Contextual family therapy and counselling for marriage and family life among the traditional Gumuz and the Gumuz Christians of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (The EECMY)
The Gumuz society in Ethiopia has been neglected and almost forgotten by the previous rulers of Ethiopia. It is not surprising therefore to see that the majority of the population of Ethiopia have no knowledge about the Gumuz society. This society was not exposed to education until the arrival of the missionaries at the end of 1950's. When Christianity was introduced, the Church did not do enough in helping Christians to distinguish between the Gumuz traditional and the Christian marriage practices, the former which denies some male members of the community the possibility of getting married. Marriage is contracted by exchanging girls. Thus, unless a man has a sister to exchange he is not going to get married. There is an assumption that a man may get a girl from one of his extended families, but that is not always possible. He may or may not get a girl. Therefore the man will end up without getting married. The introduction of Christianity made it possible for every member of the Gumuz people to get married by allowing them to marry from the neighbouring tribes. However, it introduced another side effect. Christians were not able to differentiate between the Gumuz traditional and Christian marriage practices. This dissertation studies the traditional and the Christian marriage practices of the Gumuz society and of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (the EECMY). According to the Gumuz society, marriage is believed to be (Okka) God given. To get married is to obey okka, to accept what God has given, and to have as many children as possible in order to increase the population of the Gumuz tribe. Failure to get married is a crime against traditional beliefs and practices. Furthermore, this dissertation provides the way the Gumuz society understands divorce. Among the Gumuz society divorce does not concern only one family. Both family members and extended families are affected. Since marriage is performed as indicated earlier on by exchanging girls, if a person divorces his wife he has to expect that his sister will divorce her husband which will disturb the whole extended family relationships. Realizing the risk, every married persons in the Gumuz society is conscious about divorce. This attitude brings the rate of divorce to a low level. This dissertation sees the need for counselling and appeals for a therapeutic approach by putting emphasis on contextual family therapy, a therapeutic process which is constructed with maximal concern for its relevance to the cultural context in which it occurs. For example, the problems related to exchanging girls, marriage between the Gumuz and the neighbouring tribes, the issue of divorce, and so forth, are not problems which can be discussed only with individuals or a family member, it needs the inclusion of extended families as well as multigenerational processes. This therapeutic process is capable of providing a contextual approach by looking at the system of the family. I recommend the therapists to have a grounding in the general principle of family life and to get familiar with the way families operate as a social system. The dissertation hopes to create awareness among therapists with basic theories of family systems which enable them to get knowledge of a causes for dysfunctional behaviour within the families, and to equip them with therapeutic skill. This is paramount.