The Role of Missionaries In African Society

missionaryIIMissionaries saw the voyages to Africa by their governments as an opportunity for them to spread the teaching of the Christian faith. They used some of the British Empire’s resources and then in turn the empire coerced them to use their teaching to subdue the Africans. The missionaries emphasized teachings of never questioning authority and accepting colonial rule as ordained by God.

When missionaries came to Africa the village that they chose to settle in often welcomed them and gave them land to build their churches on. The missionaries also used their land to build clinics and schools where the African children were educated. The natives who accepted the teachings of the missionaries sent their children to the schools and tended to become educated as preachers and teachers.

The clinics that the missionaries built were used to treat child killer diseases. Many people did not readily accept the missionaries’ way of life but sometimes staring at their children dying of child killer diseases they were forced to go to the missionary clinic to get help. After their children were healed by the missionaries’ medication parents became converted and attended church and embraced the Christian teachings.

In other areas when missionaries did not always see the conversion numbers that they wanted so they began to allow their congregants to mix African spiritualism with Christianity. African spirituality beliefs stated that people communicated to God through ancestors. This was the spirituality of the southern Africans. When the Catholics came in they allowed their congregants to pray through dead relatives to the Christian God to gain more members.

When converted Africans sent their children to missionary schools their African names were changed to Christian names. This was done partly because some of the missionary teachers who were often European did not want to learn the local language or how to pronounce the names. Often the missionaries taught that the African names were pagan.  In other instances Africans had given their children pagan names which glorified pagan deities before they converted to Christianity and given the understanding of the importance of names in both societies.

The legacy of Christian missionaries lives up to this day. In southern Africa most of the leaders who participated in the fight for independence were educated by missionaries or schools built by missionaries. To this day schools set up by missionaries continue to play a pivotal role in the education of  children in southern Africa.

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