Christian Missionizing and Social Transformation: A History of Conflict and Change in Eastern Zaire

Christian Missionizing and Social Transformation: A History of Conflict and Change in Eastern Zaire

Christian Missionizing and Social Transformation: A History of Conflict and Change in Eastern Zaire

Christian Missionizing and Social Transformation: A History of Conflict and Change in Eastern Zaire

Synopsis

This volume represents a case study of African responses to American missionary efforts in colonial and post-colonial Zaire. Nelson describes how conflict emerged when missionary attempts to control the rate and nature of change and to "protect" the church community from "corrupting" Western influences confronted African aspirations to overcome foreign domination through education and economic means. Nelson relates an account of social forces transforming the missionaries' designs in the midst of colonial efforts, the encroachment of a cash economy, the rise of nationalism and political struggles, and the formation of social classes.

Excerpt

It was in 1980 that I first returned to my childhood home in Kivu, Zaire, where from 1954 until 1962, my parents had been missionaries with the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society. My early childhood had been spent, first, at the Katwa mission station, near Butembo, and then at Rwanguba, a beautiful place in the midst of the hovering presence of the Virunga Mountains. A lot of things intrigued me on my return, particulary the story of a social eruption that had occurred in the Baptist churches in Kivu during the early 1960s, the results of which continue to impact church communities. It was during that first return visit that the idea for a possible doctoral dissertation project occurred to me, one that would allow me to spend an extended time getting re-acquainted with my childhood homeland and satisfy my interests in anthropology and the sociology of religion. That idea was realized after twelve months spent in Zaire doing fieldwork during 1987-1988. The account of the still unfolding story of the Baptist churches in Kivu has been updated here based on feedback and reports from missionaries and African church leaders. It has been a most challenging, sometimes disturbing, yet very fulfilling experience for me, as I have attempted to understand African responses to missionary efforts.

A number of clarifications regarding use of names and terms in the text that follows are in order. The country of Zaire has undergone a number of name changes in the past, from the Congo Free State, to the Belgian Congo, to the Republic of Congo, to Zaire. I have attempted, in documenting historical developments, to use the name that was current in each successive period. Also, many of the names of places in Zaire were changed near the beginning of the Mobutu regime. Here also I have used the name that was current during the period being addressed and have put the new, or former, name, as the case may be, in parentheses at the first occurance to remind the reader. Similarly, I have noted changes in referring to administrative areas. For example, what were called "provinces" are now "regions," and "territories" are now "zones." Names . . .

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