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European Missionaries in Africa Essay

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European Missionaries in Africa


     At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Christianity was bounded to the coastal areas of Africa. At this time in Western Africa, there were a total of three missionary societies operating in western Africa. There was the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), the Wesleyan Missionary Society (WMS), and the Glasaw and Scottish Missionary Society (GSMS). In the southern portion of Africa, the Morovian Missionary and the London Missionary were dominant. There was only one society in eastern Africa and there were none at all in northern Africa. However, by 1840 the number of missionary societies had increased to more than fifteen in western Africa, eleven in southern Africa, five in eastern Africa in 1877 and there were six in northern Africa in 1880. Not only were these societies active in the coastal region of Africa, but they also started stretching inland to lands where they haven’t reached before. Around the year 1860, these societies in southern Africa had traveled as far north as present day Botswana, Lesotho and Zambia. (Boahen 15) Famous names of this time include David Livingston and Robert Moffat. (Gordon 285)

Maybe it is good to look at how these missionaries spread and shared their ideas to all four corners of Africa. When the Europeans landed in Africa in the beginning, they had no knowledge of the type of people that they were dealing with. They knew nothing of their culture, language, religion or anything of that nature. So the Europeans had to find someone or something to tell them about the people they were dealing with. The Europeans looked no further than the slaves…mainly in the United States. The United States exported freed slaves back to Africa in order to help the colonization process run smoother. After all, these people knew about African culture and language and the people of Africa would probably listen to someone of their own color before a white European whom they knew nothing about.

The Christian Africans were most successful around the Guinea coast…around Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. (Gordon 44) In fact, most African Catholics owe their conversion to black catechists. Catechists were Africans who were mostly untrained and unordained, but preached the gospel and set up Catholic communities all over Africa.

These catechists were the main people responsible for ...


... middle of paper ...


...ed” people, which mainly comprised of the workers and the poorer citizens of Africa. The result of this was, of course, much social tension and upheaval.

     Even though the people of Africa were given a steady diet of Christianity and Christian doctrine from the missionaries, there were still many that had no intentions of converting. Most Africans held true to their own traditions, there own religion, and their own customs. It also didn’t take a while for the Africans to realize that the missionaries and colonization went hand in hand. The missionaries help the colonizers work up treaties that cheated Africa tribes out of their land and their resources. Kenyan nationalist leader, Jomo Kenyatta, was quoted saying “When the missionaries came the Africans had the land and the Christians had the Bible. They taught us to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened our eyes we saw that they now had the land and we had the Bible.” ( Gordon 286)
     
This is the sad truth. The missionaries did use Christianity as a way to control the Africans and make the colonization process easier. These people were doing quite well without having Christianity in their lives…believe it or not.


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