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Journal for the Study of Religion

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Missionary colonial mentality and the expansion of Christianity in Bechuanaland Protectorate, 1800 to 19001

Fidelis Nkomazana, Senzokuhle Doreen Setume

Abstract


Historical evidence shows that Batswana possessed rich cultural and religious traditions that contributed to the rapid spread of Christianity in Bechuanaland Protectorate (the present Botswana). The Western missionaries chose to reject or marginalize these traditions, which were based on the concept of the Supreme Being from time immemorial. The underlying patterns of these cultural and religious traditions and systems of the Batswana provided a firm foundation upon which Christianity was conceived, understood and received. However, some missionaries gave the impression that no such religious traditions and heritage existed prior to their arrival on the African continent. This paper argues that the Batswana, had an absolute belief in a Supreme Being, they referred to as Modimo and also points out that the cultural context, which the missionaries rejected, provided important conditions that led to the rapid growth of Christianity among the Batswana. Furthermore, the paper demonstrates that through misconceptions that saw education, commerce and trade as integral to their work, the missionaries tried to impose their Western cultural values on the Batswana. They thus adopted a western superiority complex, which the Batswana challenged and rejected as unacceptable and undermining their integrity. It must be pointed that through their pre-conceived ideas and desire to see Christianity dominating the Batswana, they supported and facilitated foreign rule.


Keywords: missionaries, religious traditions, Christianity, Modimo, colonial mentality




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