Christianity in South Africa 1858


Map Code: Ax02428

By the early 19th century, when the Dutch Cape Colony came under British rule, South Africa was a major hub for maritime trade between Asia and Europe, and in the week of traders came successive waves of Christian missionaries, originating in the Netherlands, the British Isles, France and the United States. Many missionaries were intrepid explorers, travelling far into the interior, who also translated the Bible and hymnbooks into local languages. Missionaries were amongst the earliest explorers of southern Africa; indeed the famous explorer David Livingstone was sent by the London Missionary Society in 1840. He converted the chief of the Bakwena tribe, Sechele, who was baptised in 1848, and he in turn travelled hundreds of miles to convert tribes in what is now Zimbabwe. Many African societies retained traditions of polygamy, and were resistant to Christian strictures on dress and traditional dances, and worship that included African traditions. In fact, practical and economic help from the missionaries, providing viable agricultural land for indigenous settlement, frequently did more than sermonizing. Many converts stayed on mission stations for safety and economic reasons rather than because of their beliefs. Ultimately, Africans wanted to worship in their own style, without missionaries acting as intermediaries.

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