Relevance of Pastoral Counselling in African Culture
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RELEVANCE OF PASTORAL COUNSELLING IN AFRICAN CULTURE
Pastoral and spiritual work is rooted in a history and tradition that dates back to one of the oldest forms of care for individual in need. The different faith communities have always endeavored to take care of members and people in need. A study of the religious documents of major faith traditions also reveals a particular sensitivity to and focus on the poor, suffering and marginalized, as well as situations of social injustice (http:\www.pastoral therapypreamble.htm)
Traditional healing practices have existed in many or most cultures since their beginnings as a culture. However, some of these practices were forced to become hidden during colonial times. Today, traditional healing practices are being practiced alongside contemporary Western forms of counseling and healthcare. These forms of traditional healing generally include a system of classifying and explaining illness and distress, as well as ideas about the best treatment for particular problems and how to overcome grief. Evidence suggests that traditional healers are visited by people both from their own cultural/ethnic communities and from other cultural groups. Members of certain communities may seek help from traditional healer instead of seeing a pastor, doctor or counselor for certain illnesses/problems.
There are many reasons that a member of an ethnic community might opt for traditional/cultural healing instead of a pastor, doctor or counselor. For instance, Western mental health practices like therapy might be seen as ineffective or not suitable for particular types of problems as per the community culture and values. A person might be intimidated or mistrustful of Western practitioners, or there may be no services offered in his/her community or in his vernacular language. Traditional/cultural healing is qualified and legitimate within communities and sometimes its the first or only resource to which many turn for their healthcare and psychological/emotional needs.
Throughout history, Africans have learned to care for one another in times of pain and despair. The result is that pain and death, in communal African cultures, are not individual issues but are family and communal concerns. They affect the whole family and other families. The whole community feels the pain when an individual is in pain, and usually shows its care and solidarity through spontaneous communal or mutual care.
DEFINITION OF KEY WORDS
Community is a group of people living together as one body or bigger family. Community is families living together. They are interrelated in one way or another. Their interrelation helps them to cope with their situation.
Communal pastoral care and counseling
This is an approach of counseling, which uses community resources to help each other. Care and counseling in this approach is not the function purely of one person but ideally of community to community.
The ways and means how people live and or do things as a group. The ways and means of living in this instance are mostly done instinctively. There is no formal council to monitor them.
Family includes all people related by birth, marriage and living together. Family is not limited to father, wife and children. It is the extended family that we are concerned about as a healing institution. Family is one of the elements that shape community.
Any situation that causes stress and takes away the joy of any person or community is pain. In pain tears of suffering and sorrow are shared.
Restoration of total peace and happiness of the body and mind is healing. The total healing takes into account other factors that disturb peace and happiness in peoples lives.
Communal actions can heal pain
In Africa and most of our communities things are traditionally done communally and thus care in the African context should be seen as communal endeavor. The members of community are culturally obligated to care for each other. They visit the sick people in their communities for the reason that they are part of the community. Hence they are part of each other.
Gods care is omnipresent in communal care
There were indigenous cultures flourishing prior to the arrival of Christianity, and these, though varied, were inevitably religious in character. It remains true that a profound sense of the presence of God is evident in traditional African culture. But this was not recognized by the Europeans, whether settlers or missionaries, who first introduced Christianity in African continent. They regarded the indigenous cultures as devoid of any genuine religious life and belief in God, considering them too primitive to be taken seriously or so demonic that they could only be rejected. Contrary to the scripture, according to missionaries God has left himself without a witness in Africa.” Scripture supports Gods presence in what people do in all cultures Isaiah (44: 28 – 45)
It goes without saying that God accepts people as they are with their ideas, experiences and structures in contrast with doubting or not recognizing them. Therefore God is the creator of life and culture. “God has been ever present among his people, just as he has been in all peoples, cultures, religious tendencies of the world, not just as a condescension, but because this benevolent presence is in the logic of the covenant of creation and re-creation.
How we mourn and relieve emotions is very different
Pastoral care and counseling should let the people being served be creative in such a way that they are able to use things from their culture and mourn in a responsible way. This means that it is not everything that needs to be accepted in a Christian community. At the same time, equally, it is not everything from the culture that needs to be rejected. Identification and differentiation are given equal weight, in some communities when one dies close family members shave their heads to symbolize loss and a new beginning without the person hence Culture here