An Orthodox Journal of Cross-Cultural Theology, Dialogue and Mission

Banyore Culture in Dialogue with Orthodox Christianity

Amos Masaba Akunda
DOI: 10.57577/1-22A15
Salt: Crossroads of Religion and Culture: 1 (2022): 252-261
Keywords: Orthodox mission, Orthodox Church, Christian missions, African Christianity, gospel and culture, inculturation, Kenya, African culture, Bunyore, Banyore people, Orthodox Church in Africa, Patriarchate of Alexandria, mission and culture, cultural imperialism, mission and colonialism, Kenya history

Orthodox Christianity came to the Banyore people of western Kenya in 1942. The Banyore are Bantu speaking people whose language belongs to the Luhya group of languages. The Banyore live near the Ugandan border; they are thought to be related to the famous Ugandan Kingdom of Bunyoro Kitara. The first Christian missionaries among the Banyore were Protestants who came from South Africa in 1905. The Orthodox faith reached Bunyore in 1945, through a Kenyan missionary from central Kenya, Bishop George (Arthur) Gathuna, and Fr Obadiah from Uganda. The point of note here is that the first Orthodox Christian missionaries to introduce the Orthodox Christian faith to the Banyore people were Kenyans. I shall examine the relation between Orthodox Christianity and Banyore culture, and show how Orthodox Christianity, in dialogue with the Banyore people, became indigenised in Bunyore culture. Thus Orthodox Christians in Bunyore do not see Orthodoxy as something foreign, but as something that has become part of their own culture.



Introducing the Topic: The growth and acceptance of the Orthodox Church of Kenya among the Banyore people was a result of the Church’s willingness to accept and accommodate the local Banyore culture, to make some of the culture part of the church’s life. The willingness of the Banyore people to become part of the Orthodox Church of Kenya was solely based on the fact that Orthodox Christianity, which was regarded as a foreign religion, was embraced by Bunyore local culture.

The dialogue between the local culture of the Banyore people of western Kenya and the African Orthodox Church of Kenya is the means that was used to bring the two sides together. This dialogue led to the easy spread of Orthodoxy among the Africans of Kenya, as the ecclesiological and christological message of salvation was reconciled with the local culture to bring salvation and redemption to the people of this culture.

The Orthodox Church found an already-prepared home within African tradition, culture and ethos. We will show that African people fell in love with the Orthodox Church because of the Orthopraxia, Orthodoxia, and Orthokoinonia within its life. In this connection I have tried to explain Orthodox spirituality, especially the reflection of Orthodox liturgical praxis in Banyore cultural practices.