Missionary Support for colonial rule in Zambia revisited: The case of the catholic missionaries
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The study revisited missionary support for colonial rule thesis in Zambia with specific reference to the Roman Catholic missionaries. This is because many studies done on mission and colonial history largely dwell on the assumption that missionaries were all agents of colonial rule. As Strayer (2001:9) rightly puts it, it is time to go beyond the dominantly political emphasis of the nationalistic approach, which exposed mission hypocrisy, uncovered an arena of African protest, countered the colonial stereotype of African inactivity and established the importance of African initiatives in making mission communities. The shift in mission history should be to refine our analysis of the relationship of missions to colonial politics and social change. This study thus provides an alternative framework by arguing that Catholic missionaries in Zambia did not support colonial rule as they were agents of social and political change by supporting Africans in colonial Zambia. The objectives of the study included investigating the nature of colonial and missionary work in Zambia as well as examining how the Catholic missionaries related with the Africans on one hand, and the colonial administrators on the other. The reasons why early Catholic missionary work has been associated with colonial rule have also been explored. The study also sought to find out the contribution of the early Catholic missionaries in dislodging colonial rule in Zambia in order to establish whether they supported colonial rule or not. The study was purely qualitative and the strategy was considered suitable for soliciting information about the views of how the Catholic missionaries positioned themselves in the colonial era. Data was collected through document analysis and supplemented by interviews and in this regard, six (6) Catholic missionaries and freedom fighters were purposively selected. Documents in the form of dairies, District commissioner’s reports, newspapers, photographs and many others were consulted at the National Archives of Zambia, White Fathers library, Jesuit library, Special collection at the University of Zambia library, United National Independence Party (UNIP) library and others. The data was analyzed using the thematic approach and presented in a descriptive manner. As hypothesized, the study established that the Catholic missionaries in Zambia especially when compared to other countries like Mozambique, Rwanda, Angola, Uganda, Kenya and others did not support colonial rule as they sided with the Africans and provided education, health care, pastoral and other services which empowered the people to fight colonial rule. The Catholic missionaries in Zambia were thus agents of change as they directly and indirectly contributed to dislodging colonial rule in Zambia. It is for this reason that I have argued that mission and colonial history should not be generalized as huge differences did exist in the manner in which the missionaries spread Christianity in Africa. Mission history should also undergo a shift from an emphasis on the development of colonial rule to the specific role and contribution the missionaries played in Zambia’s development.
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