”Semper aliquid novi Africam adferre”, is a saying of ancient times.1 After independence a great change took place in the young nations of black Africa, which also transformed the relations of church and state.
During the colonial era, there was a tendency especially among the Protestant missionaries in Tanzania to identify with the ethnic groups among which they worked. Basing their activities on the idea of “folk Christianisation”, they translated the Bible not only into Swahili but especially into the local languages. An attempt was also made to transfer traditional structures to the community life and to adapt Christianity to traditional customs. This affected the process of development of ethnic identities.
At the same time, however, the education system and the career opportunities created by the missionaries contributed to the formation of a new national elite. When the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) was founded in 1954 under Julius K. Nyerere, the new organisation was supported by some missionaries. Barbro Johanssen, a Swedish teacher who worked for the Lutheran Church in Bukoba, and Richard Walsh, the advisor on education for the White Fathers, who was a friend of Nyerere, are examples. But most of the missionaries regarded the national movement with caution or even with mistrust. They had come to an arrangement with the colonial administration. Mechanisms for solving conflicts had been found, whereas the position of the church in an independent Tanganyika was unclear. However, unlike what happened in some other African states, the fight for freedom did not have an anti-missionary flavour, since the leading politicians of TANU attempted to mobilise all the social forces for the common goal of independence. Nyerere constantly praised the achievement of the missions.
Nyerere's openness to dialogue made it easier for the churches to support the new course. The turning point for the Protestant churches is the speech made by Theophilo Kisanji to the Christian
1 Plinius Secundus, Naturalis Historiae VIII/I7, states that the quotation is a well
known Greek saying, “unde etiam vulgare Graeciae dictum “semper aliquid novi
Africam adferre”, cf. also Aristoteles, Histor. Anim., 8, 28.