Role of Christian Missionaries in Colonial Africa

The story of missionary work in colonial Africa begins with The Age of Discovery. This is a period where European powers set their sights on exploring the world. This was the start of a global economy, and colonialism. The British colonized many nations including Nigeria in order to exploit native labor and natural recourses beginning in the 1700’s (Reviews). Their justification for colonization was that they were providing better education and healthcare to the natives (Nigeria – Influence). Another primary justification for colonization was for missionary work. Today, Christianity is criticized in the context of Colonialism because the it was used to justify Colonialism. The British, along with many other European empires, pillaged these counties of resources, engaged in human trafficking of the native people, and exploited their labor in the collection of these resources.

Missionaries attempted to convert as many native people as possible to Christianity. This affect of this works is still apparent today where nearly half of Nigerians are Christian (Nigeria – United). Different denominations of Christianity divided the Nation into their own spheres of influence in order not to compete with each other. Among the Igbo, Catholic missionaries were particularly present. In fact, the British were successful in largely eliminating common practices in Nigeria of human sacrifice and the killing of infant children. The missionaries felt that spreading the gospel to these people was of great importance, and actively tried to erase their beliefs in Polytheism. British missionaries even promoted the Natives into leadership positions within the church. In fact, the British missionaries were successful in largely eliminating common practices in Nigeria of human sacrifice and the killing of infant children.

The Christian missionaries of the Colonial Age worked in very different ways from the missionaries of today. They believed that converting native people to Christianity was of such dire importance that they felt justified in forcibly and violently converting them. This did much damage not only to those directly impact by the hostility, but to the generations of lost culture and tradition of native religions all across Africa.

Works Cited

Nigeria – Influence of the Christian Missions, countrystudies.us/Nigeria/14.htm

“Nigeria – United States Department of State.” U.S. Department of State, https://www.state.gov/countries-areas/nigeria/

Reviews in American History: A Quarterly Journal of Criticism. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1973. Print

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