be defined as: “A presence that is the result of the divine communication with human through God's word of revelation and the human response in faith to that word.” Theologians estimate that this divine relationship that is established by God (sacrament) must change the life of the person, who receives it. A sacrament has three elements in itself:
1-The ultimate meaning of human experience, which is the element in it, is perceptible to human beings. Schmaus called it Sacramentum Tantum.
2-The divine saving presence is expressed through that element, which in itself is still a sign (Res et Sacramentum).
3-The transformation of humanity brought about by the sacrament. “This is exclusively an effect; the final reality caused by that which is both reality and sign.” (Restantum).
After this definition of the sacrament, can one say that the Guere Mask is a sacrament? The answer to this question will constitute our next part.
From what had been said, nothing can make someone who knows the role of the Mask among the Guere say no. From the story, we learned that the Mask was sent by God, therefore it is the visible manifestation of an invisible reality. In view of this, the Mask is a sacrament since the sacrament is also defined as a visible sign of an invisible presence and reality of God.
A sacrament is sometimes seen as that which makes us experience the love, power and presence of God. We think that Kalah or the Mask has satisfied this condition. For example when we refer to the story, we realise that it was out of love that God sent Gblôh Kalah to the Guere people so that they may be saved from the future malice of Bohodê. God's presence and power expressed through the presence and action of the Mask, delivered the Guere people. The Mask had expressed God's love, power, and presence through its actions and presence. Could it not, therefore, be regarded as a sacrament?
The Mask is present and anyone around can touch and see it (Sacramentum Tantum). This presence expresses something more than a human being can perceive or understand. Here we can refer to its work of salvation (Res et Sacramentum). The deeper element that is expressed through the presence of the Mask brings Pongné to the Guere people and, more so, to anyone who is around when the ceremony of the “coming out” of the Mask is being held (Res Tantum).
Can Kalah still not be considered as a sacrament after having fulfilled all these conditions attached to the notion of Sacrament?
Here, we have to understand that salvation for the Guere people is double edged. On one hand, salvation takes place in this earthly life: “The experience of salvation [for the ATR followers] is a present reality,” and on the other hand, in the life after death. This is expressed by the use of two different words Pongné and Léo. It may sound bizarre that for some people salvation takes place during this present life and then in the life hereafter, but is this not the idea of integral salvation? If we recall Nyamiti’s statement, we will understand what salvation in this earthly life is all about. For this African theologian, the African Traditional Religions are “centred mainly on man’s life in this world, with the consequence that religion is chiefly functional, or a means to serve people to acquire earthly goods.” The acquisition of life, health, fecundity, wealth, power and the like are Pongné. Any one present in the village can attain this kind of salvation, Pongné, when the festival of the Mask is taking place. This is the gaining of good luck and success.
When the Mask “comes out”, it makes sure that people have a better life. This means that the farms will be productive in the year ahead. Additionally, children will be healthy and there will be fewer deaths in the village. As was mentioned earlier, this is made possible only by the fact that the Mask is out.
The Guere people think that the wandering about of some bad spiritual powers called, Ku tsun, brings forth bad life. So because “the Mask has the function of a power which directs the movement of spiritual powers scattered around the world [this is the Ku tsun]. It traps them in order to prevent them from wandering about [so that Lôgnon may have a peaceful life].” That salvation begins on earth.
If this kind of salvation that the Guere people experience in this present life demands passivity from them because the Mask provides it, or that God provides it through the Mask, salvation in the life hereafter demands activities from them.
To live in Léo the Guere person needs to perform some activities such as offering of Nan Lan di, to participate fully in the ceremony; to do good works and repent from offences that one might have committed. The ideal time to carry out all these acts is when the Mask is out.
When the festivities end, usually, the Mask makes an enormous libation in the public place and people come one after the other and offering some prayers, they collect some sludge made out of the libation, and looking into the eyes of the Mask, each one makes some signs on the forehead. Right from this ritual, all the family heads go to offer Nan Lan di. The women will then cook food and bring to the public place where all the villagers share it under the vigilance of the Mask.
Any one who partakes in this meal and has had previously participated in the marking of oneself with mud of the libation will join the community of the living dead, the ancestors, if the person dies in the interval between that moment and the next coming out of the Mask.
For the people who can afford it, when one of their family members dies, they can call the Mask out before the time when it was supposed to come out. Once out for the funeral ceremony, the aim of the Mask will be to join the soul of the deceased person with the ancestors. Kovach writes, “The Mask, the secret language spoken during the ritual, music, dances and the offering, are the media through which community members communicate with ancestors. The aim of the ritual is to join the soul of the deceased with the ancestors.” In fact, “Many African societies see masks as mediators between the living world and the supernatural world of the dead and other entities.”
The presence of the Mask at any funeral has a double advantage. First, the Mask is present to join the soul of the deceased person with the ancestors and secondly it is to “dispel evil powers from the home of the deceased so that positive energy can be directed through the Mask and the sacrificed animal from the ancestors to the members of the family of the deceased.”
It has been shown that the Guere people experience salvation at two different levels, in this life and in the life hereafter. While the former is called Pongné the latter is known as Léo. In the two cases, the intervention of the Mask is necessary for one to attain salvation.
If Pongné consists in a qualitative life, the Guere people are aware that “one cannot assure the full enhancement of life by oneself. (…) This depends on the life forces of other (…) beings, including those of the ancestors and, ultimately, God [who is present to them through the Mask].”
Since after death one has the possibility of becoming either an ancestor or a pervasive spiritual element, the Mask is needed to make the deceased person live in Léo. That is to become an ancestor. However, the person should have lived an exemplary life during his/her earthly life because “‘salvation’ or religious fulfilment for any religious community is integrally related to a comprehensive pattern of life. Any particular religious tradition would regard someone as ‘saved’ whose life had been most fully shaped by the distinctive pattern it fosters.”
From examining this understanding of salvation and the role the Mask plays in it, we would now like in our next chapter to dealt with what the Catholic Church says about salvation in other religions? Though this chapter will include the position of some theologians from other Churches, it will mainly deal with the Catholic position.
“Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart (…) may achieve eternal salvation.”
Lumen Gentium 16
It is a real challenge to examine this part as it deals with many controversial positions. Schineller summarised them in four paradigms. However, what is to be noticed in general, is that on one side, some theologians such as Karl Barth and his disciples and some might say even some Church documents, have denied the possibility of salvation in other religious traditions, while on the other hand, some theologians and other Church documents have accepted such a position. Amazingly, both positions are backed up with some biblical quotations. Our task therefore, in this part, will be to present the two different positions and present what the Church teaches now on this issue.
Reading the New Testament, one may have the impression that the mission of Jesus was geared principally, if not solely, towards Israel. This was because Jesus states, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt.15: 24). Moreover, while sending the twelve on mission, Jesus instructed them neither to go “among the gentiles” nor to enter any “town of the Samaritans” (Mt.10: 5-6). Are these elements not enough for someone to think that there is no Salvation Outside the Church? Dupuis says of this text, (Mt. 10: 5-6), that its data has every chance of being substantially authentic.
If, effectively, these data are “substantially authentic”, then the theologians who think there is no salvation for people who are outside the New Israel, the Church, might have a point to make. However, we have to bear in mind that Catholics have always believed in the possibility of salvation “for those who, through invincible ignorance, do not know the fullness of the Catholic faith, and yet live fully in light of the truth that they (…) have.”
Who are these theologians who think there is no salvation outside the Church? And what do they say? It would be doing injustice to this question by answering that; these are the theologians and they say this. In fact, there is a litany of theologians who argue that there is no salvation outside the Church. However, we shall refer only to a few of them and then mention their counterparts who think otherwise.
This position maintains that Salvation is made available by God only to people who belong to the Church and share in her faith in Jesus Christ. This position led to the quest of “Substitutes for the Gospel” as Dupuis will say and to the “development of the theology of ‘implicit faith’ as a way to allow for the possibility of non-Christians to be saved in virtue of some sort of ‘belonging’ to the Church.”
After the Second Vatican Council, this position is still being held. For example the Evangelical Churches through the Manila Manifesto, say that there is “no warrant for saying that Salvation can be found outside Christ or apart from an acceptance of his work through faith.”
Even in the Catholic Church, some theologians still hold to this idea of no Salvation for people who are outside the Church. For example Straelen writes: “The Church has always taught that, in order to be saved, one must accept the Gospel message, reject false gods, and turn toward the living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as he revealed himself in Jesus Christ.”
As for Karl Barth, religion represents the human person’s demonic attempt at self-justification, and as such it cannot be a means of Salvation. A person is only saved by his/her faith in Jesus Christ. This faith is professed in the Church. Barth’s later position was developed by his disciples, one of them being Kraemer, and applied only to religions apart from Christianity.
For Barth and his disciples, the only valid knowledge about God is that which human beings receive in Jesus Christ. Consequently, the gods of the “pagans” are idols and their devotees are idolaters. The religion to which the “pagans” belong is the work of evil and vain human attempts at self-righteousness. We can notice here that for Barth and disciples, Salvation is not attained through religions, but through our faith in Jesus Christ professed in the Church.
The Inclusivist theologians are a group of theologians who hold that the Salvation “which is available through their own tradition is also available within or through other religious traditions because the truth known in this home tradition is effectively (…) active there.” Vatican II is the forerunner of this position. The key argument of the Inclusivists is that the universe and the history of Salvation are centred on Christ and not on the Church. They use this biblical passage to support their arguments: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim2: 5). One of the prominent theologians in this trend is Jacques Dupuis.
It is not a secret that Dupuis had his book Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism investigated by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In his book Christianity and Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue, he tries to cover the same ground he covered in the former book but this time in a more accessible way to non-specialist readers. In the later book, Dupuis “studiously avoids what he calls the ‘pluralism’ or ‘pluralistic inclusivism’ based on a ‘constitutive Christology’.”
For Dupuis, Grace has both a Christological and Pneumatical aspect so that even where the action of the divine Word is not explicit, the Spirit is bringing about Salvation. This applies not only to individuals, but to religions too.
“While Dupuis concedes that Vatican II did not explicitly acknowledge the salvific efficacy of other religions, he argues that in the post-conciliar period this conclusion has become inescapable.” And so, he proposes a “progressive and differentiated” concept of revelation, which envisages a “mutual ‘asymmetrical’ complementarity” between religions.
It is interesting to note that for the Inclusivists in general and Dupuis in particular, the incarnation is central to the mystery of salvation and yet the saving action of the Word is not circumscribed by it. Therefore, we can say that all religions have their source in the self-manifestation of God through the Word, Christ. From this line, we could say that even the Mask of the Guere people would have its source in the Word, in Christ.
In addition to the centrality of the incarnation in the mystery of salvation, we can say that Inclusivists assert both the universality and uniqueness of Christ’s mediation while avoiding any suggestion of absolutism.
The Theocentric view has been cultivated mainly among thinkers who want to make a sincere theological opening to other religions so as to establish a sound theological basis by looking at all religions as valid ways for humanity to journey towards the ultimate common goal, God Himself.
In this trend of soteriology, there are two other positions: The “Normative Christology”, which holds that Christ is the best self-revelation of God and as such is the norm of authenticity for other events of revelation of God in history. When studied well, this position accepts other revelations from God, but holds that Christ is the best one.
The other position under the Theocentric Christology is the “Non-Normative Christology”. It argues that Christ is the Saviour of Christians. The “Non-Normative Christology” dilutes the uniqueness of Christ by saying, for example, that if Jesus is the way through which his followers, Christians, journey towards the ultimate common goal, God Himself, it does not mean that the Guere people cannot journey towards the same ultimate common, God through their Mask. For example, a spotlight is used in two different instances. A theocentric theologian may say, first, the batteries are weak and therefore, the light is not bright. In the second instance, only new batteries are put into the same spotlight and then the light becomes brighter. Does the same spotlight not produce these different lights? This image is to portray that even if through Jesus we understand in some way the mystery of God, the other means used by God to reveal God’s self to people other than Christians, should not be rejected. For the Guere people, the Mask could be the means that God used to be present to them. And if salvation is the presence of divinity to people, then the Mask could be seen as a means of salvation for the Guere peoples.
For these theologians, it is God’s self that makes Salvation available to people in ways that please God. We do not have to limit God’s activity to a limited group of people.
One of the most vocal theologians of this trend is Paul Knitter. He says: “religious consciousness (…) tells us that divine reality and truth is, by its very nature always more than any human can grasp or any religion can express.” For him God does such great things that the human mind cannot grasp them. Therefore, they cannot be expressed in only one religion. He says this in other words: “The divine love and transformative justice that have become so powerfully and persuasively present in Jesus cannot be contained or limited by Jesus; God’s self manifestation is rather, meant for all, available for all, operative throughout history.”
When Acts 4: 12 says, “There is salvation in no one else”, Knitter suggests that we consider the context in which this affirmation was made because it “warns us against using this passage to rule all other witnesses out of court before we can present Jesus.” The context according to Robinson was to know in whose power Peter and John had just healed the crippled man. For Knitter, it is neither by the power of John nor is it by that of Peter that the crippled man was healed. It is by the power of the name Jesus-Christ and by no other name. Moreover, this phrase “‘No other name’ as a performative, action language, is really a positive statement in its negative couching: It tells us that all peoples must listen to (…) Jesus; it does not tell us that no one else should be listened to or learned from.”
What one can note from this trend of theology is that God alone is the one at the centre of the mystery of Salvation and not Christ, for like any other religious figure Christ too is a means of Salvation for his followers, the Christians and not necessarily for the whole of humanity.
After having mentioned these different positions, the question that comes to mind is what does the Catholic Church say about them? What is her recent teaching?
While it is to be acknowledged that, the Church has issued many documents to teach her children how to look on other religions and to ask whether or not these religions have in themselves, some means of salvation, it also important to underline that Vatican II did not sanction any particular one of the theological theories. Neither did it give one definitive answer, on the salvific value of world religions, nor on their relationship to the mystery of Christ. However, we can say that the theocentric theology is not gaining much ground.
Those who through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by the grace, try in their action to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience may achieve eternal salvation.
Under the chapter entitled “The People of God”, this article defines the different groups of people who enjoy God’s salvific power. Clearly, this article leaves no one outside God’s saving power. From the Jewish community in which Jesus took flesh, through the Muslims who share with Christians the same forefather Abraham, up to those who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ, no one is excluded. Could the latter group include the followers of ATR?
If for example, the Guere people do not know the Gospel of Christ, nor do they know his Church, it is not their own fault. God decided that God’s only Son would be born among a given people, who probably were most in need of God’s epiphany. Notwithstanding the fact that the Guere do not know Christ and his Gospel, they do know God, because God wrote a law on their hearts (Cf. Rm. 2: 14-15). It is this law written in their hearts that makes them try to do God’s will in their lives.
NA 2 “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in [other] religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, which, although different in many ways (…), nevertheless, often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men.” This article could be saying that any thing regarded as holy in other religions deserves respect from Christians. Basing our arguments on the definition of what something holy is, we would like to say that the Catholics cannot deny that the Mask is holy, this because it came from God and has participated in God’s life.
EN 80 “God can indeed effect the salvation of whomsoever he wishes by extraordinary means known to him alone.” The Pope, in this statement means that the responsibility for one’s salvation depends on God.
While we cannot exhaust what the Catholic Church says vis-à-vis this matter, we can at least note the Vatican II is the first of its genre to speak positively not only of non-Christian individuals, but of non-Christian religions as such: A positive role in the salvation of their members.
Even though the intention of Vatican II was not always dogmatic, but pastoral as it teaches us that there is a possibility of Salvation for all in Christ. It teaches that other religions have positive values (Cf. AG3, LG16, NA2, AG9) and these values are to be brought to fulfilment by the Church (Cf. LG16-17). We Christians have to have esteem and love for our brothers and sisters of other religions.
We would like to conclude this part of the work with this saying of Moran: “Revelation is a reality always present. Since it is fundamentally an interpersonal communion, its formulation in concept and words is not primary.”
After investigation of the different positions on Salvation in other religions and what the current most authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church is, we would like to deal in the next chapter with our own position. For example, how can the Catholics look on the Mask? could the Mask be integrated into the Catholic liturgy?
“Since the plan of salvation embraces all people, there is basis for fraternal and peaceful exchanges between Christians and non-Christians.”
John Paul II
In Nostra aetate, the Second Vatican Council teaches,
The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in non-Christian religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men (NA 2).
Though this statement says that the Catholic Church does not reject what is positive in the other religions, it does not tell us explicitly what our relation with members of those religions should be. However, it gives us an idea about where to begin, by not rejecting elements that are holy in those religions.
As well as this passage, there are other passages from the same Second Vatican Council that tell us how to relate to the other religions. Here we can now present some proposals on how the Catholic Church could look on Mask. In other words, what could be the attitudes of the Catholics towards the Mask? When we have dealt with this question, we will try to see whether the Mask could even be integrated into the Catholic liturgy.
Bishop Anselm Sanon in his doctoral thesis tried to go from the Mask as a Master of Initiation to give Jesus the same title, Christ the Master of Initiation. If Sanon was able to give Christ this title, it could be because the Mask has some positive values that could be seen as having been provided by God. If so, we Catholics could have an attitude of respect and esteem for the Guere people and their Mask.
Catholics could have an attitude of respect for the Guere people and their Mask because the Mask could be, not only for the Guere but also for us, a possibility to experience some revelation of God and make a genuine human response in faith. The document Dialogue and Proclamation is clear on the matter. It says:
These traditions are to be approached with great sensitivity, on account of the spiritual and human values enshrined in them. They command our respect because over the centuries they have borne witness to the efforts to find answers `to those profound mysteries of the human condition’ (NA1) and have given expression to the religious experience and the longings of millions of their adherents, and they continue to do so today (DP14).
For example, in the letter Pastoral Attention to African Traditional Religion, Arinze says: “Many [Africans who are] Christians, at critical moments in their lives (…) tend to join sects called ‘independent Churches’ where they feel that certain elements of their culture are more respected.” Why should we lose some of our brothers and sisters to other Churches because they feel that we do not respect elements of their culture? We have the possibility of doing so. So what stops us? One thing is sure, “ATR is the religious and cultural context from which most Christians in Africa come.” So we should try to show them the respect that they deserve.
The Guere people and their Mask can be regarded as our interlocutors in a religious dialogue. This dialogue is to be done in two ways. First, we dialogue with those who have not yet embraced the Christian faith. We have to create an atmosphere conducive to mutual understanding, respect and mutual searching for the will of God. Secondly, we dialogue with the Guere people who, though practicing their traditional religion want to become Christians. As well as with those who have already embraced Christianity. This dialogue should include an “adequate presentation of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that the Church will have deeper roots in [their lives so that they will stick to Christianity and not leave it in times of crises].”
Accepting to respect and have esteem for the Mask means that we have to recognise the presence of God in it in some ways. In other words, we can consider the Mask to be a “ray of that truth that illuminates all humankind” (NA 2). And so, a question comes to mind, whether the Mask could be integrated into Catholic liturgy? This is the question we would like to present in the following part of our investigation.
It is a legitimate question to ask, “What significance [could] the (…) pagan Masks have for African Christians?” This question is relevant because Masks have always held a prominent position in the history of some African art and religion. So could it be integrated in the Catholic liturgy?
Certainly there could be some good elements that could be looked at and experimented with. For example in building and decorating the Churches, we could adapt the architecture of the houses where the costumes of the Mask is kept after the ceremony. This is a special house and is different from any other house in the village. It is round in shape and surrounded by shoots of the raphia tree like curtains. The architecture of the church buildings could be, for example, round in shape. Now instead of surrounding it with raffia shoots at all times of the year, it could be so decorated only on the solemnity of Palm Sunday. These shoots could be removed after they have sufficiently dried so as to be used on the Ash Wednesday of the following liturgical year.
In the book of Baur, there is a plate of Jesus carved on a cross. The carving was done in such a way that there was resemblance between Jesus and a Mask. Could we not develop this carving for the Guere people? As Pope Pius XII says,
[Art] is not in any way confined or destroyed by being made subject to God’s law. Rather, it finds its excellence and achieves its perfection through this subordination to God. [This is more true for the religious art], (…) consecrated to God and to furthering His praise and glory .
“On the stand for the Easter candle are carved a large number of people from different times and cultures who are illuminated by the overwhelming Easter light. The masks of the gule wamkulu constitute significant segment of this ‘paschal congregation’.” This carving could be interpreted as Christ illuminating the whole human race no matter what time they lived in or in what part of the globe. Basing ourselves on the carving mentioned now, we would like to suggest that instead of making Masks part of “a large number of people from different times and cultures”, the Easter candle stand would be carved in Mask. This carved Mask will be holding the Easter candle. The interpretation that could be given to this is that through the action of the Mask in the lives of the Guere people, which in the carving is the holding of the Light that illuminates the whole humanity, Jesus is offering them Salvation.
Another element of the coming out of the Mask that could be taken into consideration by the Catholics, is the ritual of libation and benediction. Could it not be possible, for example, that after the Eucharistic celebration of the 31 December  that the Catholic priests pour libation? When he has poured the libation, people would come to make some signs on their foreheads, as was the case when the Mask poured it. In this case, the cross would be there so that people look at it while making the signs and prayers. We make this suggestion of the presence of Jesus on the cross because it could be the act par excellence that provides Pongné and Léo to all humanity. Here again, the carved Jesus on the cross that we took from Baur’s book could be used for this ceremony.
To conclude this chapter, we would like to remember that having quoted John Paul II: “Since the plan of salvation embraces all people, there is basis for fraternal and peaceful exchanges between Christians and non-Christians”, we tried to find out what elements of the Mask could be integrated into the Catholic liturgy. However, before that enterprise, we suggested some attitudes, such as respect, esteem and love that Christians could have for those elements. We suggested these attitudes because according to Nostra aetate (article 2), there are some rays of that truth in other religions which illuminate all humanity. If this is so, then the attitudes that we could have towards those positive elements of other religions could be respect, esteem and love. Also, we should try to integrate them into our liturgy. That is why we tried to suggest some of the elements that would make Christianity appealing to Guere people if they were used in the liturgy.
Having finished our investigation of the three Chapters, we would now like to draw our general conclusion. In it we shall attempt an answer to the question that led us to this work, which is “could the Mask of the Guere people be seen as a means of Salvation for them?”
At the end of this investigation, we would like to bring to mind first of all what was said in the previous chapters before suggesting a possible answer to the question.
In the general introduction, we tried to present the situation, that if followers of the ATR encounter Christians who ask them “Are you saved?” what could be their answer? And can a Christian also see God’s salvation present at work through the Mask?
In the process of attempting an answer to this question, we presented in the second chapter whether the Mask could be a way by which divinity could be present to the Guere people. To be able to attempt an answer to this question a story was told portraying the origin of the Mask and how it came to be part of Guere peoples’ life. According to the story, the Mask came from God. It was sent by God, (Gnonsoa) to save Lôgnon from evil, (Bohodê).
If Gnonsoa, God, was the one who sent Gblôh Kalah, the Mask, to save the Guere from evil, could we not say that the Mask acted by the power entrusted to it by God? Because of this power, “[The Mask] functions as the medium through which, (…), communication is established between the world of the living and that of their ancestors, expected to protect the community from bad influences.” If the Mask functions as an intermediary between the people and the Ancestors who are living with God in the same way that an ambassador is the intermediary between his/her country and the people in the country where he/she works, then could we not say that the Mask represents God for them and consequently it could be seen by Christians as a probable way in which God is present to the Guere? Here we could recall to mind the statement of Cantwell Smith, “whether articulated in a great or in unsophisticated conceptual pattern, or not articulated, our knowledge of God [that is revelation, which could be interpreted as God’s presence to us] (…) is the form in which ideationally God appears to each of us, less or more richly.”
Also in the second chapter, we tried to show how the Mask could make the Guere people experience Salvation. The Guere believe that in this life, the Mask procures them Pongné, and in the life after death, it makes them belong to the community of the Ancestors.
In the third Chapter, we tried to present the position of the Catholic Church on the issue. We first presented the position of some theologians, which can be summarised in the following statement of Heim:
If ‘salvation’ means the achievement of some desired religious aim, then we can (like the pluralists) affirm that a number of paths lead to salvations: There is an ‘any way’ sign at many forks on the religious journey. If ‘salvation’ means a religious fulfilment of some determinate nature, then we may (like the exclusivists) affirm that it is constituted by certain features to the exclusion of others: There is an ‘only way’ sign at many turnings. In either case, we must (like the inclusivists) acknowledge that all these paths link with each other, that ‘cross-traffic’ is a real possibility.
As far as the position of the Catholic Church is concerned, we selected some articles from some Church documents namely Lumen Gentium, Nostra aetate and Evangelii Nuntiandi. All the articles that we selected could be summed up in the following Church teaching: “The Church has a deep respect for all non-Christian religions, since ‘they carry within them the echo of thousands of years of searching for God, a quest which is incomplete but often made with great sincerity and righteousness of heart’” (EN 53). What could be kept in mind is that God provides Salvation to people in ways that are known to him alone (Cf. EN 80).
From presenting the position of the Church on the issue, we tried to look at the possibility of how we could look at the Guere and their Mask. If the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is holy in non-Christian religions, could this include the possibility that she will integrate them into her liturgy? In fact, she requests her children to respect and esteem the values of those religions other than Christianity (Cf. NA 2).
After presenting our possible attitudes towards the Guere people and their Mask, we tried to investigate whether or not there could be a possibility of integrating the positive values of the ceremony of the Mask into Catholic liturgical life. As far as this is concerned, we made proposals at four different levels. The areas in which we made proposals were the church buildings, the carving of crucifixes, decoration of churches and benediction of people by libation.
Having reviewed the four chapters, it is now appropriate to attempt an answer to the question that led us to this work, could the Mask of the Guere people be seen by Christian as a means of Salvation for them?
For the Guere, the Mask could be seen as a means that God uses to act in their midst and be present to them. So if Salvation is considered to be the restoration of fulfilment of humanity as Nilson said, then could we not say that the Guere experience Salvation in their Mask? The restoration in question here, we assert, is the restoration of the “initial state” indicated by the situation in which Adam and Eve were before the fall. God was walking and talking with them. If restoration is being with God, and we learn from the story told above that through the Mask God is present to the Guere people, could we not say therefore that perhaps these people experience Salvation in the Mask? This conclusion is based on the definition of Salvation according to Christianity. But what could it be if based on the definition of Salvation according to ATR?
In some African communities, Salvation is perceived as living life in its fullness. That is, living prosperously here and now. This, for the Guere people, is Pongné and they believe it is provided to anybody who is around when Kalah, the Mask, comes out.
In other African communities, Salvation is attained in life after death or more precisely when one, after his/her death joins the community of the Ancestors. Here again when we take the Guere people, the possibility for one to belong to the Ancestral community, is facilitated by the Mask.
From the three different understandings of Salvation, the Mask plays a role for a Guere to experience Salvation. However, what is to be borne in mind is that the Mask was sent by God to save the Guere from the evil, (Bohodê). But as Christians, especially Catholics, we know that God the Father never acts without God the Son in the Spirit. This means that if God acted in the lives of the Guere people, God could not do so without Jesus-Christ through whom all things are made possible. So what we would like to say is that if the Guere people probably experience Salvation in their Mask, it is because God gave them the opportunity to experience such a thing. And God always works through the Son in the Spirit, so the Salvation experience of the Guere is through the Son as long as they receive it from God. God never acts without the Son in the Spirit.
As William Most said, and we would like to conclude our investigation with this sentence, “St. Paul in Rom 3: 29 asks: ‘Is He the God of the Jews only? No, He is also the God of Gentiles.’ It means that if God made Salvation depend on knowing and following the Law of Moses, He would act as if He cares for no one but Jews. But God does care for all.” And because God cares for all, God put at the disposal of all some means of Salvation that have meaning only through the Son Jesus-Christ, who is the Universal Saviour and all other possible means of Salvation in other religions only have meaning through Him. He is the Saviour of the whole humanity.
Map 1: Map of Cote d’Ivoire showing where the Guere are located in the country.
Map 2: Showing the location of the Guere in Cote d’Ivoire
Map 3: A map showing the location of Tinhou village in the Canton Boo.
Acts. Acts of the Apostles
AG. Ad Gentes (7th Dec. 1965)
ATR. African Traditional Religion
CCC. Catechism of the Catholic Church
Col. The Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians
DP. Dialogue and Proclamation (21st Jun. 1991)
EN. Evangelii Nuntiandi (8th Dec. 1975)
Ex. The Book of Exodus
Gn./Gen. The Book of Genesis
ID. Interreligious Dialogue
Is. The Book of Prophet Isaiah
LG Lumen Gentium (21st Nov. 1964)
Lk. The Holy Gospel According to Luke
MCCJ. The Comboni Missionaries
Mt./Mat. The Holy Gospel According to Matthew
NA. Nostra Aetate (28th Oct. 1965)
Nd. No date available
PG. Patrologia Greaca
Phil. The Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
Rm./Rom The Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
RSV. Revised Standard Version of the Bible
SMA. Society of African Missions
WWW. World Wide Web
Books and Articles
Arinze, F., Pastoral Attention to African Traditional Religion, March 25, 1988. in F. Gioia, ed., Interreligious Dialogue: The Official Teaching of the Catholic Church (1963-1995), Boston 1997, 581 - 585.
Baur, J., 2000 Years of Christianity in Africa: An African History 62-1992, Nairobi 1994.
Barth, K., Church Dogmatics, Vol. I, Edinburgh 1970. 280-361.
________ Church Dogmatics, Vol. IV, Edinburgh 1976. 86-104.
Blowey, D., Sacramentology I: Introduction to Sacramentalogy and the Sacraments of Initiation, Nairobi, Tangaza College, Class notes, Photocopy, 2002- 2003.
Braaten, C.E., No Other Gospel! Christianity Among the World’s Religions, Minneapolis, 1992.
Cantwell Smith, W., “Idolatry” in J. Hick, Knitter P.F., ed., The Myth of Christian Uniqueness: Toward a Pluralistic Theology of Religions, New York, 7th printing 1998, 53 - 68.
Cooke, B., “Sacraments” in P.E. Fink, ed., The New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship, Dublin 1990, 1116 - 1123.
Domingues, F., Christian Theology of Other Religions, Nairobi, Tangaza College, Class notes, Photocopy 2002- 2003.
_________ Christology and Traditional Religion in Africa, Roma 1999.
Dupuis, J., Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, 2nd printing, New York 1998.
_________ Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue, Maryknoll 2001.
Flannery, A., ed., Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, Mombai 1999.
_________ Vatican Council II: More Post Conciliar Documents, Mombai 2000.
Gioia, F., ed., Interreligious Dialogue: The Official Teaching of the Catholic Church (1963-1995), Boston 1997.
Hegel, G. W. F., Lectures on the philosophy of the world history Introduction: Reason in History, London 1975.
Heim, S. M., Salvations Truth and Differences in Religion, New York 1985.
Jean Paul II. To the Bishops of Benin on their Ad Limina Visit, 7th Mar. 1988 in F. Gioia, ed., Interreligious Dialogue: The Official Teaching of the Catholic Church (1963-1995), Boston 1997, 255.
Kerchache, J., J. L. Paudrat, L. Stephan, ed., L'Art et les Grandes Civilisations: L'Art Africain, Paris 1988.
Knitter, P.F., Jesus and the Other Names: Christian Mission and Global Responsibility, New York 1996.
Kraemer, H., The Christian Message in Non-Christian World, London 1947.
Lane, A.D., The Experience of God: An Invitation to do Theology, Dublin 1981.
Magesa, L., African Religion: The Moral Traditions of Abundant Life, New York 1997.
May, J.A., “New Books” in The Furrow, Vol. 54, No. 11, December 2003, 634 - 635.
McBrien, R. P., “Principle of Sacramentality” in R. P. McBrien, ed., The Harper Collins Encyclopaedia of Catholicism, New York 1995, 1148.
Metogo, E. M., “Dialogue avec les religions traditionelles et l’Islam’’ in Spiritus, Sept. 2000, 309 - 319.
Moran, G., Theology of Revelation, New York 1966.
Nilson, J., “Salvation” in R. P. McBrien, ed., The Harpercollins Enciclopedia of Catholicism, New York 1995, 1158 - 1159.
Nyamiti, C., “African Tradition and the Christian God” in Spearhead No. 49, Eldoret n.d, 1- 74
Ott, M., African Theology in Images, Blantyre 2000.
Pius XII, Musicae Sacrae Disciplina (1955), 22-23, in T. Okure- P. van Thiel 32 Articles Evaluating Inculturation of Christianity in Africa, Eldoret 1990, 8 - 12.
Ray, B., African Religions: Symbol, Ritual, and Community, New Jersey 1976.
Robinson, J.A.T., Truth is Two-eyed, London 1979.
Sanon, A.T., Tierce Eglise, ma Mère ou la Conversion d’une Communité Païenne au Christ, Paris 1970.
Schineller, J.P., “Christ and Church: A Spectrum of Views” in Theological Studies, Vol. 37, No. 4 Sept 1976, 545 - 566.
Schmaus, M., Dogma: The Church as Sacrament, Vol. 5, London, ninth impression, 1992.
Stockwell, B., “One Perspective on Lausannell in Manila, July 11-20, 1989”, p3 in manuscript. In J. Dupuis, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, (second printing), New York 1998.
Van Straelen, H., L’Eglise et les Religions non Chrétiennes au Seuil du XXIe Siècle, Paris 1994.
Vinje, M.P., “Holiness” in R. P. McBrien, ed., The Harpercollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, New York 1995, 617.
Wachege, P.N., Salvation and Being Saved: An African Soci-Religio-Philosophical Touch, Nairobi 2000.
Akrong, A., “An Introduction to African Traditional Religions”, on <http://www.gravitygroove.com/knowledge/religion/archives/00000003.htm.> 10/08/2003
General Chapter of the Brothers Christian Schools, “Interreligious Dialogue” on <http://www.lasalle.org/English/Resources/Publications/PDF/Association/SharedM2_6.pdf.> 10/08/2003
Kovach, S., “A View of West Africa Masks” on <http://iunna.pmf.ukim.edu.mk/etnoantropozum/Kovach%20Senka-angl.htm > 23/05/2003
Laurent, S. - R. Tahou, < http://www.wobebli.net > 28/11/2003
Mbuka C., “Proclamation and dialogue with the African Traditional Religion” on <http://www.sedos.org/english/mbuka_1. htm > 15/08/2003
Most, W., Our Fathers Plan, <http://www.petersnet.net/browse/964.htm> 23/05/2003
Palm, D., “No Salvation Outside the Church” (An Explanation) <http://www.ic.net/~eresmus/RAZ 168.HTML> 23/05/2003
Ad Gentes Divinitus, 7th Dec. 1965
Lumen Gentium, 21st Nov. 1964
Nostra Aetate, 28th Oct. 1965
In Flannery, A., ed., Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, Bombay 1999.
Evangelii Nuntiandi, 8th Dec. 1975 in Flannery, A., ed., Vatican Council II: More Post Conciliar Documents, Bombay, 2000.
Dialogue and Proclamation: Reflection and Orientations on Interreligious Dialogue and the Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, 21st June 1991 in Gioia, F., ed., Interreligious Dialogue: The Official Teaching of the Catholic Church (1963-1995), Boston 1997.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nairobi 1994.
Versions of the Bible
Good News version of the Bible
Revised Standard Version of the Bible
The African Bible
 Oral Source, this story was told by Banhi Jacob the chief of Tinhou village during a village gathering in order to thank the young men/women who had clean the village before the visit of a politician.
 Tinhou is a small village located in western Cote d’Ivoire with Guere as the halogens. See Map in Appendix3. It also is the maternal village of the author.
 Normally, this festival takes place during the month of December, precisely during the second half of the month. This is for two reasons: First it is the dry season and secondly, there is no farm work during this time. People have harvested their crops and are waiting for the beginning of the activities of the New Year.
 The name the Guere people use for God.
 It is an expression that refers to all domestic animals except Dogs and Cats.
 This expression may not have a faithful translation; however, it could be translated as a “sign of good luck”.
 Could this be assimilated to the Christian belief? The glory of God is for the last day.
 “If we turn first of all to the religion of the Africans, our own conception of religion tells us that it requires that man should recognise a supreme being which exists in and for itself as a completely (…) higher power (…). Religion begins with the awareness that there is something higher than man. But this kind of religion is unknown to the Negroes.” G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of the World History, 178- 179.
 General Chapter of the Brothers of Christian Schools “Interreligious Dialogue” on http://www.lasalle.org/English/Resources/Publications/PDF/Association/SharedM2_6.pdf.
 This also includes some form of Christianity or Islam in various types of assimilation and (or) syncretism. This is seen through the African originated churches and new cults.
 There is still a great discussion on the question of knowing whether or not there is only one African Traditional Religion. Even if the plurality of religious expressions in ATR is undeniable, also undeniable is the fact that there are common theological perspectives present in it. Because of these common theological perspectives some theologians speak of one traditional religion expressed and practiced in a plurality of ways. Some others such as Metogo even speak of one common ‘African Spirituality’. E. M. Metogo, “Dialogue avec les Religions Traditionelles et l’Islam’’ in Spiritus, Sept. 2000, 309-317.
 J. Nilson, “Salvation” in The Harpercollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, 1158.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 169.
 A. Akrong, “An Introduction to African Traditional Religions”, on <http://www.gravitygroove.com/knowledge/religion/archives/00000003.htm.>
 A short text about this culture has been published in J. Kerchache, J. L. Paudrat, L. Stephan, ed., L'Art et les Grandes Civilisations: L'Art Africain, 1988, 620ff.
There is also an entire website about these people: Their culture, the mythology and many other things concerning their beliefs, religious practices and their origin or at least what they believe to be their origin. www.wobebli.net .
 S. Kovach, “A View of West Africa Masks” on <http://iunna.pmf.ukim.edu.mk/etnoantropozum/Kovach%20Senka-angl.htm >
 P.N. Wachege, Salvation and Being Saved: An African Soci-Religio-Philosophical Touch, 199 (Appendix 1).
 P.N. Wachege, Salvation and Being Saved: An African Soci-Religio-Philosophical Touch, 196-197.
 A. Akrong, “An Introduction to African Traditional Religions” on <http://www.gravitygroove.com/knowledge/religion/archives/00000003.htm>
 Guere people believe that a tortoise can live more than two centuries.
 This story reminds us of the new Earth and new Heavens presented in the book of Isaiah. (Is. 65:17-25).
 Literally translated as foolish.
 For the Guere, Gnonsoa who is God is a male reality.
 This song can be translated as: Good fortune has come, Good fortune has come, and to anyone in the village Good fortune has come. Up to date, this song is still sung during the ceremony of the coming out of the Mask in Tinhou.
 This is the name of the mother of the baby that was eaten by the beast.
 It is an expression that refers to all domestic animals except dogs and cats.
 This can be literally translated as Being-in-the-village.
 God made you the way God is. Could not this sentence be assimilated to the biblical statement “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gn. 1: 26a).
 For a suitable reading of this passage, the translation of the Good News Bible is recommended.
 Here, we can mention the example of the attack on the American Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-Es-Salaam in the year 1998. These attacks claimed hundreds of lives. Though most of the people who were killed or injured were non-American the person that planed for the bombing was satisfied because he/she was able to attack America.
 W.S. Cantwell, “Idolatry” in J. Hick, Knitter P.F., ed., The Myth of Christian Uniqueness: Toward a Pluralistic Theology of Religions, 56.
 A.D. Lane, The Experience of God: An Invitation to do Theology, 15.
 A.D. Lane, The Experience of God: An Invitation to do Theology, 17.
 A.D. Lane, The Experience of God: An Invitation to do Theology, 36.
 See from the story how the Mask intervened in the life of these people.
 This for the Guere people is the Mask.
 C. Mbuka, “Proclamation and Dialogue with the African Traditional Religion” (Part I) on
 M. Schmaus, Dogma: The Church as Sacrament, Vol. 5, 21.
 See: Rom 16, 25-26, Mt 25 and 1Cor 2:6.
 First, God the mysterious (Rom 11:25), second the means that God used to reveal God's self (Col 2:2 and third the act of worship (Col 1:26-27).
 In the Roman culture the word sacramentum was referring to two practices:
1-A Military oath: This was an oath taken by any Roman soldier because the person was taken up a holy task, that of defending the land of gods and goddesses. Above all, these soldiers were legally and permanently removed from the “sphere of human law to that of divine law”. M. Schmaus, Dogma: The Church as Sacrament, Vol. 5, 27.
2- A sum of money (Collateral) that was deposited at a holly place by the plaintiff before any lawsuit. In case the plaintiff loses the case, he or she loses the money to the deity dedicated to that holy place.
Tertulian did not try to give the definition of the word mysterion. He tried to bring in a new term that could designate the same reality designated by the term mysterion. It will be appropriate to note that the word sacramentum was not in Tertulian's mind meant to designate the seven different moments of our today's liturgy. He used the expression to mean Baptism.
 B. Cooke, “Sacraments” in The New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship, 1116.
 M. Schmaus, Dogma: The Church as Sacrament, Vol. 5, 34.
 D. Blowey, Sacramentology I: Introduction to Sacramentalogy and the Sacraments of Initiation, 7.
 “All reality is potentially or in fact bearer of God's presence and the instrument of God's saving activity on humanity's behalf.” R. P. McBrien, “Principle of Sacramentality” in The Harper Collins Encyclopaedia of Catholicism, 1148.
 Sacramentum Tantum, Res et Sacramentum and Res Tantum.
 B. Ray, African Religions: Symbol, Ritual, and Community, 17.
 C. Nyamiti, “African Tradition and the Christian God” in Spearhead No. 49, 11.
 By the main fact that the Mask “comes out”, any human being present in the village is set for salvation, Pongné.
 By bad life, Guere people understand life full of bad luck, famine, death and the like.
 S Kovach, “A View of West Africa Masks” on <http://iunona.pmf.ukim.edu.mk/etnoantropozum/Kovach%20Senka-angl.htm>
 Normally the Mask comes out in the second half of December each year.
 S. Kovach “A View of West Africa Masks” on <http://iunona.pmf.ukim.edu.mk/etnoantropozum/Kovach%20Senka-angl.htm>
 S. Kovach “A View of West Africa Masks” on <http://iunona.pmf.ukim.edu.mk/etnoantropozum/Kovach%20Senka-angl.htm>
 S. Kovach “A View of West Africa Masks” on <http://iunona.pmf.ukim.edu.mk/etnoantropozum/Kovach%20Senka-angl.htm>
 L. Magesa, African Religion: The Moral Traditions of Abundant Life, 52.
 S. M. Heim, Salvations Truth and Differences in Religion, 162.
 1-Ecclesiocentric universe – Exclusivic Christololgy, 2-Christocentric universe – Inclusivic Christology, 3-Theocentric universe – Normative Christology, 4-Theocentric universe – Non-normative Christology. J.P. Schineller, “Christ and the Church: A Spectrum of Views” in Theological Studies, No. 37, 545-566.
 Here we can make reference to theologians such as J. Dupuis, R. Panikkar, G. D’Acosta and others. As Church Document, we can quote Lumen Gentium, Dialogue and Proclamation, Redemptoris Missio etc.
 J. Dupuis, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, (second printing), 46.
 Sometimes these theologians are called Exclusivists, because they “regard their own tradition as sole possession of religious truth and therefore as the sole path of salvation.” S. M. Heim, Salvations Truth and Differences in Religion, P117.
 Those that are going to be mentioned here have not been chosen because of the greatness of their work neither is it because of their popularity. They were chose them simply because I encountered them in the course of my reading for this work.
 J. Dupuis, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, (second printing), 110ff.
 F. Domingues, Christian Theology of Other Religions, (Class note), 43.
 B. Stockwell “One Perspective on Lausannell in Manila, July 11-20, 1989”, p3 in manuscript. Quoted by J. Dupuis, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, (second printing), 185.
 H. Van Straelen, L’Eglise et les Religions non Chrétiennes au Seuil du XXIe Siècle, 281.
 This description of religion given by K. Barth is even applied to Christianity. His book Church Dogmatics, Vol. I, 280-361.
 H. Kraemer, The Christian Message in Non-Christian World, 1947.
 We would like to say here too that K. Barth did dilute his position on the role played by religion in the process of Salvation in his book Church Dogmatics, Vol. IV, 86-104. For more information on the evolution of Barth’s position, read C.E. Braaten, No Other Gospel! Christianity Among the World’s Religions, 53-59.
 M.S. Heim, Salvations Truth and Differences in Religion, 117.
 J.A. May, “New Books” in The Furrow, Vol. 54, No. 11, 634.
 J.A. May, “New Books” in The Furrow, Vol. 54, No. 11, 634.
 J. Dupuis, Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue, 136, 255-258.
 F. Domingues, Christian Theology of Other Religions, (Class note), 44.
 P.F. Knitter, Jesus and the Other Names: Christian Mission and Global Responsibility, 37.
 P.F. Knitter, Jesus and the Other Names: Christian Mission and Global Responsibility, 41.
 P.F. Knitter, Jesus and the Other Names: Christian Mission and Global Responsibility, 69. Knitter brightly comments on this passage Acts 4:12 as far as its exclusion of other salvific means are concerned. Under the subtitle: No Other Name? Of the fourth chapter in his book Jesus and the Other Names: Christian Mission and Global Responsibility. Moreover, we would like to acknowledge that our reflection on the same text is thoroughly based on this wonderful subtitle of the author. Pg 69-70.
 J.A.T. Robinson, Truth is Two-Eyed, 105.
 P.F. Knitter, Jesus and the Other Names: Christian Mission and Global Responsibility, 70.
 Commenting on the text of Rm2: 14-16, Origen said: “The law written on hearts was not the law about Sabbaths and new moons, but: that they must not commit murder or adultery, not steal, not speak false testimony, that they honor father and mother, and similar things (…) and it is shown that each one is to be judged not according to a privilege of nature, but by his own thoughts he is accused or excused, by the testimony of his conscience.” Origen, On Romans II. 9-10. PG 14. 892-93 quoted by W. Most, Our Fathers Plan, <http://www.petersnet.net/browse/964.htm>.
 R.P McBrien, “Holiness” in The Harpercollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, 617.
 G. Moran, Theology of Revelation, 11.
 Lumen Gentium 16, 17.
 See A. T. Sanon, Tierce Eglise, ma Mère ou la Conversion d’une Communité Païenne au Christ. See also F. Domingues, Christology and Traditional Religion in Africa, 345-400.
 Letter of Cardinal Francis Arinze to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, March 25, 1988. in F. Gioia, ed., Interreligious Dialogue: The Official Teaching of the Catholic Church (1963-1995), Boston, Pauline Books & Media, 1997. N° 854-874.
 F. Arinze in F. Gioia, ed., Interreligious Dialogue: The Official Teaching of the Catholic Church (1963-1995), Boston, Pauline Books & Media, 1997. N° 857. In our work this book will be referred to as ID followed by the number of the article. Example ID 857.
 F. Arinze in ID 856.
 F. Arinze in ID 864.
 M. Ott, African Theology in Images, 278.
 It is also spelled raffia. This is a kind of palm tree native to tropical Africa and Madagascar. This tree is used by the Guere people and indeed by some African tribes for various needs.
 We proposed this day of the solemnity of Palm Sunday because first of all people will be using some palm shoot on that day to commemorate that which happened in Jesus’ life in Jerusalem. And by using the branches of trees to welcome Jesus in the town, people in were acknowledging him as the one who comes in the Lord’s name (cf. Mat. 21: 9). On this day in Jerusalem, people welcomed and celebrated the presence of God among them. Presence represented by the presence of Jesus. So the Guere people may also remember that using the raffia shoot to decorate the Church on the solemnity of Palm Sunday will assure them more of the undeniable presence of God in their midst.
This practice of surrounding the church building with the raphia could be done also during the Christmas season. Again this time because it is the time when we celebrate the birth of our Saviour par excellence among us. So this raphia could be a tangible signs for the non-Christians that there is some thing great going on this time in the house of “these Christians”.
 J. Baur, 2000 Years of Christianity in Africa: An African History 62-1992, 2.
 See the cover page of this work.
 Pius XII, Musicae Sacrae Disciplina (1955), 22-23, in T. Okure- P. van Thiel 32 Articles Evaluating Inculturation of Christianity in Africa, 7
 M. Ott, African Theology in Images, 280.
 M. Ott, African Theology in Images, 280.
 We have suggested this day because the festival of Mask often takes place during the month of December, precisely during the second half of the month. This because it the time when the Guere people will give thanks to God for the year that is ending and pray Him for the coming one. The prayers for the coming year are done when the Mask pours libation. Now since the Mass of the 31st December could be said as a thanksgiving Mass for the Christians so that they may not feel that they have lost some things, and then at the end of that Mass the Catholic priest will pour the libation and people will be making their prayers and wishes at the foot of the Crucifix.
 J. Baur, 2000 Years of Christianity in Africa: An African History 62-1992, 2.
 JEAN Paul II, in ID 606. This was quoted as the summarising sentence of the chapter.
 S. Kovach, “A View of West Africa Masks” on <http://iunna.pmf.ukim.edu.mk/etnoantropozum/Kovach%20Senka-angl.htm >
 W.S. Cantwell, “Idolatry” in John Hick, Paul F. Knitter ed., The Myth of Christian Uniqueness: Toward a Pluralistic Theology of Religions, 56.
 For the Wègnon and most probably for many other African communities, death alone is not enough for one to become an Ancestor.
 S. M. Heim, Salvations Truth and Differences in Religion, 6.
 J. Nilson, “Salvation” in R. P. McBrien, ed., The Harpercollins Enciclopedia of Catholicism, 1158. See footnote 11.
 W. Most, “No Salvation Outside the Church” on <http://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTURE/EXTRAECC.TXT >