Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Engaging Indigenous Community in Development: The Case of an Informal Quaker Movement in Kenya

Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Engaging Indigenous Community in Development: The Case of an Informal Quaker Movement in Kenya

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The role of faith communities and religious groups in development is dominated by two perspectives namely: (1) faith communities are agents of, or actors in development. This view is drawn from the historical work of churches and mission movements in promoting access to basic needs around the world. It has been in the recent past reinforced by World Bank reports which recognize faith communities as critical to the development process. (2) Faith communities are anti-nationalists or setbacks in development. This view is derived from historical studies that criticize the role of missionaries in independence movements as collaborators with the colonial system.

Faith communities as anti-nationalists or setbacks in development

Missionaries played a crucial role in colonial development. It is important to note that different missionary organizations in Kenya had different polity based on which they engaged the colonial government. Some missionary agencies were actively involved in discussing the transformation of Africa. As a result, they differed with African societies on some issues. In such cases, they were seen as supporting colonial government policies. There were also essential issues that brought missionary agencies into collaboration with the colonial government for instance; at the time, missionary organizations were dominantly white and relied on government support in matters such as security. They supported government policies they deemed positive for development and were also involved in shaping welfare policies since they owned the largest share of the education and health sector (Christopher, 2013). It is this complex relationship from which the idea that missionaries were collaborators with colonialists is embedded. The ties of the missionary agencies to the colonial government were such that Kenya's independence was also interpreted to mean the independence of the church (Smuck, 2005). After 1963, there was a gradual transition of power and agenda from missionary agencies to African churches.

Some critics also view missionaries as co-imperialists with the colonial government. This view is based on the idea that both the colonial government and missionary agencies had policies that intended to change African values. This school of thought holds that the education curriculum in missionary schools imposed Christian values on the local people who wanted to maintain their own way of life (Maura, 2005). The early missionaries settled where the White settlers had settled in Africa. As a result, missions existed as somehow exclusive communities within the larger African communities. Because of the hostility and resentment local people had for the colonial government as a result of among other things mass displacement of local people, missionaries just like early Christian converts were viewed as traitors (Karanja, 2009).

Missionaries were also viewed as beneficiaries of the colonial system at the expense of Africa's development. Some historians uphold the view that Africa was evangelized by colonial instruments of power. As a result, Christianity became the religion of civilization and instrument of modernization. This view holds that Christian missionaries were involved in trade with colonialists hence they were a spiritual wing of the secular imperialism (Ekon, 2014). This view is much stronger in areas where local communities lost their land to colonial occupation some of which was allocated to missionaries by colonial government either free or through some business transactions.

Faith communities as agents of or actors in development

The church plays a significant role in development. Even though the church as a people of faith or an institution has engaged in matters of social justice for centuries; it is until a few decades ago that the concept of faith based development was popularized by World Bank. Studies on faith based development largely focused on the role of faith communities and religious institutions in development (Mawdsley & Rigg, 2003). …

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