Balunda, Batura Bakhibi cultural history of burying the dead while seated at crossroads with religion
Written by Protus Simiyu
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Controversy has emerged between the Head Priest of the Catholic Church in Kimwanga Parish Fr. Sebastian Mang’oli and two clans of Balunda and Batura Bakhibi over their culture of burying the dead while seated.
The Catholic Priest Fr. Sebastian Mang’oli openly declared that he will not conduct any burial mass unless the two clans are ready to do away with the culture of burying the dead while seated which he termed as retrogressive in the 21st century.
On the other hand, the two clans led by their chairmen Mzee Martin Wanyonyi of the Balunda and Mzee Patrick Wabala of the Batura Bakhibi said they are not ready to let go their culture that has been in existence for over 100 years.
The two old men disclosed that their families would be faced with uncertainty and bad omen if they will disown their culture as punishment from their forefathers who greatly valued the culture.
“Since I was born, I have witnessed people being buried while seated both young and old, our great grand fathers, grand fathers, fathers and even our children have been buried in that manner, we don’t understand why Fr.Mang’oli wants us to do away with our culture,’’ Mzee Wanyonyi charged.
Mzee Wabala of the Batura Bakhibi clan asserted that they respect the church and that they don’t want to fight the church leadership saying if Fr. Mang’oli is not happy with their culture then he should ask for transfer to another station.
Further, the two clans now want the Bungoma Diocese Catholic Church Bishop Kiong’o Wambua to intervene and transfer Fr. Mang’oli while insisting that they will not allow him to conduct any mass within Kimatuni Parish unless he is moved.
“It is our fathers who introduced the Catholic Church in the region in the 1920’s and subsequently donated pieces of land to put up the churches, we don’t want any conflict with the church, but our argument is that our culture must be respected,’’ Mzee Wabala of the Batura Bakhibi said.
The two old men revealed that the catholic priests including white priest have been burying their loved ones while seated claiming that the motive of the current priest is not in good faith.
“We believe that the sole purpose of the priest is to give spiritual nourishment to the believers, other churches are burying our people while seated, if he is not happy with our culture then he is free to seek for transfer,’’ they said.
Mzee Wanyonyi wondered why the priest now is indifferent having conducted two burial masses in the region while the dead were in seating position as usual.
Nevertheless, the officials of the two clans said under the new constitution it is provided for that the cultures and beliefs of communities must be respected.
“The priest should read and understand the new constitution, the low is very clear and we believe he is not above the law,’’ Mzee Wanyonyi disclosed.
The officials of the two clans addressed the media in Bungoma town minutes after presenting their grievances’ to the Bungoma Diocese Bishop Norman Kiong’o Wambua who promised to solve the stalemate amicably.