Inculturation Of Cultural Traditional Marriage And Family Life Of Melanesian

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Today in Melanesian societies, the marriage and family life issues has been arising due to rapid changes in the settings of traditional culture, modernization and Christianity that has been affecting society and cultures. This essay will be focused on Melanesian traditional marriage and family life inculturation. The term inculturation according to Crollius stated “they express rather an extrinsic relationship between the Christian life and message and a given culture” (Crollius, 1995). In simple understanding, according to Sybertz and Healey (1996)

“it is a process by which people of a particular culture become able to live, express, celebrate, formulate and communicate their Christian faith and their experience of the Paschal Mystery in terms (linguistic, symbolic, social) that make the most sense and best convey life and truth in their social and cultural environments”. (Bustos, 2015; Cited, Sybertz & Healey:1996, 26)

Marriage is instituted by God is a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman joined in an intimate community of life and love (Gen 2: 18-24). Marriage can be described as ritual or sacramental. To start with, the forms of marriage in the Melanesian, forms of marriage and family life, the most common marriage in Melanesian society, Christian marriage, inculturation of Melanesian-Christian marriage and contextualization with the gospel.

Types of marriage in Melanesian society

In the Melanesian societies there are four main types of marriages that are practiced and they are; traditional marriage according to custom and culture, Christian marriage according to church law, civil marriage according to state law and defector marriage (Bustos, 2015). Traditional/customary marriage are performed according to the customs as recognized by the people of a particular society or cultural background (Schwarz, 2015, p. 205). Christian marriage is officially being celebrated and granted church blessing by a clergy presiding over the marriage and recognized by the Christian community. (Mantovani, 1992, p. 233.). According to Schwarz, (2015) define civil marriage as, “is performed in front of a state-licensed marriage celebrant who is registered with the government official”. De factor marriage is the marriage where a couple is living together but are not recognized either by customary, statutory or religious.

The most common forms of marriage and family life

The most common form of marriage that are practice in Melanesian society is the customary/traditional marriage especially in Papua New Guinea. It has many rituals. Bustos (2015), described rituals as ‘holy action’ or ‘sacred action’ which originated from an old Indian word ‘rta’. It is performed in traditional marriages as initiated in its’ initial process. Some may ask why customary form of marriage is important in Melanesian societies? It is because of some reasons such as; customary marriage is the marital laws embodied in the customs and practices of traditional societies and involves families and clans by way of arrange marriages that happened over a certain period of time that possessed the ability of Melanesian societies took care to support and to protect the marriage partnership and also relations will always be established, mended and strengthened. It is a process of long drawn-out negotiations and discussions, usually spread out over several months or even years. It is not just a single affair of two individuals, it includes relatives and extended families. The essential aspect of this marriage is through exchange or arrange marriage, bride wealth (bride price) and child-bearing. Therefore, traditional marriage in PNG is highly valued because it is the basis of regeneration of society. (Bustos, 2015). On the other hand, Papua New Guinea is regarded as a Christian country according to preamble constitution of the nation however, they still regard customary marriage as the true marriage.

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Christian Marriage

In Christian marriage, marriage is known as sacramental because it is instituted as a sacrament by Christ the Lord (Bustos, 2015), it is a covenant because Hahn, (2004) defines covenant as ‘sacred family bond’ and it cannot be broken, it is a contract because Foster (2014,2003); cited Hahn (1998) stated that contract is an exchange of promises and it can be broken, it is a vocation because God created marriage as part of the creation so mankind could fulfill God’s plan in his calling (John Paul II, 2014, Familiarsris Consortio 14) and it is for life and this makes Christians marriage unique. Christian marriage is defining as a covenant of life and love (for better and for worse) when vows are pronouncing especially in the sacrament of matrimony by which a husband and wife established and become one flesh to pro-create and educate their off spring (Catholic Church, 2012, 1601-1605; cf. John Paul II, 1982, Familiaris Consortio 18).


The main purpose of inculturation is to evangelize and it is trough understanding the culture and intergration of faith and culture. Therefore, to established the effective evangelization there must be openness for the spirit to work through the many positive elements of Melanesian cultures to create ‘gutpela sindaun’. Ignoring the values and the cultural forms embedded in ones’ worldview would mean that we miss the great opportunity that culture provides us to make an inculturated approach to marriage relevant from the Christian perspective (Bustos, 2015) therefore, to inculturation we must not be ignoring the values and the culture but understand and incarnating good news in a particular cultural context because this will give us the true meaning of marriage. For example; we can connect these following elements: agape, contract, permanence and a committed relationship of the biblical tradition where marriage is seen as a visible sign of the divine covenant with traditional elements of customary marriage to make meaning and sense to the people (Bustos, 2015). In Melanesian society, traditional marriage is based upon exchange or arrange marriage, bride price and bearing of offspring. This is to create strong relationship within the community which includes family, relatives, clans. However, including extended family is one of the disadvantage of the customary marriage. To inculturate, in Genesis 2:23-24 says, ‘’out of man this one was created. Therefore, a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they will become one flesh”. In this verse God’s perfect pattern has three parts: to leave, to cleave and to become one flesh. Therefore, to connect with traditional marriage, family must not depend on the extended relatives. The transformation of the family occurred within nuclear family aimed at grooming children to become good adult Christians trough reduction of extended families.


Churches has been strongly talking about establishing a domestic church which consist of nuclear family to create an Ideal community. In that manner the primary purpose of marriage is through bearing of offspring and educated them. The transformation of the family occurred within nuclear family aimed at grooming children to become good adult Christians trough reduction of extended families. The concepts of the marriage and family life can be contextualized in a domestic church in which nuclear family should have;

  • Communion of heart by having listening heart when solving family issues
  • Communion of the Word/Faith- Parents should encourage their children to daily read the bible.
  • Unity in Faith; Communion of the table by having fellowship or daily family devotion.
  • Communion of Goods by sharing material and spiritual resources the family manifested caring.


To conclude, marriage is a process of life. Man and woman commit themselves completely to each other and to the wondrous responsibility of bringing children into their world and caring for them. Marriage can be seen as a ritual in a traditional setting and sacramental in a Christian setting. In traditional marriage, marriage is depending mostly on extended family. The primary purpose of marriage is to pro-create offspring and educated them. To inculturation marriage depend on three characteristics and they are; to leave, to cleave and become one flesh. Marriage can be consisting of a nuclear family and its aimed at grooming children to become good adult Christians trough reduction of extended families.

Looking in some ways forward is to prepare for marriage, young people should learn more about churches approach to best contemporary marriage practices. They should have good marriage preparation based upon Christian and traditional values system. In doing so, they should get married as adult to ensure that they are intellectually, socially and emotionally and spiritually matured. One way to make the experience of contextualization, inculturation of Christian marriage with the customary marriage happen requires a dialogue between the minister (priest, pastoral works, the laity) and the community.

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