Columnists Features

History of Christianity in Zambia

HAVING chronicled the history of trade unionism in Zambia last week, this week I will take you back to the 18th century and pepper it up with tit bits of the history of the church in Zambia.
1.The Luba-Lunda migration of most ethnic groupings from Congo DR saw two of the invader tribes come into the area we now call Zambia early in the 18th century.
These were the Bembas, a matrilineal tribe of hunters and cultivators and the Lundas, the latter who have heavily populated the Luapula valley.
The Bemba never traded with their neighbours, perhaps because they found their plateau soil too poor to produce any surplus; so, under their Paramount Chief, or Chitimukulu, they raided their neighhours and enslaved their captives, selling most of them in later times to the Arab and Swahili traders from Zanzibar who had penetrated as far as their borders.
2. The other two dominant tribes that came from South Africa were the Ngonis who ran away from the tyrant Shaka in the 1820s. They struck north in a series of thrusts called Mfecane.
The Ngonis were a patrilineal, cattle-herding people with a highly disciplined military organisation. They lived partly by raiding their neighbours, but unlike Bembas, they preferred to incorporate their captives into the tribe rather than selling them as slaves.
3.The fourth of these dominant tribes, the Lozi or Barotse, also owe their position to a military horde invading from the south. In 1838, these overran the Lozi people and set up a dynasty which established the tribe’s supremacy over its neighbours. But after a quarter of a century, a Lozi chieftain, who had once been [David] Livingstone’s cook, decimated all the males of the foreign dynasty and set himself up as king. He and his successors retained the language of their invaders and the strong centralised structure they had introduced, and extended their dominance still further, reaching eastwards and inwards beyond the Kafue River.
4.Livingstone’s death in 1873 gave an immense impetus to several different missionary societies. By common counsel, the Church Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society and the Scottish Presbyterian Churches launched a strategy of penetration from the east coast.
The Universities’ Mission to Central Africa did likewise, and three years later, the White Fathers followed suit. By the end of 1881, seven different missions were established within striking distance of what is now Northern Rhodesia.
5.In the east, the Free Church of Scotland was established and flourished building several mission centres. South of the Zambezi, the Jesuit Mission was recovering from its first abortive attempt in the previous year to open work among the Southern Tonga across the river.
In Western Province, an important missionary Frangois Coillard and his wife of the Paris Evangelical Mission, won an invitation from King Lewanika to enter Barotseland in 1878.
6.In 1890, yet another mission, that of the Primitive Methodists, sent forward two missionaries and their wives to cross the Zambezi River, and open up work among the Ila people to the east of Barotseland.  Lewanika, however, detained them for three years in his territory before allowing them to proceed to their first station on the Nkala River.
7.The Bemba were still out of reach, but the Rev. Picton Jones and the Rev. Stewart Wright of the London Missionary Society established two stations to the north of them at the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika — at Fwambo (later moved to Kawimbe) in 1887 and at Niamukolo in 1889.

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