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CHAPTER ONEINTRODUCTIONBackground to the studyAt a particular point in one’s life, one submits himself to the unavoidable call of death which has made it possible for couples sometimes to lose one another. When this happens the other partner is considered by the society as a widow or a widower. When the deceased partner is a woman or a man, the living partner is called a widow or a widower respectively. These ideas are collectively referred to as widowhood. Wikipedia (2008) avows that widowhood is “the state of having lost one’s spouse to death. These terms are not applied to a person after he or she is divorced from their former spouse, though they may sometimes be used after the former spouse has died” (p. 2)Widowhood situation/condition is often accompanied by certain practices that are relatively inhuman in nature depending on the culture and tradition of the society where the widow exists. These practices are different in various countries or ethnic groups around the globe. In Africa, for instance, the demise of a partner immediately subjects the living partner to several pains. It becomes generally unbearable when the deceased person is the husband. According to Himanshu (2000), in the past 25 years, it was noted that no group is affected more by the sin of omission than widows. They are painfully absent in the statistics of many developing countries. They are rarely mentioned in the multitude of reports on women’s poverty development programmes.From the observation of many researchers, women are more likely to be widowed than men. Various factors are blamed for this condition. According to Lee (2002), women live longer than men and for such, suffer widowhood practices than men. He asserts that, “Women tend to marry older men, although this gap has been narrowing. Because women live longer and marry older men, their odds of being widowed are much greater than men’s” (p.38).Apart from the age difference among couples, Fasoranti (2007), Amoran (2005), Abdalah and Ogbeide (2002) highlighted several other factors. Fasorant is of the opinion that the society has men as the principal breadwinner of the family is likely going to record more widows because of the risks men undergo in order to keep the family.This condition exposes the widow to, not only suffering to keep the family alone , but also exposes her to a serious mental torture. The point stressed by Ogbeide (2002) could serve as a universal situation in Africa. The nature of the tradition and cultural practices in Africa has their greater effects on the husband. Among the Ibibio and other tribes in the neighborhood, there is a condition where the immoral lifestyle of the wife directly claims the life of the husband living the wife in a widowhood state. In such a condition, the widow is inflicted with several pains that make her condition very challenging. Boye and Eboh (2005) summarized widowhood practices in Africa in the following statement:Some of the practices widows are meant to pass through on the loss of the husband are, shaving of hair on the head, drinking of remains of bath water used to wash the husband’s corpse, mourn her husband’s death for about three to twelve months depending on the ethnic group(p. 1)All the countries in Africa observe these practices although it varies among countries due to the dominant tradition that reigns supreme among them. In some tradition, a widow suspected to have a hand in the death of her husband is compelled to live with the corpse to prove her innocence. Various inhuman practices prevail in the life of a widow. And the fact that these practices are global is a clear indication that widowhood practices started at a time beyond memory in the human history. In Genesis 38:11 we found a situation where a widow was made to sleep with the husband’s brother in order to fulfill the traditional demand. This situation calls for the question of what is the church role in curbing these dominant practices. The church, as the moral advocate, should descend on the matter fully to help debunk the society of this wanton knowledge that makes modern slavery out of a free citizen. The Holy Book (The Bible), especially the New Testament, should serve as a pointer to the treatment of widows in the society. It is based on the above background that the researcher seeks to investigate the role of the church towards widowhood practices in Ibibio land

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