2019-2020 Grant in Aid of Research

A Biblical and Missiological Response to the Fear of Ancestral Spirits among Luhya Christians of Western Kenya

Samuel Mbayi

The fear of ancestral spirits cannot be overlooked among the Luhya Christians of Western Kenya. In Luhya communities when people die all attitudes and perceptions towards the dead change. It does not matter who the person has been in society, for respect must be shown so as to please the deceased and give them a good send off to the ancestral world. All funeral and burial arrangements, including food to be eaten and animals and birds to be slaughtered are done in the context of honoring the dead, which has traditional religious significance. When missionaries came to Africa, and more specifically to the Luhya people of western Kenya, they found people deeply rooted in African Traditional Religion. Because, Africans “are notoriously religious” (Mbiti 1969, 8). Africans carry with them this religion wherever they go. The Luhya people in this region have a high regard for their ancestors and believe that ancestors play an important dimension in their lives. The Luhya people, like other Africans, believe that when people die they are still part of the community and, they need to be appeased from time to time. They believe that when people die they join the living dead from where they can come and harm their surviving relatives. This project seek to give a biblical and missiological response to this fear and clarify some Bible texts that some preachers use to claim that when people die, they go to heaven hence agreeing with Luhya people’s belief in the living dead. It shows that the dead know nothing and have no business with what happens among the living.