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European missionaries to southern Africa during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries played a strangely ambiguous role in the history and affairs of the region.On the one hand they were driven by a strong desire to genuinely serve humanity and bring about material and social changes which would improve its quality of life.

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This was also borne out by the experiences of Moffatt in the northern Cape.The fact that aba Kweta (circumcision initiation) ceremonies take place two miles from the University College of Fort Hare in the year 1959 symbolises the missionary failure significantly to influence the way of life of the rank and file of the tribal ama Xhosa." (Williams 1959)A change of heart appears to have occurred from the 1880s onwards when the initial success of the first trade schools at Morija in 1841 and Lovedale in 1857 spurred others to follow their example.By 1902 fifteen such institutions had opened their doors in southern Africa alone, and fifty-six throughout the African continent, all but seven of the latter having been founded after 1880 (Dennis 1902).None of them however formulated any kind of philosophical response to vernacular structures, choosing instead to view them as some kind of barometer against which to measure progress of a larger social and cultural nature.Thus we find that Cape Government Reports from about the 1870s onwards begin to equate the use of square-plan dwellings with the degree of civilization achieved in any one particular region.As we update our site, you might notice that some pages have a different appearance.

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Despite Campbell's claim that:"Missionary stations are surrounded by moral atmospheres, or have a moral and civilizing influence to a considerable distance around, beyond which it is extremely hazardous for white men to go." (1815)they had strong objections to a missionary presence and often took appropriate action.

Whole populations moved away from stations; individuals suspected of Christian leanings were administered magic and emetics; and converts were ostracized and quarantined to missionary settlements, thus being effectively purged from the group's polity and its social functions.

Our buildings and plantations would also serve as a model for the Basutos, whom we regretted to see dwelling in huts, and living in a manner so precarious and so little worthy of the intelligence with which they were gifted." (1889)It is not for nothing that the statue of Livingstone in Edinburgh represents the missionary-traveller with a Bible in one hand and the other resting upon an axe (Warneck 1888).

Ironically enough, in the long run it was found that changes wrought by missionaries at a practical and economic level did more to further their spiritual cause than any amount of moralistic sermonising ever did from the pulpit.

Berlin and Hermannsburg missionaries who minimized liturgical spectacles won adherents while the Oblates who staged impressive ceremonies failed utterly.