Tanzania: Christian Missionaries

Figure 1.--Here we see missionary kids with local friends in what was at the time the British coloby of Tanganiyka. Many missionary groups were active in what is now Tanzania and still are. The snapshot is not dated, but was probaly taken in the late-1940s. We are not sure if the boys are American or British. Bib-front shorts look more American than British. American missionaries became more active after World War II.

Little is known about the history of Tanzania except for the coatal regions until modern times. The Arabs established a presence along the coast early in the Islamic era (8th century). Arab traders established trading posts in Zanzibar, where its island locatioin offered a degree od security. Gradually trading posts appeared along the mainland coast. Arab traders, especially slave traders, subsequently spread Islam into the interior. Muslims did not establish missionary societies. The Potuguese reached Tanzania (late-15th cetury). Christianity was introduced into what is Tanzania when Roman Catholic Franciscans established a mission in Kilwa along the coast. The eara of Portuguese occupation, however, was very limited (1505-13). The Portuguese made no effort to penetrate the interior. The Arab slave trade based at Zanzibar intensified (19th century). At the same time the British launched their effort to end the Indian Ocean slave trade which was centered at Zanzibar. Religion is a sensitive topic in modern Tanzania. The Government soon after independence ceased collecting information on religion in sensus reportys. The two principal religions are Islam and Christianity and the two communities are approximstely equal with about one third of the population each. The Muslim population (mostly Sunni) is believed to be slightly larger, although therec is no precise count. The remaining one-third of the population include the adherents of other faiths (Buddhists, Hindus, and Baha'is), indigenous animist religions, and people with no religious affiliation. Religious affilitiona varies regionally. Almost the entire population of Zanzibar is Muslim because during the long Arab era, Christianity was not permitted. Islam in the mainland is most pronounced along the coast. Christianity is more common in the interior as a result of missionary work. TYhere are importat Muslim minorities found in inland urban areas, primarily along the former caravan route. Christian missionary work began in after the Napoleonic Wars and played an important role in both the country's history and culture (1830s). Until this time there were few Christians in what is now Tanzania. Gradually Catholic and Protestant missions could be found along the coast (1840s). Beginning with Dr. David Livingson, the missionaries began moving inland. Reports from early mussionaries helped to inform Europeans about the Arab slave trade in East Africa and generated support for efforts to end it. Active missionary societies included the Africa Inland Mission, the Augustana Lutheran Mission, the Capuchin Fathers, the Church Missionary Society, the Father of Holy Ghost, the Italian Fathers of the Consolation, the Leipzig Mission, the London Missionary Society, the Moravian Mission, the Neukirchen Mission, the Seventh-Day Adventists, the Universities, the Mission to Central Africa, and the White Fathers. As a result of their work, today the Christian community includes Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Anglicans, Pentecostals, New Apostolic Christians, Seventh-day Adventists, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and members of Jehovah's Witnesses. The importance of Lutherans and Moravians result from the work of German missionaries during the German colonial period. The Anglicans grew in importance during the British period following World War I. All of them have had some influence in varying degress from the Walokole movement (East African Revival) which has also been fertile ground for the spread of charismatic and Pentecostal groups. Missionaries have to get the permission to preach in Tanzania. Since independence, Christian denominations mostly operate under the aegis of the Christian Council of Tanzania, which was founded during tghe colonia period (1934). Many missionary groups are active in Tanzania today, but much of the clergy is now of of African origin.


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Created: 11:35 PM 8/8/2012
Last updated: 11:35 PM 8/8/2012