Role of Missionaries in Colonization of Africans

robert moffat

scramble for africaTHE ROLE OF MISSIONARIES
European missionaries especially from Portugal, France, Britain, and Germany went to Africa under the premise of going to convert the locals to Christianity. However, they actually aided in the colonization of Africans by Europeans. In many cases Christian conversion looked more like European Capitalist conversion.

Robert Moffat, a famous missionary wrote about Mzilikazi and the Ndebele (Zimbabwe) in 1857, “His government, is one of tyranny and intrigue, lies and blood. I feel melancholy…. I often feel willing to suffer anything or die any kind of death it fit would only result in the moral renovation of the Matabele, their deliverance from their present awfully degraded condition.”

Missionaries came with the attitude that all things European were superior to all things African. Most missionaries like David Livingstone and Fabri of the German Missionary Society in Namibia believed that once Africans were colonized by European countries they would be more likely to seek after Western Education and Christianity which the missionaries controlled. It was their mission to do anything necessary to convert Africans who were viewed as uncivilized and barbaric. Missionaries often failed to distinguish between Christian principles and those of the colonialists. They misused biblical passages to further the causes of their colonial friends.

The message preached by Missionaries encouraged Africans to rebel against everything that formed the foundation of African family and society. They even preached that salvation could only be obtained through formal work which meant one had to earn a paycheck. The only people who paid for labor at the time were Europeans colonialists. Most missionaries new to Africa believed Africans were lazy and were not using their land adequately so it was in their best interest for Europeans to use it. Some missionaries had developed friendships with local clans and used this to further European causes. Often African chiefs sought advice from missionaries on how to deal with other Europeans seeking treaties. However, the missionaries almost always betrayed their trust.

The question therefore remains if the missionaries’ views towards Africans were so negative how could they have been any benefit to Africans? In essence colonialism was partly a result of betrayal by missionaries. Even though we are grateful that they educated Africans and opened clinics in the most remote villages we cannot forget that their motives were impure and their actions very detrimental to African society.

It is amazing that Britannica describes Robert Moffat as, “Scottish missionary to Africa and Bible translator, who was known for his efforts to improve local living standards in Africa. He was also the father-in-law of the missionary and explorer David Livingstone (1813–73).” Improving local living standards to them means he aided Europeans in taking land that belonged to Africans and then forcing them to work for a living so that they would pay taxes for things that never benefited them.

51 thoughts on “Role of Missionaries in Colonization of Africans

  1. Ok. How does this account for the problems Africa faces today? I think we Africans need to end the pity party about our colonial past- deal with it as part of our undeniable history and start to build Africa. A little review of the world’s history will reveal that even the colonial nations were once colonised.
    Your portrayal of past leaders give the impression that they were insipid and feeble minded- it doesn’t do us good.

    1. One thing brother Bunmi you are forgetting, a simple sorry cam heal the mind. German compensated Israel for the Jews and you think those are more human than Afrikans? Our resources were vandalized, artifacts stolen, lives destroyed through proxy wars, and the mental health hypnotized. We are waiting for answers that justify those inhumane injustices; despite our lenience to accept their religions.

    2. One cannot ” get over the past”. The past is always with us. Therefore one is always “dealing with the past”. One cannot “deal with it” as you put it. Whether we are cognizant, which is the desireable condition, or oblivious of it, which destroys us and is the reason africa and africans are in the condition we are today.

      The conscious african knows his past throughly and takes it with him. With this knowledge the conscious african educates himself relevantly, within the context of solving his problems , fully knowing his enemies.

      To “get over” our colonial past or enslavement is ignorance and foolishness. That foolishness becomes manifest in our behavior and our interactions with our enemies – after 50 years of independence we still consider europeans our bemefactors,, calling them “development partners”. Those who enslaved and colonized us for over 400 years and still do cannot be our development partners. We need education which teaches us the behaviour of the european wrt us. Therefore our history is always relevant so long as the european has intentiins of global economic domination.

      1. I find “enemies” to be quite a strong expression. Since the world is struggling based on ideological stand points as this. WE seem to miss the fact that as resources shrink because of OUR abuse, there is the need to share and ally with one’s “enemies”. Funny enough those “europeans” you blame for indoctrination are long since dead but their offspring, it seems, to you they deserve the full force of your antagonistic views. I guess you were comfortable with short term medicine derived from herbs and leaves versus the eternal healing power (proven) of Faith and prayer. The missionaries didn’t come to steal African land and resources for the British Regime. Most of these men died in their fight for African freedom and Biblical Truth. All proof is not Truth and all Truth is not yet proven. Keep looking and you shall find, the missionaries brought a message of love and inner-freedom that cannot be bound by regulations on man’s body(2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”) So if he is in you then you are free! And, truly, All of us are slaves in some form or fashion physically. Look at it, All institutions in society have laws that command man’s behaviour and most are established by man himself! God has revealed that slavery is not evil but, rather, the Evil TREATMENT used to regulate slaves has taken over the original intent of it’s use. The original intent was to maintain order,justice and equality of resources among men. So the master would provide for his slave, just as if he/she were a son or daughter of his house. If one owes a debt, he works in his debtors house until he can pay it back : that is just and right! While he/she is there the owner feeds him or her until the debt is paid. It is simple but man has complicated it to the point of distortion. BUT, do not be fooled! “Evil men do not understand justice but those who seek the Lord understand it fully!”Proverbs 28:5

        1. God revealed that slavery is not evil? God who created man in His image approves of slavery? And where exactly is that verse? We do not forget that is was the same.european missionary who taught that “africans were descended from.cursed Ham!” We do not forget that whiles africans suffered under colonialsm and slavery european ministers sang “rule britannia” and were pandering to empire! We do not forget that the europeans printed a bible specificalky for the slaves: “the slaves bible by David Mills”

          Apos Paul taught
          “If a man gives his body to be burnt but has no love what use is it?” There were always those in Apos Pauls time who preached the gospel with a very wrong motive. The european missionaries motive was certainly not the love of The Lord.

          How did missiinaries fight for africans when you couldnt protest colonialism in yiur own countries? When millions of africans were being slaughtered in The Congo and Southern Africa during colonialism where were the european missionaries? Will you have us believe that the european missionaries were a special breed? Different from their countrrparts in america? That whiles in africa they were doing “good”, in america they did nothing during jim crow up to the civil rights movement?

          Did you indeed die for africans? Now you will have us believe not only in some “white jesus” but that european missionaries also died for us? Now you are now our vicarious sacrifice?

          If Esau was profane for a bowl or soup then to believe what you say is blasphemy!

          1. Yes, God does approve of slavery but made sure to make clear to man that we should treat each other with respect and honour no matter your position. As I stated before it is a means of maintaining order,justice and equality of resources among men. That’s why even prisoners are allowed the necessities of life while denied the luxuries of it. A crime is commited, a debt owed, and until the years allotted are fulfilled, that prisoner remains in slavery to the prison system. However, if that prisoner has the mindset of a free man, and treats life as a precious commodity he lives in freedom everyday no matter his status in society or position in life.He is free because he thinks so, because he thinks so, he acts so, because he acts so, he is equal to any other mentally free man. Freedom is not just action, it is attitude. So I can be told to do something as a slave but because in my mind I am free I don’t allow the circumstances to define me. The Spirit of God (His thoughts, attitudes and mannerisms) that makes me like Him, as you stated, In whose image we are made, as I stated earlier, is who makes us free. I repeat “2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” So if he lives in you then you are FREE! Circumstance will not oppress you because Identity is Life! If you know who you are, who can oppress,suppress,or overcome you? Rather, you will be the overcomer! I never stated that the missionaries died for Africans, far be it, but rather they did die for their Lord and Savior and African “Freedom”. Of the ”Rule Britannia” hymn I know nothing of but I will research that. Thank you for your Insight, I can see you have an unequaled passion for Africa. For this I applaud you! Keep up the Good work.
            The other issues I will tackle at a later date.

            1. The Christian Bible does not approve slavery based on skin color absolutely not. This is a creation of Western Christians and not taught by the Holy Scriptures. Slavery in the Bible was based on debtors who could not pay their debt working until the debt was satisfied in full then being set free. It was not indefinite. The second type of slave was based on war, if a group of people lost the war then they would become slaves.The idea of enslaving people perpetually based on phenotype is a EuroAmerican invention and should not be confused with the teachings of Christianity.

    3. Although europeans decolonized Africa, they still own most of the companies, ports, mines, banks, oil fields and agriculture. Capitalism has become so dominant a force that almost no one can claim their birthright of living off of nature and moving freely across the land. They may have changed the label but poor white, brown and black people all over the world are still enslaved.

  2. the past definately does affect the future, how much damage has been done determines how much work and resources are needed to repair the damage, in Zim, even our culture has disappeared, everything now is of foreign customs which are still being taught even in our schools today. development is good but as a people we are identified by our culture and not the color of our skin. many things in our zimbabwean cultures were par excelent

  3. one thing for sure is that missionaries and the colonial powers worked together. the reason is that back home in england, they were sent by the british queen. and when they came to africa they pretended to be two different beings.ashi!! that a white man for you…

  4. @ Bunmi: This a mere observation of a historical occurence, it’s sad you choose to call it a pity party…R you trying to say that people ought to stop learning history because some small minded person will look at the issues depicted with a minimalistic attitude and act like oh it all happened in the past and should be forgotten. Our past is what shapes us and you need to appreciate that being abused does not justify you going out to be a perpetrator. so what if the colonisers were once colonised? were we the ones who colonised them? No… they actually learnt from their abusers and perfected the techniques so l dont know if you want us to pity the “poor bastards”

  5. My family lived and served in Ghana for 14 years. It is amazing how ungrateful some people are. Africans were selling each other into slavery long before the European missionaries arrived. It was the missionaries who fought to end the wicked slave trade. Tribal warfare, genocide, and human sacrifices plagued African for generations. Native religions kept people in fear of going out of the homes at night. It was the missionaries that built the first hospitals, brought better farming techniques, introduced better hygiene and taught people to read and write. While some missionaries were racist, most left everything to tell the people that God had a son who loved and died for them.

    1. The population in “Africa” was over a hundred million before colonization so how bad was our healthcare if our population was so great? Our population was never wiped out by the plague was it? Did oxford educated british doctors not learn anaethesiology from kenyan tribesmen? Were african tribes not practicing surgery before europeans brought their medical science? Yes, there were backward tribes as rome also found the british very stupid. If we were so weak from diseases how come your bloody ancestors preferred african slaves to european indentured serfs and native americans? What you “did” for “Africans” couldn’t you do for the same for africans you enslaved in the americas and haiti? You saved us from tribal warfare but couldn’t save your own europeans the wars they fought between themselves to control the slave trade? You preached the gospel to africans but wouldnt practice it in the americas for african americans to see itin practice! British colony in America was notorious for not even allowing african americans to read, whiles they were “preaching the good news” in africa. You see your hypocrisy? Did the british at the same time they were evangelizing africans not slaughter the tasmanians? There were many africans on the continent and in the americas who fought against slavery whiles the european found justification for slavery in the scriptures. If you indeed fought against slavery how about continuance of the moral cause? How about reparations to the african-americans and caribeans you built your wealth off? Did Lazarus not say if I have defrauded any I restore fourfold? Where is the voice of the european abolitionsits on this issue? It is quite worthy of notice that after “abolishment” of slavery the same europeans started colonialism which resulted in the senseless slaughter of over 20million congolese and hererro. Where were your abolitionists then you hypocrite?

    2. If the european miossinary was so good how come he left such a very horrendous lingering taste? How come they preached that “Ham was cursed”? How come your theologians justified enslavement of Africans with your twisted reading of the bible? The european missionary supported what the European colonialist did : Hold aloft the banner of Christ while raping, pillaging and enslaving in His Name. That is more profane than Esau selling his birthright. Unfortunately, afrcans have been made more foolish and weaker through identifying with europeans as our “saviours” by substituting a filithy “european portrait whit jesus” for The True Saviour.

  6. missionaries were the saviors of the shona people since the ndebele were hostile towards them..however the missionaries tend to ill treat the shona aswell

  7. are actually over supporting the role of missionaries…revisit your tin of knowledge & come up with better response,you are naive.@hoover…l wld like to tell you that you are totally lost…you must know that shona-ndebele relations were designed by europeans in a way to justify their colonization,thus they nonsensically propounded that the ndebele were brutal to the shona which is not true…to say the ndebele were hostile to the shona is to prove that you are narrow minded when it comes to the knowledge of history,esp. to the history of zimbabwe….revisit your sources as well & come up with better argument.

  8. but it is also historically naive to dismiss the fact that the Ndebele raided the shona since the is historical evidence which support that the ndebele raided the shona. The extent was only exagarated and it is only that the fact that the shona also raided the Ndebele was not established

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  10. @ lancehostetter…. Schupid!!! I’m still here, can’t even spell an insult right. Keep selling your people out, lets see who’s legacy remains.

  11. missionary work contributed to the rescue of the shona people from the invaders(the ndebele)who were ill treating them for their own land… i will say all shona speaking people should realise what the missionaries have done to you and all your up to date generations

  12. missionary work in africa led to real colonization after the abolition of slave trade, what did they introduce? legitimate trade. That is the real colonization!!!!!

  13. if it wz bcz they wanted to end Ndebele raids then why wld they go on to help in the colonization of Zimbabwe…ofcz they ended slave trade bt are yu aware of a thing called “mental slavery” i say “African solutions to african problems”… ApaibvaiApa

  14. let us view Africa from a wider perspective is it true that the missionaries played the role of imperialists unconsciously?

  15. Missionaries used the word of God to get land from the people…most of these historical conflicts concerning the Africans were European caused, whoever says Africans some people are ungrateful because the write the history based on the facts is so narrow minded as they are expressing their emotions towards the facts…the fact is Africans had a unique lively hood which wasn’t backwards . The Europeans were too Eurocentric…Africa would have been a better place without these colonialists.. who says our African herbs weren’t good medicine? their education led to selections in status,our form of education made sure everybody had a place in society.

    1. In Uganda for instance Dr. Adam N. Kimala noted in his book “Buganda Gye twasubwa”, literally the The land called Buganda that we missed”; that our great Ancestors were forced to collect all African “plug and heal” medicine, which they cooked and taken in Europe for further distilling.

  16. West conitinues to.pollute steal sodomise and murder. The devils work continues to be done. They.will forever remain.bankrupt as they have no culture, natural resources, no life. They do.have lies, death and machines of warfare. They are built to.survive. bringers of death. Blacks are made to live. The white minority will never be happy until.the colored majority in the world is dead. They will die trying. Gods image of the first chosen people was the black woman. The giver of life. The sun blesses our melanated skin to nourish us. they have to hide to avoid cancerous death and suffering.

    1. @ nii… Have you ever read any documentary on the real work of missionaries such as Robert Moffat? I presume you have not because if you did you would not negate the fact that he actually lived as a native among the tribes he visited learning their cultures and customs. He knew a better WAY. The WAY of Love and taught it through tedious examples of commitment and longevity in passionate constructing and reconstructing of missionary stations and hospitals. Read up on his REAL work and see for yourself he advanced his relationship with God with the oppressive methods of religious conformists before him: torturing, looting and pillaging the local tribes.

        1. Please if anyone wants to make accusations they should cite credible sources, is that too much to ask of people seeking the Truth?

  17. so that’s how the missionaries betrayed Africans in the name of evangelism. Thank God their impacts in Borno is less

  18. you guys do you know why Britain decided to end slave trade? it was not because she wanted to free the Africans but it was no longer profitable to her since there was stiff competition from other countries.

    1. Christianity is not the problem.It is people like Moffat who twist the bible who are the problem. Moffat & his cronies lacked moral fortitude to stand up against the ungodly british regime.

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