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Emile Lyon 2020Primary evangelization basically meant bringing Christ to a world that had not yet heard of him.  The content of this evangelization is the announcement of the Kingdom of God and the liberating salvation brought by Christ.  This evangelization comes within the scope of understanding the form of Christianity which European missionaries brought with them, namely, to Africa with its socio-cultural, social, theological, and spiritual baggage.  We note that often the encounter between missionaries and the local African communities was ambiguous just like that of colonialism itself.

In what does the evidence of the salvation of sub-Saharan Africa, brought by the first evangelization, according to its historical context [18th century] consist nowadays? This period is of particular interest to us because of the hardships, the intensification, and the development of the work of evangelization brought about by the emergence in Europe and the Americas of Societies and missionary movements (Catholic and Protestant) towards Africa.

The System of isolation

The isolation of new converts is one of the principal methods by which the missionaries felt it would be appropriate and advantageous to attain their objective in ‘Christianising’ and ‘civilizing’ the African population.  The objective aimed was to equally instill in the converts, a Christian culture, and a ‘so-called’ civilized culture. This created a gap between the converts and their local community.

The Theology of the salvation of souls

LuangwaThe Theology of the salvation of souls and that of there being ‘no salvation outside the Church’ meant that missionaries concentrated on the administration of baptisms and on sacramental rites. The missionaries, especially those in the Catholic tradition, measured their success by the numbers of Christian baptisms and weddings which had been celebrated.

These three methods of evangelization, amongst many other signs, showed the passion for ‘evangelizing and civilizing’ which motivated the missionaries for the salvation of the Africans. What consequences can we draw from this modus operandi for our modern times?

UPDATING OF THE CONTEXT

Putting into context the missionary practice in Africa unveils the mission in Europe today, which once was the cradle of evangelization of the African continent.

In Europe: Together with Karl Rahner we can say that Christianity is in a delicate diaspora situation.  The world in which Christians now live is no longer a ‘Christian world’.  At times, the Christian is ‘like a hermit in the midst of his peers’.  This emerges as an ‘inherent necessity in the history of salvation’. As far as Jean Rigal is concerned, we are invited to consider the current situation as a reminder that the Spirit is urging us to find new ways to proceed in these given times.  Despite all the challenges, the Church never ceases its missionary vocation.  She uses new methods of communication to promote evangelization.

In Africa:

*On a religious level: We are in a situation where the concept of evangelization or that of mission has evolved.  It has moved on from the paradigm that the mission ‘ad gentes’ (to the nations in the dark) to that of a mission inter gentes (amongst the people), cum gentibus (with the people), and of intercultural dialogue.   It combines in a complex manner new approaches to evangelization with levels of witness, inculturation, dialogue, safeguarding the environment, and sustainable development.

*On a social level: The missionaries gave the African, a formation while at the same time maintaining his culture and his style of living so as to avoid Europeanising him.  As far as the banana republics are concerned, in the majority of our African countries, the Church became the voice of those voiceless in order to condemn injustice and corruption.

Education* On an educational level: Through schools, Christianity has brought a feeling of religious independence and the subsequent legitimization of the autonomy of individual conscience.  Many of the African elite were educated in Catholic establishments.

* On a technological level: Today, the way in which one evangelizes has evolved thanks to new means of communication.  Thanks to these, we have large interactive programs to tackle societal subjects. We are able now, together with Pope Saint John Paul II, to speak of new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith.  The need is felt that one must pay close attention to discern and share in order to better understand the possibilities which this space offers for the promulgation of the Gospel, but also to correctly understand the risks and dangers of it.

 In summary, Europe appears to be in crisis, whilst we in Africa see the positive consequences of primary evangelization, through the evolution of Christianity.  Thanks to the missionaries, the African has had a quasi – general education. Actually, the African Church participates in the salvation of the European continent and of the other continents through the missionaries she now provides.

CONCLUSION

Divine Mercy NdolaThe mission of the Church is considered to be universal: at first glance, no one is excluded from the offer of salvation brought to the world through Jesus Christ.  The first evangelization didn’t only contribute to bringing the Good News of Salvation to the African people. The missionaries, apostles of the Gospel, worked in a sense a double mission: that of evangelizing and of civilizing.  They basked in an ideological occidental concept of the superiority of the Caucasian race. They considered their civilizing mission concerning the African as that of inferior beings, without a culture. The evangelization was done in ignorance and in the destruction of beliefs, cultural values, and practices of the continent south of the Sahara.  This begs the question of the outcome of the first evangelization result. 

Thanks to the new concept of evangelization since Vatican II, African cultural values have been enhanced through the method of inculturation.  We set an updating of a new double movement of richness.  The missionary is enriched by African culture and the African society is enriched by the fruits of the mission.  African society witnesses an evolution in the domains of spirituality, education, and general well-being.  Despite the fact that methods of evangelization differ from those of the past, the African clergy knows how to adapt to globalization in order to lead his mission of salvation.

Despite the urgency of evangelization today, the African clergy prescribes all form of proselytization to allow for space in the witness of missionary life.  Because, just as Pope John Paul II used to say, the protagonist in the ecclesiastical mission is the Holy Spirit.

The Church must, at all times, examine the signs of the times and must interpret them in the light of the Gospel, in such a way that it can answer in a manner adapted to each generation. (…) It is thus important to know the world we live in, its expectations, its aspirations, it’s  all too often dramatic character.”

APPRABOE Kouakou Emile, sma

Cf. Elochukwu UZUKWU, « inter-spiritual encounter: Igbo (West African) indigenous Religious search for harmony and the Christian meditation of the Sacred » in Spirituality of the Universal Church, p. 155; Ch. H. Kane, Ambiguous adventure, Paris, Union Générale d’Editions, 1993. La première édition date de 1962. Cité par Paul Saa-Dade Ennin, « Chritianisme missionaire et spiritualité en Afrique subsaharienne », in Théologie Africaine, Eglise et Sociétés, n°11, Institut Catholique Missionnaire d’Abidjan, 2017, p.33.

Paul SAA-DADE ENNIN, Op cit, P. 33.

Cf. Elochukwu UZUKWU, « inter-spiritual encounter : Igbo (West African) indigenous Religious search for harmony and the Christian meditation of the Sacred » in Spirituality of the Universal Church, p. 155 ; Ch. H. Kane, Ambiguous adventure, Paris, Union Générale d’Editions, 1993. La première édition date de 1962. Cité par Paul Saa-Dade Ennin, « Chritianisme missionaire et spiritualité en Afrique subsaharienne », in Théologie Africaine, Eglise et Sociétés, n°11, Institut Catholique Missionnaire d’Abidjan, 2017, p.33.

   Cf. Karl RAHNER, L’Eglise face aux défis de notre temps. Etudes sur l’écclésiologie et l’existence chrétienne, Œuvres 10, Christophe THEOBALD (dir), Paris, Cerf, 2003, p. 9.

Cf. Jean RIGAL, L’Eglise en quête d’avenir, Réflexions et propositions pour des temps nouveaux, Paris, Cerf, 2003, p. 31.

Cf. SYNODE DES ÉVÊQUE, XIIIème Assemblée générale ordinaire. La nouvelle génération pour la transmission de la foi chrétienne. Instrumentum laboris n°12, Cité du Vatican 2012.

Marie-Hélène ROBERT, « Pour que le monde croie ». Approche théologique de l’évangélisation, Lyon, Profac, 2014, p. 235.

Concile Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, n°11.

Jean-Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, n°21.