Balm in Gilead: religious soothing from the furnace of the Nigeria-Biafra War and Igbo Pentecostal expressions

  • Kanayo Nwadialor


Pentecostalism in recent times has become a crucial phenomenon exerting a great influence on the religious, social and cultural life of the Igbo. This is traceable to the social-economic and psychological conditions that prevailed in Igboland during and immediately after the Nigeria-Biafra war. Most of the existing literature on the war seem to be focused on its economic and social consequences with little or no serious attention given to religious yearnings from the furnace of the war particular the growth of Pentecostalism in Igboland. Furthermore, the war appears to be majorly seen by historians from the perspective of the international diplomatic ties between Nigeria and the international communities, without looking inwards to its religious implications. It is on the strength of the above lacuna that this research work was conceived. The study was anchored on the empirical theory of divine intervention as propounded by Thomas Aquinas and observed that disillusionment, poverty and depression that naturally followed the war could not be resolved by the programme of reintegration, reconciliation and reconstruction of the federal government. Similarly, the Igbo people appeared to have lost confidence in the potency of their traditional religious practices as well as the sincerity of the harbingers of mission Christianity, which created an atmosphere of a new religious demand that enhanced evangelization and Pentecostal growth. Like the post slave trade, the post war Igboland saw a balm in Gilead from the soothing messages of the Pentecostal movements that promised to heal the wounds of the war. Pentecostalism offered hope, absolute reliance on the divine will on matters of marginalization, poverty and disillusionments that compounded the tragic incidence of the war.

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