Slavery and Colonization:
by Rit Nosotro
For better or worse?
Change Over Time essay
How was the oppression of slavery and colonization turned into the freedom of Christ in Africa?
In recent history, the small European countries have entirely dominated the world. These countries including Spain, Portugal, France, Britain, Italy, Holland and Germany colonized the whole known world and explored the rest of the unknown. But why did the Europeans come to power? Why didn’t the Africans or the American Indians control the world? This essay attempts to show how God allowed the Europeans, some of whom were Christians, to conquer other lands and spread His Word to the eventual benefit of Africa. Throughout history, even though the motives of most conquerors were not pure, God still used them to accomplish His will.
Starting from the 1500’s, the entire world, except for a few small countries such as Korea, Thailand, Japan and Ethiopia were colonized by the Europeans. But did evolution give Europeans an advantage like Hitler believed? Many evolutionists and secular historians say that the environment greatly influenced the rise and domination of the Europeans. They say that the physical environment of Europe produced the perfect place for civilization to blossom thousands of years ago. If environment influenced the rise of civilization in Europe it was by divine causation of the Creator, not some naturalistic randomness of the creation. As Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar, “He changes the times and the seasons, He removes Kings and sets up Kings” (Dan. 2:21). God controls the environment and the rise and fall of nations. He decides who to put in, or take out, of power.
God has always used various empires to carry out His will among nations. For example, Habakkuk 1:6 says, “I am raising up the Babylonians, the ruthless and impetuous people”. Even though the Babylonians were evil, God used them to punish the Hebrews for the many sins they had been committing. After 70 years of this punishment, God used the Persians to restore his repentant people. “The Lord moved the heart of Cyrus, King of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it into writing, ‘This is what the King of Persia says: The Lord, the God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build a temple for Him at Jerusalem in Judah” (Ezra 1:1-4). Retrospectively, we see that God has used many other empires for His purposes including the Assyrians, Greeks, Romans and even the Europeans. At times, God rewards righteous nations by making them prosper and other times he uses even wicked nations for His cause by turning that evil into good.
One of the best examples of God turning evil into good is that of the Europeans conquering Africa. Some African leaders seemed to recognize the benefits of Christianity as indicated by King Afonso's 1526 request that the king of Portugal restrict trade to "no more than some priests and a few people to teach in the schools, and no other goods except wine and flour for the holy sacrament". Afonso's sincere acceptance of Christianity held longer than his opposition to the slave trade in the Kongo for he greedily exchanged his 1540 war captives for the esteemed Portuguese goods.
Most Europeans came to Africa mainly for economic reasons, particularly gold, diamonds and slaves, athough the colonial policies of Great Britain, France, and Belgium differed. Greedy Europeans raped the resources of the African tribes. King Leopold of Holland was reported to have lined up Africans that did not produce enough resources in “his” Congo, and shot through all of their bodies to conserve ammunition. Even some Europeans claiming to be Christians took part in atrocities, an example being the Jesuits who owned their own slave ships.
How could God permit all these terrible things to happen to the Africans? The answer to this puzzling question is that God allowed these evil deeds to happen for the people’s ultimate good. It says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways mine”. Although horrible things happened during the colonization of Africa, countless good came to pass. The opening of African nations allowed missionaries like David Livingstone and Mary Slessor to come to the previously uncivilized lands. They brought with them education and medicine, which saved hundreds of thousands of lives and bettered millions more over time. In fact, Christianity and medicine have always had close ties to each other. Improved medicine, education, and infrastructure, are just temporal ways to introduced traditional societies to the transforming power of the gospel and Christian community. This is why an estimated 380 million Christians dwell in Africa's 56 nations. God used even the worst situation, like that of the Africans and later turned it into good.
Taking one nation as an example, Ghana, also known as The Gold Coast, the Europeans’ primary interests were in obtaining riches for themselves. Trade in gold and later in human beings consumed much of their time and energy. The propagation of the gospel, one of their “reasons” for their journey to Africa, was neglected for a long time and showed little success at first. However, while many Europeans pillaged and plundered the natives, others worked hard to propagate the gospel. Some of these missionaries were the Portuguese Roman Catholics, who became the first missionaries in the 15th century. The United Brethren Mission in 1747, became the first missionaries to seriously attempt evangelizing the natives. The Wesleyan missionaries in 1835, who established schools and Christianized tribes far inland and The Sisters of the Lady Apostle Society in 1883, built 17 schools in Ghana and established churches in over forty towns. The seeds sown by these gallant men and women were used by God to reach millions of Ghanans with the good news, eventually transforming Ghana into a predominately Christian nation. Thus, in spite of all the atrocities that went on God’s hand was still at work in Ghana and the rest of the ravaged African countries.
Christians such as Granville Sharp (founded the American Episcopalian Church)
and Wilberforce lobbied the English
Parliment to end slavery, which passed in 1807. Amazingly, some African leaders
indicated disappointment in the decrease of the slave trade. For example, King
Osie Bonsu of Asante complained to the British government in 1820 that prisoners
gained through honorable battles were fit for the slave market as allowed by
both Christian and Islamic ancient laws.
Although Europeans conquerors were known for their cruelty, the Africans themselves were not innocent victims. The Africans were actually destroying themselves at an alarming rate through inter-tribal warfare, and in some instances through time honored traditions of headhunting, twin-murder, human sacrifice, cannibalism and witchcraft. The African Muslims had been trading slaves for over 500 years before the Europeans tied into the existing routes of trafficking humans. The powers of darkness had a stronghold in Africa. One missionary to Africa wrote, “one has not to go far into the jungles of Nigeria, the Sudan or Ethiopia and visit a few of the African villages to believe in devils and demons. Fetish men, devil men, juju, lycanthropy, witches and wizards all flourished unchecked in the early days of the mission.” The Africans had brought destruction upon themselves by their sins as it says in Psalm 37:28, “For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones. They will be protected forever but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off.”
Indeed, several African nations are throwing off the "Colonial burden of Christianity" which has resulted in starvation and chaos such as seen in the Sudan and Zimbabwe. [Related questions: "Why do majority studies show a tendency for African-American boys, especially in mostly white classes, reject the central values of education to their own destruction? Could the rejection of white culture include rejection of a protestant work ethic and Judeo-Christian morality? Did this tendency happen in post-colonial Africa?] However, when people or nations honor Christian principles, they experience spiritual and physical health. For example, Uganda's use of Christian radio to preach marital fidelity and chastity for singles has been unique on the continent in turning the tide against AIDS.
God allows evil to prevail for short periods of time, knowing that many hearts will be turned to Him. In the end, “every knee shall bow” (Philip. 2:8-11). With God, "a thousand years is like a day" (2 Peter 3:8) so even though several hundred years of difficulty may seem long to us, in light of eternity, it is not long. Long suffering Paul, in Romans 8:21 confessed, "for I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us". God is just. He uses all kinds of people, from the Babylonians to the Europeans, to even the terrorists of 9/11 to accomplish His will on earth and eternity.
1: Which of these European countries conquered and explored most of the world?
A: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Poland.
B: Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and Greece.
C: Spain, Portugal, France, Britain, Holland, Italy and Germany.
D: All of the above
2: Daniel 2:21 says:
A: He lets the environment do whatever it wants.
B: He changes the time and the seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings.
C: In the beginning, a big bang created the heavens and the earth.
D: None of the above
3: What were most Europeans motives for coming to Africa?
A: To go on African photo safaris.
B: To get more money for themselves.
C: To convert people to Christianity.
D: To have an adventure.
4: What were some of the missions that went to Ghana?
A: The Portuguese Roman Catholics, The United Brethren Mission, The Wesleyan Missionaries and the Sisters of the Lady Apostle Society.
B: The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness.
C: Campus Crusade and Young Life.
D: All of the Above.
Did the environment influence the rise of the Europeans?
History of Jews in Persia
History of Assyria
King Afonso, King Osie Bonsu
Europeans lands in Africa
African medical missions
Evils of Africans
Tucker, Ruth. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya page 140-141, page 297
Rodkin, P.C., et al. 2000. Heterogeneity of popular boys: Antisocial and prosocial configurations. Developmental Psychology 36(January):14-24
Where was God on September 11th?
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