History of Christianity in Africa
11/10/08 History of Christianity in Africa Europeans nations such as, Britain, France, Portugal, Italy etc. wanted to expand their territory, spread the ways of their culture and beliefs, find new resources and markets. At that time, Africa seemed like the perfect place to explore. There was not much known about the mysterious continent and this ignited their curiosity. They wanted to know the kind of potential benefits Africa would bring. Since these powerful European nations didn’t know what to expect, they sent in explorers like, Gil Eannes and Mungo Park.
The explorers acted like spies. They went to through many different African nations to find out, which people were friendly and which weren’t. Also they were supposed to explore the popular river systems and find what kind of raw materials were sold. They wrote about all their adventures, experiences, the kind of people they have met and the things they see in journals, that were later read by the powerful colonial governments. After the explorers did their part missionaries were sent to Africa.
Before the missionaries came to Africa, the religion that was practiced were oral and very traditional. And rulers in African nations were closely linked to religion, rulers were also seen as spiritual leaders. And they are looked up to by the people, for guidance, strength and prosperity. In the early sixteen centuries, Portugal sent in Catholic missionaries to gain the trust of certain African rulers, and convert them. Portugal was hoping that the converted rulers, would trust them and become allies.
At first, different African nations were curious about the missionaries, and were only interested in new trading markets but once the missionaries criticized their religious practices, they felt threatened and had many of these missionaries thrown and often killed. During the nineteenth centuries, Christianity started to rise in many African nations. Most of the missionaries, felt that Africa non-Muslim Africans lacked any religious structure. They felt that that their ritual acts were barbaric and believed that it was their duty to bring Christianity, civilize and save the souls of the non believing Africans.
They were also hoping to push their own cultural ways on them. For example, the converted Africans had a a certain dress code and they couldn’t dance nor drink. While before they had multiple wives, the now had to limit themselves in monogamous marriage. But in order to do all that they needed the trust of the Africans. They finally found the solution…Slavery. They decided to preach against slavery and the slave trade. The slave traders were very powerful and settled. They also had control over the ivory trade.
So the missionaries tried suppress the slave trade by asking for protection fro the British. They were hoping that the slavers’ would give up that control. There were some advantages the missionaries brought, they introduced formal education to the Africans by opening schools. They started teaching the way of the bible. In order to do that, the missionaries had to learn the local dialects that was spoken. And that they did. The bible in many languages were translated by the missionaries.
They opened up clinics, and this helped to lower the death rates. Living conditions were improved and literacy rates increased. Most of the European missionaries worked actively for their government. Sometimes they asked for protection from their government when political conflicts threatens to expose their “missions”. Missionaries from each European nation worked to convince African rulers to trust them. Most of them tried to exert political control of the unsuspecting African states and rule their kingdoms.