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ole timer Jan 31, 2015

  1. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

    Christianity first arrived in North Africa, in the 1st or early 2nd century AD. The Christian communities in North Africa were among the earliest in the world. Legend has it that Christianity was brought from Jerusalem to Alexandria on the Egyptian coast by Mark, one of the four evangelists, in 60 AD. This was around the same time or possibly before Christianity spread to Northern Europe.

    Once in North Africa, Christianity spread slowly West from Alexandria and East to Ethiopia. Through North Africa, Christianity was embraced as the religion of dissent against the expanding Roman Empire. In the 4th century AD the Ethiopian King Ezana made Christianity the kingdom's official religion. In 312 Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

    In the 7th century Christianity retreated under the advance of Islam. But it remained the chosen religion of the Ethiopian Empire and persisted in pockets in North Africa.

    In the 15th century Christianity came to Sub-Saharan Africa with the arrival of the Portuguese. In the South of the continent the Dutch founded the beginnings of the Dutch Reform Church in 1652.

    In the interior of the continent most people continued to practice their own religions undisturbed until the 19th century. At that time, Christian missions to Africa increased, driven by an antislavery crusade and the interest of Europeans in colonising Africa. However, where people had already converted to Islam, Christianity had little success.

    Christianity was an agent of great change in Africa. It destabilised the status quo, bringing new opportunities to some, and undermining the power of others. With the Christian missions came education, literacy and hope for the disadvantaged. However, the spread of Christianity paved the way for commercial speculators, and, in its original rigid European form, denied people pride in their culture and ceremonies
  2. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

    North Africa

    North Africa was an early cradle of Christianity. Indeed Christianity's links with Africa started nearly two thousand years ago, just weeks after the birth of Jesus when according to the bible, the holy family fled the wrath of King Herod.

    "An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream saying: 'Arise, take the young child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word, for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

    When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, 'Out of Egypt I called my Son."
    St Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 3, verses 13-15.

    Listen to St Mathew's Gospel, Chapter 3, Verse 13-15

    Christianity spread to North Africa less than 150 years after the death of Christ. Christian beliefs were introduced by missionaries from Jerusalem and spread among the Jews of Alexandria, on the Egyptian Coast, some time in first century AD or second century. There, the new faith was adopted by the Greek community from the Jews. Christianity spread west, and was taken up across North Africa. It reached as far as modern-day Morocco, where it was enthusiastically embraced by the Berber people. It is quite possible that Christianity came to Africa before it came to Britain and other regions in Northern Europe.


    Under the Greeks and during the early years of Roman rule, Egyptians had worshipped their traditional gods as they had during the time of the Pharaohs. Some historians believe that there were elements within such traditional religion that made people receptive to the Christian message.

    "Consider how the pharaoh Akhenaton more than one thousand years before Christianity taught and preached how there was one creator for the universe. Look at the statues in ancient Egypt…there is the sign of the cross which was engraved upon it. It was called the ankh - the sign of life, of life after death.

    Even the idea of the trinity…in Memphis there was the trinity of Isis, Osiris and Horus, all combined into one. So many of the teachings of Christianity were not foreign at all."
    Fouad Megially, former Assistant Professor at the universities of Alexandria and Cairo.

    Listen to a Coptic mass, recorded at the eleventh century Church of St Mary in Cairo, also known as the Hanging Church

    The branch of Christianity that developed in Egypt was named after the language spoken by the mass of the Egyptian population - Coptic. Two thousand years later it is still used in Church liturgy.

    The early Christian fathers in Egypt developed a strong monastic tradition. There were hundreds of monasteries throughout the country as well as cells and caves occupied by hermits. An anonymous fourth century writer observed:

    "There is no town or village in Egypt that is not surrounded by hermitages as if by walls and the people depend on their prayers as if on God himself, through them the world is kept going."

    Christianity was embraced as the religion of dissent and opposition to oppressive Roman rule. It was also, under the teaching of the theologian Origen, a religion emphasising wisdom and physical hardship. Martyrdom became a feature of Christian communities.

    One of the earliest documented martyrs was Perpetua, a twenty-year-old wife and mother born in Carthage near Tunis. In 203 AD, she was sentenced to death for her beliefs and her refusal to make a sacrifice to the Roman gods.

    "We walked up to the prisoner's dock. All the others when questioned admitted their guilt. Then, when it came to my turn, my father appeared with my son, dragged me from the step, and said: 'Perform the sacrifice - have pity on your baby!'

    Hilarianus the governor…. said to me: 'Have pity on your father's grey head; have pity on your infant son. Offer the sacrifice for the welfare of the Emperors'.

    'I will not' I retorted.
    'Are you a Christian?' said Hilarianus.
    And I said: 'Yes, I am'…
    Then Hilarianus passed sentence on all of us; we were condemned to the beasts, and we returned to prison in high spirits."
    Perpetua's account of her last days, taken from Acts of the Christian Martyrs.

    Listen to a BBC dramatisation of the martyrdom of Perpetua

    From the early fourth century, under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, the attacks became more widespread and violent. Churches were destroyed, bibles burned, and Christians faced imprisonment, torture and death.

    Persecution of the Christians ceased in 312, when the Roman Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Empire. By now, different forms of Christian belief were beginning to emerge and diverse groups of worshippers were beginning to congregate. The most long lasting split over doctrine centred on the nature of God and developed in 451. The Church in Constantinople (modern Istanbul), from where the Roman Empire was now administered, held to the idea that God was both human - in the form of Jesus - and divine. In contradiction to this, the church in North Africa said God was one indivisible unity and wholly divine. This Monophysite belief became the central tenet of the Church in North Africa, which subsequently became known as the Coptic Church.

    In the Western regions of North Africa, a more militant, rigid form of Christianity grew up. It was unforgiving of those who collaborated with Roman persecutors. This form of Christianity was known as Donatism and it became identified by the newly Christianised Byzantine authorities as a heresy and equated with dissent and rebellion. It was outlawed by St Augustine of Hippo in his capacity as Bishop of Hippo (in modern Algeria). When Islam came to North Africa in 639, Christian communities were weakened by these divisions and so were less able to resist conversion to the new faith
  3. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

    Ethiopia & Nubia

    The Ethiopian branch of Christianity first emerged in the kingdom of Aksum in the northern corner of the Ethiopian highlands. The person who introduced Christianity to Aksum is said to be Fremnatos - known as Frumentius in Europe, later a saint. He is variously described as a trader, philosopher and theologian.

    The story goes he was on his way to India when he was kidnapped in Aksum. He obviously made a good impression, because he ended up being the tutor to the future King Ezana. The King adopted Christianity as the official religion in 333 AD. Fremnatos was rewarded for this by being consecrated Bishop of Aksum at a ceremony in Alexandria. When the Aksum dynasty collapsed the Ethiopian centre of power moved south and east, taking the Christian tradition with it.

    The most popular story connected to the region is the ancient account of the Queen of Sheba. As told in the Old Testament, she travelled from Aksum to Jerusalem to meet the famed King Solomon (King of the Israelites) in Jerusalem.

    Click here to listen to a dramatisation of the story of the Queen of Sheba's seduction by King Solomon

    "And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to prove him with hard questions. And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart."
    1 Kings, 10, v.1-2, Old Testament.

    Although there is no evidence that the Queen of Sheba did come from Aksum, it has become part of the Ethiopian church's central tenets.

    "The Ethiopians say she travelled from Aksum across the Red Sea…and visited Solomon there. It was said they had romantic relations and she had a son...and she came back and he was born to the north of Aksum.

    When he was old enough, she sent him back to his father to get his blessing and his father blessed him and sent him back to Ethiopia…and this son established a new dynasty…the Solomonic dynasty. The name of the son was Menelik I…

    Like all legends they serve the question of establishing an identity, very strong identity. I myself believe this is a post Christian legend…it developed only after the Ethiopians started to have direct contact with the books of the Bible, from about the middle of the 6th Century…

    And then it became a very important constitutional device and an act of faith. I cannot publicly speak against it in front of the patriarch of the orthodox church, for example, because then he would say, you are no longer an Orthodox Christian.

    In the days of Emperor Haile Selassie you couldn't speak against the tradition because it would be treasonable to talk against it."
    Professor Tadesse Tamrat, Professor of History, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia.

    Tesfay Berhane offers a guided tour of Axum and the Queen of Sheba's Palace

    Listen to a mass, recorded at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Axum

    In the 5th and 6th centuries the scriptures were translated into Ge'ez. The ancient forerunner of the Ethiopian language Amharic. With the spread of Islam in the 7th century the Ethiopian Church fell into something of a decline, although there was a revival in the 13th century. In 1621 the Ethiopian Emperor Susenyos became Catholic. With his abdication however, links with Rome were abandoned and Jesuit priests were banned.

    Although autonomous in its rulings, the Ethiopian church remained connected to the Coptic Church until the mid-20th century.

    Christianity spread South from the North of Egypt to Nubia (modern day Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan) some two hundred years after the collapse of the powerful Nile Valley kingdom of Meroe in the 4th century AD. It was brought by traders from Egypt and by travelers from Aksum.

    Archaeological remains suggest that Christianity was a religion of the poor people to begin with and only later became popular with the elite. A missionary who came to Nubia from Constantinople found everybody well versed in Christian doctrine in 580. Initially the Nubian Church developed under the control of the Egyptian Coptic church. When Islam swept through the North of the continent in the 7th century, the Nubian rulers sought help from the Christian Emperor in Constantinople.

    The Arab forces did their best to conquer Nubia but were forced back by the skills of the Nubian archers.

    "One day they arrayed themselves against us and were desirous to carry on the conflict with the sword. But they were too quick for us and shot their arrows, putting out our eyes. The eyes they put out numbered 150. We at last thought the best thing to do with such a people was to make peace."
    The Arabic writer al-Baladhuri.

    The Arabs agreed a peace treaty with the Nubians, which allowed the Nubian kingdoms to flourish as a Christian state for 700 years. The two northern kingdoms, Nobadia and Makuria merged into one - Dongola. Dongola entered something of a golden age; the bible was translated from Greek into Nubian and beautiful churches were built throughout the Nile Valley.

    The Church in Nubia finally yielded to Islamic conversion in the 14th century and the massive Cathedral in Dongola was converted into a mosque in 1317.

    While the Nubian church dissolved, with only a few architectural remnants to recall its former glory, the Ethiopian Church not only persisted but acquired great significance outside the Horn of Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries.

    The ancient nature of the church, combined with the Ethiopian defeat of the Italians in 1896, gave hope and inspiration to the anti-colonial movement in South Africa, and the Gold Coast, as well as to African-Americans suffering from prejudice and segregation
  4. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

    Early Missionaries

    In 1490 the first missionaries came to Sub-Saharan Africa at the request of King Nzinga of Kongo (also known as the Manikongo). They came with craftsmen who rebuilt the Manikongo's capital in stone at Mbanza Kongo (in the North of modern Angola), and baptised the King. King Nzinga's son Afonso (born Nzinga Mbemba) was sent to Portugal to study and amazed the catholic hierarchy with his intelligence and intense piety.

    "It seems to me from the way he speaks as though he is not a man but rather an angel, sent by the Lord into this kingdom to convert it; for I assure that is he who instructs us, and that he knows better than we do the Prophets and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and the lives of the saints and all the things concerning out Holy Mother the Church…For he devotes himself entirely to study, so that it often happens that he falls asleep over his books, and often he forgets to eat and drink in talking of the things of Our Lord."
    The Franciscan missionary, Rui d'Aguiar, writing to King Manuel of Portugal about the piety of the Mani Kongo, King Afonso of the Kongo, 25th May 1516.

    Afonso's son, Henrique, subsequently became the first black African bishop in the Catholic church. But the kingdom of the Kongo was ruined by the slave trade, which caused a massive drain on manpower.

    The Soyo people were initially junior partners in an alliance with the Manikongo, but this changed in the 17th century. The Soyo traded with the Dutch from whom they bought firearms in exchange for slaves, ivory and copper. The Soyo eventually usurped the Manikongo and laid waste Sao Salvador, the Kongo seat of power. The Soyo set up their capital in Mbanza Soyo (now modern Porto Rico on Zaire river in northern Angola). By 1665 the Kongo empire had largely disintegrated.

    Capuchin missionaries from Portugal established themselves as crucial intermediaries between the Soyo and Europe. They were helped by eight or ten interpreters, many related to the ruler, bound by a vow of secrecy and governed by many rules. The interpreters were a privileged group and did not pay tax or do military service. Their job was to translate during confession, prepare the altar and teach. By the late 17th century the ruler of Soyo was attending mass three times a week, carried in a hammock, wearing a cross of solid gold.

    However, there was conflict between the Capuchins and the Soyo over the issue of monogamous marriage and traditional religious practices. The Capuchins did not want the Soyo to sell baptised slaves to the English or other non-Catholic traders. They insisted that baptised slaves could only be sold to the Portuguese.

    At the beginning of the 18th century there was an attempt to revive the fortunes of the Kongo empire. In 1704, Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita, a young Kongolese woman, born to a noble Catholic family, claimed to be possessed by the spirit of St. Anthony. Inspired by this visitation she set about fighting to reestablish the preeminence of the old Kongo empire. She led a crusade of a thousand followers to Sao Salvador in 1704. Two years later she was burnt at the stake for heresy.

    Christianity persisted in the region, although it evolved in its own way, specific to the area. Missionaries who turned up in the 19th century, expecting to convert the local population, found people practising their own Africanised form of Christianity. All Souls Day had merged with the veneration of ancestors (a fusion repeated in many other parts of Africa), and the Virgin Mary had become something of a fertility symbol.

    In the rest of Africa, Christianity made little headway in the 18th century. Rulers in West Africa were mildly interested at first, seeing Christianity as something to add on to their own religions. But they grew hostile when told they had to make a choice: it was either Christianity or traditional religion. South Africa was the site of greater Christian missionary activity. The Moravian Brethren (closely linked to the Lutherans) of Eastern Europe, established a mission in 1737. In 1799 the London Missionary Society (LMS) followed suit
  5. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

    19th Century White Missionaries

    At the beginning of the 19th century, very few people in Africa were practising Christians, apart from Ethiopians, Coptic Egyptians and people living in the remnants of the Kongolese Empire (modern Congo Brazzaville and western DR Congo).

    In the 1800's, Catholic missionary expeditions were launched with new vigour to the West, in Senegal and Gabon. Protestant missionaries took up work in Sierra Leone in 1804. The missionaries represented a big spectrum of denominations or churches: Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, many of them in competition and conflict with each other.

    The abolition of slave owning in 1807 and slave trading in 1834 throughout the British Empire proved to be two important turning points. Outlawing the slave trade and converting freed slaves became a powerful motive for setting up European Christian missions. Human compassion in Europe for the plight of slaves meant that money could be raised to fund the considerable expenses of setting up a mission.

    The Protestants spread the Christian gospel through the slaves who were liberated from slaving ships along the West Coast after 1834. The application of Christian doctrine was much stricter than it had been in previous centuries. The success of Christian missionary programmes can be linked to the education they offered. Many people in Africa wanted education; and missionaries taught people to read, in order that they might understand the word of God.

    The missionary traveler David Livingstone (1813-1873) believed that the slave trade could only be suppressed by a combination of Christianity and trade. He travelled extensively from east to west in southern Africa dedicated to bringing Christianity to all, but never staying very long anywhere. He was most successful among the Tswana people (in modern Botswana), even though conversion to Christianity upset the status quo of this community.

    Neither Livingstone nor other missionaries had much impact on the slave trading which went on between the interior and the East coast. They failed to convert any significant numbers of Muslims to Christianity. Livingstone's well-intentioned call for colonisation as an antidote to the horrors of slavery, paved the way for a host of missionaries and speculators to follow in his footsteps and cause immense hardship for the people of southern Africa.

    Many European missionaries worked extremely hard running their missions, risking their lives and good health in the process. They varied enormously in their ability to contribute to the quality of life of those they lived with. Some remained dedicated but contemptuous of those they claimed to be converting. Others developed deep affection and respect for those they worked with and made a long lasting impression.

    The Scottish factory worker, Mary Slessor was one such missionary. She spent over 40 years in southern Nigeria, in Calabar. She learnt the local language and lived a life of total simplicity. She dealt head-on with some of the customs of the region, such as throwing twins into the bush to die, and negotiated an end to this. Today she is still revered and loved as a local figure.

    Listen to a description of Mary Slessor's missionary life and work

    Among the least admirable missionaries in history is reckoned to be the Reverend Helm of the Christian Missionary Society (CMS) who deliberately mistranslated a document drawn up between King Lobengula of the Ndebele and the British South Africa Company of Cecil Rhodes. This resulted in King Lobengula giving away all his land to speculators, thinking he had only signed away a limited mining concession. He was one of the rulers of southern Africa who had consistently refused to convert to Christianity.

    Another runner up for the title of villainous missionary is the Catholic priest, Friar Anthonio Barroso, who persuaded the illiterate Dom Pedro V, King of the Congo to sign a note in 1884. He believed it was a thank you letter for a gold-backed chair; in fact it was an oath of loyalty and submission to the King of Portugal.

    Portuguese missionaries in Angola and Mozambique in the late 19th century and 20th century were renowned and feared for their willingness to work hand in glove with the Portuguese colonial authorities. As a result of this alliance between church and state, Protestant missions proved very popular and many of Angola and Mozambique's leading nationalists were educated in Protestant missionary schools.

    "As soon as he had an opportunity of learning, he set himself to read with such close application, that from being comparatively thin, the effect of having been fond of the chase, he became quite corpulent from want of exercise.

    Mr. Oswell gave him his first lesson in figures, and he acquired the alphabet on the first day of my residence at Chonuane.

    He was by no means an ordinary specimen of the people, for I never went into the town but I was pressed to hear him read some chapters of the Bible. Isaiah was a great favourite with him; and he was wont to use the same phrase nearly which the professor of Greek at Glasgow, Sir D.K. Sandford, once used respecting the Apostle Paul, when reading his speeches in the Acts: 'He was a fine fellow, that Paul!'"

    "Seeing several of the old men actually in tears during the service, I asked them afterwards the cause of their weeping; they were crying to see their father, as the Scotch remark over a case of suicide, 'so far left to himself.' They seemed to think that I had thrown the glamour over him, and that he had become mine.

    Here commenced an opposition, which we had not previously experienced. All the friends of the divorced wives became the opponents of our religion. The attendance at school and church diminished to very few besides the chief's own family."
    Description of Chief Sechele of the Bakwain or Bakuena, a group within the Bechuana people (of modern Botswana) taken from Missionary Travels and Research in South Africa by David Livingstone, 1857
  6. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

    19th Century Black Missionaries

    At the beginning of the 19th century very few people in Africa were practising Christians apart from Ethiopians, Coptic Egyptians and people living in the remnants of the Kongolese Empire (modern Congo Brazzaville and western DR Congo).

    The abolition of slave owning in 1807 and slave trading in 1834, throughout the British Empire proved to be two important turning points. Outlawing the slave trade and converting freed slaves became a powerful motive for setting up European Christian missions. Human compassion in Europe for the plight of slaves meant that money could be raised to fund the considerable expenses of setting up a mission.

    Sierra Leone and Liberia, both colonies set up by freed slaves, became important centres of Christian practice in West Africa by the 1830's. The freed slaves who arrived in these colonies, who came from America, were already Christians when they arrived. Liberia's first President J. R. Roberts was a man of Christian piety as well as enterprise.

    "…The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. He works in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform, though it seems hard at this time, God does all things well for them that love and fear him.

    You cannot tell what cause he had thought proper to remove your husband from this world of bustle and confusion, for his part, he is gone to the realms above, he is gone to Abraham's bosom and expects to meet you there."
    Joseph Roberts' letter to Mrs. Colson, the widow of his great friend and business partner, Mr. Colson, on the occasion of that man's death in 1836.

    Christian missionaries knew that if Christianity was to flourish, Africans would have to be ordained. Samuel Ajayi Crowther was one of the most famous African representatives of a European church (in this case the Anglican Church).

    He was the first African Bishop in the Anglican church. And he was a formidably able man. He had been taken as a slave around 1822, but the slave ship in which he was held was intercepted and he was taken to Freetown. He was educated and baptised and sent to London for further instruction. He kept his own name Ajayi, but also took the name Crowther from a member of the Church Missionary Society (CMS).

    He was commissioned by the CMS to set up the Niger Mission; the first expedition to do so resulted in the death of a third of the party, all of which Crowther carefully documented in his journal. He supervised the setting up of a mission in Badagry, and later Abeokuta, (both in the south west of Nigeria), steering a difficult path between rulers in the region, some hostile to Christianity, some of whom were in conflict with each other. He later met Queen Victoria and read the Lord's prayer to her in the Nigerian language of Yoruba, which she described as soft and melodious. His missionary work expanded outside Yorubaland in south west Nigeria, founding a mission station in Onitsha, in the East of the territory.

    He published many works including the first written grammar of the Yoruba language and first Nupe grammar. In 1864, against considerable opposition from jealous fellow missionary Henry Townsend (another Niger Mission missionary), Crowther was made Bishop of 'Western Equatorial Africa' beyond the Queen's Dominions.

    A generation after Samuel Crowther, another formidable African churchman emerged in Nigeria: the Anglican priest, the Reverend J. J. Ransome Kuti. He carried out his ministry in defiance of the traditional priests with total confidence, as vividly described by Wole Soyinka in his autobiography Ake.

    "… Rev J.J. was away on one of his many mission tours. He travelled a lot, on foot and on bicycle, keeping in touch with all the branches of his diocese and spreading the Word of God. There was frequent opposition but nothing deterred him.

    One frightening experience occurred in one of the villages in Ijebu. He had been warned not to preach on that particular day, which was the day for an egungun outing, but he persisted and held a service. The egungun procession passed while the service was in progress and using his ancestral voice, called on the preacher to stop at once, disperse his people and come out to pay obeisance. Rev J.J. ignored him.

    The egungun then left, taking his followers with him but, on passing the main door, he tapped on it with his wand three times. Hardly had the last member of his procession left the church premises then the building collapsed. The walls simply fell down and the roof disintegrated.

    Miraculously however, the walls fell outwards - anywhere but on the congregation itself. Rev J.J. calmed the worshippers, paused in his preaching to render a thanksgiving prayer, then continued his sermon..."

    In East Africa, Christianity was carefully considered by the Kabaka Mutesa, who started out favouring Islam but turned to Christianity in old age. His son Kabaka Mwanga was at first favourably disposed towards Christians, but under pressure from factional intrigue among his chiefs he constantly changed his mind about religion. He ordered the murder of Anglican Bishop Hannington, who was on his way to see him, and had a number of Christian pages murdered - the pages are sometimes referred to as 'readers' because they learnt to read when they became Christian. He was ousted from office for some years by his own chiefs, later reinstalled and finally sent into exile by the British.

    "…Mwanga (Kabaka or King of Buganda in exile) sent us a written proposal, saying, 'I wish to return to my throne,' we invited him and he ran away from the Catholics and returned to us and we restored him to the throne.

    Further we assigned to all the Catholics a district of Uganda, viz. Budu, and there they lived apart. We told them, 'we do not wish to mix with the Catholics again.'

    At the present time we Protestants have possessed ourselves of a very large district and all the islands; and now the Mohammedans (Muslims) are applying to us to assign them a district, where they may settle and cease fighting with us: but the terms are not yet finally agreed upon…"

    Letter from Anglican missionary, Henry Wright Duta Kitakule, to a missionary in Zanzibar, April 1892.

    The line between Christian and African religious practice was not always very clearcut. In West Africa, a broad spectrum of religious beliefs emerged - traditional beliefs, Islam and Christianity flourishing side by side, sometimes in the same family. Nigerian politician, Chief Awolowo Obafemi, recounts the religious beliefs of his parents in the early 1900's. Of his mother he says,

    "After her marriage to my father, even though she attended church regularly with my father and discharged all her financial obligations as well as rendering voluntary services to the church, she remained unbaptised, and a mere proselyte at the gate.

    It was a condition precedent to the consent to her marriage with father, stipulated by her parents, that she should not be baptised, and admitted to the Christian fold. Her mother worshipped the river god (Oluweri, i.e. Owner and Ruler of the Rivers).

    When she gave birth to my mother, she had dedicated her to this god of the rivers, and she was not going to break her vow under any circumstances. Though mother, after her marriage, learnt to read in the vernacular and was, thereafter, able to read the Bible, the Prayer Book, and to sing hymns, and though she continued to attend church after father's death, it was some years after her own mother's death that I succeeded in getting her to break her mother's vow to the river god, and become a baptised Christian."

    The first African Catholics Bishops were not appointed until 1939 - Joseph Kiwanuka in Uganda and Joseph Faye in Senegal. Elsewhere African missionaries were appointed by the Presbyterian Church in Cameroun in 1896. Many people went to study in America and came back to preach the word of God. Often, like John Chilembwe, branching out on returning home to set up an independent African church
  7. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

    Contrasts And Parallels

    Christianity was taken up enthusiastically by large numbers of people from the 1880's in West, South and parts of East Africa. But many missionaries who came from Europe from the 1800's onwards were disapproving of how Africans worshipped. They demanded monogamy where polygamy was central to the health and wealth of the community; they disapproved of some traditional dress, and dances. They wanted all the objects or animals which people worshipped, destroyed.

    There were also tensions between missionaries and Africans when they converted to Christianity. It was not long before African Christians wanted to worship without any European intermediaries, and, to the distress of many missionaries, in their own style.

    There were aspects of Christianity which were quite familiar to people coming across it for the first time: the idea of a supreme power; the idea of the material world - this world; and another world - the spiritual world; and the idea of revelation and prophesy, through dreams and through visions. These were all present to a greater or lesser extent in traditional religions. Redemption through Christ's sacrifice had its echo in sacrificial rites of traditional religions.

    Missionaries had, from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, been tolerant of African religious practices merging with Christianity. So for a time, polygamy was not considered adultery but assigned the lesser sin of concubinage. In Europe the same thing had happened: European pagan practices had been adapted to Christian ones when Christianity first spread in Europe
  8. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

    African Churches

    In the colonial administration, the senior positions of power were held by Europeans. This racial divide was not so easy to justify in the church. What was attractive about Christianity, and Islam for that matter, was that these religions offered something to everyone; they did not only serve the rich, the powerful, or those of a certain race or from a certain region, clan or people. In practice, however, the prejudices of Europeans led to double standards.

    In Nigeria, in Lagos, in the 1930's one of the churches was reserved for Europeans only. The only Nigerian allowed in was the composer, musician and organ scholar Fela Sowande. For obliging the Europeans by playing the organ there, on several occasions he incurred criticism from fellow Nigerians. The Sowande family were typical of the Christian educated elite in Lagos; they put up with these racial slights because they had their eyes set on prizes further afield. Fela ended up composing music for the BBC and his brother became a London based barrister.

    Listen to Tunje Sowande describing a religious Sunday

    In the neighbouring Gold Coast, Akans expelled from the Methodist Church reacted by setting up their own church with its own heavenly language, Musama Christo Disco or the Army of the Cross of Christ. The Akan lay preacher and composer Ephraim Amu broke with Methodist convention when he was refused ordination because he wore African cloth in church. AMU, who died a few years ago in his nineties, also composed music and lyrics for many hymns, as well as the national anthem.

    Listen to composer Ephraim Amu speaking about the creation of hymns

    In southern Africa, the increasingly segregated Dutch Reform Church and the growing exclusion of Africans from social and political life, led to a huge number of churches springing up, many of them going under the name of Ethiopian (a tribute to Ethiopia's ancient church).

    Among these Ethiopian churches was Nehemiah Tile's founded in 1882 and Mangena M. Mokone's Tembu National Church established in 1892. The other important Christian movement was the Watchtower Movement, a precursor of the Jehovah Witnesses. Their followers believed in the end of the colonial rule and the end of the world. They were prominent from the late 19th century onwards in Nyasaland (modern Malawi) and Northern Rhodesia (modern Zambia).

    The assertion of African identity was a driving force in many churches, for example, The Church of Christ for the Union of the Bantu and Protection of the Bantu Customs. The African-American Christianity also had great weight in southern Africa, the main church being the African Methodist Episcopal (AME). It was very influential in Zimbabwe, and South Africa, as well as Liberia and Sierra Leone. Local churches continue to flourish and be founded today; in times of war or famine their role becomes particularly important.

    In East Africa a number of churches sprung up. After the First World War, Ruben Spartas Mukasa, formerly with the King's African Rifle, formed a church for 'the redemption of all Africa'.

    In Kenya the concept of the Holy Spirit played a big role. Speaking in tongues was a regular feature of the services of the Holy Ghost Church, Dimi ya Roho, founded in 1927 and the Joroho Church, founded in 1932.

    The Watu wa Mngu (People of God) were a Gikuyu religious group founded between the World Wars. Their mode of praying inspired the title of Jomo Kenyatta's social and anthropological book, Facing Mount Kenya.

    "Their prayers are a mixture of Gikuyu religion and Christian; in these they add something entirely new to both religions. They perform their religious duties standing in a picturesque manner.

    In their prayer to Mwene-Nyaga (God) they hold up their arms to the sky facing Mount Kenya; and in this position they recite their prayers, and in doing so they imitate the cries of wild beasts of prey, such as lion and leopard, and at the same time they tremble violently.

    The trembling, they say, is the sign of the Holy Ghost, Roho Motheru, entering in them. While thus possessed with the spirits, they are transformed from ordinary beings and are in communion with Mwene-Nyaga…

    Some of their shrines were closed down by the Government, on the assumption that they were used for secret meetings of a political character…It was also stated that very offensive and unedifying attacks were made, in the name of Christ, on the Christian neighbouring missionaries."
    Taken from Facing Mount Kenya by Jomo Kenyatta.

    In Tanzania the African National Church of Tanganyika was founded in the 1930's. One of its attractions was that it tolerated polygamy.

    In the Congo, the church had a strong anti-colonial strand. Along with the Eglise des Noirs (Church of the Blacks) was Simon Kimbangu's EJCSK (Eglise de Jesus sur la Terre par le Prophete Simon Kimbangu), or Church of Jesus on Earth through the Prophet Simon Kimbangu. The latter was founded in 1921 and its followers refused to pay taxes and witheld their labour. Simon Kimbangu died in prison in 1951, but his church spread in the Congo and Oubangui-Chari (modern Central African Republic).

    "We must seek to bring into the Native Church the Chiefs and other men of influence. Do not expect of them the perfection, which a narrow philanthropy exacts. Consider the conditions under which Europe received the Gospel.

    Had the hard conditions now imposed upon African Chiefs been required of European sovereigns and chiefs, Christianity might never have been permanently established on the West of the Bosphorus.

    The first Christian Emperor, Constantine, was half a pagan to the end. He erected in his new capital, Constantinople, a statue of himself. At the base of this statue, it is said, he placed a fragment of what he believed to be the true Cross.

    In the same place he deposited the Paladium, the cherished relic of Pagan Rome, which Aeneas was said to have rescued from the flames of Troy, and which Constantine himself stealthily removed to his new capital. This was his fetish, brought over from heathenism."

    Liberian thinker and writer, Edward W. Blyden. Excerpt from Proposals for a West Africa Church
  9. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

    Forces For Change


    The promise of literacy is what made Christianity very attractive to many people. Most of sub-Saharan Africa had no form of writing until the arrival of Europeans.

    There were however a number of different scripts in the north of the continent. Ethiopia developed its own script for religious purposes in the 5th century.

    Arabic script came to sub-Saharan Africa some time in the 11th century. Nobody knows the origin of the Vey script which was used on the border of Sierra Leone and Liberia. It was translated in the late 19th century by a member of the Church Missionary Society.

    "For de first time, noting been be - only de Lawd He be. An' de Lawd, He done go work hard for make dis ting dey call um Earth.

    For six days de lawd He work an He done make all ting - everyting He go put for Earth. Plenty beef, plenty cassava, plenty banana, plenty yam, plenty guinea-corn, plenty mango, plenty groundnut - everyting.

    An for de wata He put plenty fish, an for de air, He put plenty kinda bird. An' after six days de Lawd He done go sleep an' when He sleep, plenty palaver start for dis place day call 'um Heaven
  10. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

    Christianity Timeline

    29, 30 or 33 - Crucifixion of Jesus

    100 - 2nd Century - Christianity comes to Alexandria from Jerusalem

    180 - 12 Christians executed for beliefs in Carthage

    181 - In Carthage Perpetua refuses renounce Christianity and is sent to the lions

    182 - Emperor Diocletian launches great persecution against Christianity

    4th Century - Collapse of Meroe kingdom

    5th-7th Century - Scriptures translated into Ge'ez in Ethiopia

    311 - Donatist split

    312 - Constantine makes Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire

    333 - Ethiopian King Ezana makes Christianity official religion

    451 - Schism (divide) with Rome on nature of God, marks the beginning of separate Coptic Church I in North Africa (taking Monophysite line, i.e. Jesus is not human as well as the son of God)

    6th Century - Christianity comes to Nubia

    639 - Islam comes to North Africa, displacing Christianity on a large scale

    1317 - Nubia turns Muslim; Dongola cathedral converted to Mosque

    1490 - First missionaries come to Kongo from Portugal

    1621 - With the abdication of Emperor Susenyos, the Ethiopian Church is restored as the official church, after a period of Catholicism

    1652 - Dutch settle in the Cape; beginning of Dutch Reformed Church

    1706 - Emperor Susenyos of Ethiopia becomes Catholic; Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita, of Kongo, is burnt at stake having claimed to be possessed by spirit of St. Anthony

    1737 - Moravian Brethren set up in South Africa

    1799 - London Missionary Society (LMS) set up in South Africa

    1804 - Protestant mission in Sierra Leone

    1807 - British declare abolition of slave trade

    1839 - Pope Gregory XVI issues Papal Bull condemning slavery

    1840 - David Livingstone arrives in Africa

    1865 - Samuel Ajayi Crowther became first black Anglican Bishop in Nigeria

    1868 - White Fathers Mission Society established by Lavigerie, Archbishop of Algiers. Dedicated to mission work in Africa

    1882 - Nehemiah Tile's Ethiopian church founded in South Africa

    1892 - Mangena M. Mokone's Tembu National Church founded in South Africa

    1886 - Execution of Christian pages in court of Buganda by Kabaka Mwanga

    1921 - Simon Kimbangu founds EJCSK (Eglise de Jesus sur la Terre par le Prophete Simon Kimangu) or Church of Jesus on Earth through the Prophet Simon Kimangu

    1927 - Dimi Ya Roho (Holy Ghost Church) founded in Kenya

    1939 - 1st African Catholic Bishops: Joseph Kiwanuka of Buganda, and Joseph Faye of Senegal

    1960 - Dutch Reformed Church expelled from the World Council of Churches