Christian Missionaries: Africa

Figure 1.-This is the Pelots, a French Protestant missionary family in Gabon, about 1907. Click on the image for a photograph taken a few years later whe the boys were a little older.

Relatively little missionary work was done in Africa until the 19th century. Tere were Christians in northeastern Africa (Egyptian Copts and Ethiopian Chrustians) where the churches dated from the very beginning of Christianity. Other than that Christianity was limited to the remnants of the Kongolese Empire (modern Congo Brazzaville and western Democratic Republic of the Congo). Catholic missionary expeditions were launched after the Napoleonic Wars in West Africa, especially Senegal. There were also efforts in Gabon. French Jesuit missionaries began working along the coast at this time and they gradually began working with the native kingdoms in the interior. Protestant missionaries began working in Sierra Leone (1804). The missionaries came from many different European and American churches. They competed with each other for converts and their were, as a result, conflicts. The abolition movement had a major impact on spreadung Christinity. Britian and America abolished tge slave trase (1807). The Royal Navy and to a lesser extent the U.S. Navy launched a decades long campaign to end the slave trade. The British abolished slavery throughout their Empire (1834). Outlawing first the slave trade and and then slavry itself created large numbers of free slaves thatvhadc been Christianized. It also proved to be an enducemnent to set up European Christian missions. Human compassion in Europe for the plight of slaves led to donations for funding mission work in Africa. This began in northern American states even while slavery continued in the southern states. The Protestants spread the Christian gospel through the slaves who were liberated from slaving ships along the West Coast. American abolitionists promoted the resettlmentbof feeed slaves in Liberia. Christianity was at the center of the abolitionist movenents in America and Britain. Christian missionaries brought not only the Gospel but education and health care. Many of the first schools and hospitals in Africa were the work of missionaries. Many Africans wanted education. And just as Protestantism in Europe played a major role in founding public education, Christian missionaries in Africa founded schools so that converted Africans could read the Bible. Dr. David Livingstone (1813-73) is perhps the best known missionary. The slave trade which continued in East Africa wher Islam had a powerful pressence in Zanzubar. Arab slave traders operatung from Zanzibar and coastal ports. The Royal Navy began anti-slavery operations in the Indian Ocean, but resistance from Arab emirates made supressing the slave trade a difficult indertaking. Dr. Livingston believed that the slave trade could only be suppressed by a combination of Christianity and trade. He travelled extensively from east to west in eastern and southern Africa working to bringing Christianity to Africans. He never stayed long in any single location. He achievd some success among the Tswana people (in modern Botswana). Conversion to Christianity in somecareas caused social upheaval. Livingstone and other missionaries was, howver, were unable to seriously impede the slave trade. Their conversions were mostly Africans who had traditional religious beliefs. Few Muslims converted which affected efforts to end the slave trade. Livingston and othr missionaries advocated for European Governments to formally colonize Africa as a way of finally ending the slave trade. We have begun to compile pages about missiuinaries in different African countries: Cameroon, Lesotho and Tanzania.


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Created: 2:08 AM 8/7/2012
Last updated: 9:12 AM 11/12/2018