Academic journal article International Review of Mission

The African Christian Diaspora in Belgium with Special Reference to the International Church of Brussels

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

The African Christian Diaspora in Belgium with Special Reference to the International Church of Brussels

Article excerpt

Introduction

Among immigrants in Europe, there are not only Muslims, Buddhists and the converts to Afro-Asian or Afro-American religions, but also numerous Christians with roots in the work of the Western missions and the Independent Churches of Africa.

The importance of culture in the expression of faith by these Christian communities of the diaspora can be observed in the spreading of small prayer groups, religious communities and churches called "Afro-Christian" in Europe, and in Belgium in particular. [1]

The interest aroused by this new phenomenon in the history of the church in Europe, and more precisely the history of mission, brought specialists to organize seminars and international conferences of great importance during the past few years.

One of them took place at Glay/Doubs in France, 27-30 August 1998.

1. Communities and African churches in Belgium

"How many African churches are there in Belgium?" This question is difficult to answer with accuracy. Even if the booming of churches, communities and groups called "Afro-Christian" is evident in Belgium and other European countries, the problem of presenting accurate statistical data on these new religious groups is difficult.

According to our research, we estimate the number of Christian communities of the African diaspora in Belgium to be approximately sixty. This phenomenon has been booming through the mass immigration of Africans in the eighties.

We should note that the Belgian case is very illuminating. We find in Belgium a stable pioneer movement among the most structured African churches in French speaking Europe.

According to our research, these communities can be subdivided into five principal categories:

* ain Afro-Christian churches

*intermediary African churches

* independent Afro-Christian churches

* communities with a specific character

* communities and African pastors involved in Belgian circles

The main Afro-Christian churches of Belgium

These are groups of more than two hundred persons. Most of them are linked with an established Christian European organization. These churches are stable and integrated in Belgium. Under this category we mention La Nouvelle Jerusalem de Bruxelles [2] and L'Eglise internationale de Bruxelles. [3]

The intermediary (intermediate) churches

These are communities difficult to identify. Some are dissidents of the main African churches. Others are communities seeking to establish their own identity. Here we can mention the Belgium Pastors Revival Time (Bepart). This pastoral association re-groups 15-20 African churches amongst whom we also find English speaking communities (ten Congolese, five Ghanaian and three Nigerian churches).

The independent churches

By independent churches we mean those not linked to any Christian organization recognized in Belgium. In general, they are autonomous communities. We mention, for example, L'Eglise de Jesus Christ sur la terre par le prophete Simon Kimbangu (Kimbanguist Church), and communaute des Freres Chretiens (Community of Christian Brethren). [4]

Afro-Christian churches with a specific character

Under these groups we classify all those who differ, from a doctrinal [5] point of view, from the Protestant churches (Reformed and evangelical).

Communities and African pastors in Belgian circles

These are communities and pastors evolving in the Belgian Protestant Churches (United Protestant Churches of Belgium and the Protestant Evangelic Churches). We mention the Protestant University Chaplaincy, and the Malagasy Community.

Remarks

We observe in general the following trends:

* In the Brussels region, the churches appear and disappear easily.

* We observe a tendency to blend elements in the evolution of certain small communities. …

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