Unveiling The African Roots Of Christianity: Beyond Trade, Slavery, And Colonialism

The assertion that “Christianity is the White man’s religion” overlooks the deep African roots of Christianity. This article aims to debunk this misconception by exploring the historical, anthropological, and theological dimensions of Africa’s profound influence on the early Christian movement. Euro-American missionary activity over the past 500 years, intertwined with trade, slavery, and colonialism, has led to the misconception that Christianity is solely a Western religion. However, in the first 500 years A.D., Africa was integral to the spread of Christianity. The term “Afariqa” in Arabic sources highlights the synonymous nature of “Christian” and “African” during this period.

Contrary to popular belief, Africa played a significant role in evangelizing Europe. Thomas Oden’s work, “How Africa Shaped the European Mind,” posits that intellectual history flowed from Africa to Europe, shaping European thought. The Christianization of the Aksumite empire and the Nubian kingdoms underscores Africa’s early Christian influence.

The current shift of Christianity’s center from the West to the Global South is not unprecedented. Vince Bantu argues that Christianity has always been a global religion, spreading from Jerusalem to various cultural contexts worldwide. The Western-centric view of Christianity has obscured Africa’s pivotal role in its global expansion.

The early Christian movement embraced diverse cultural expressions across the ancient world. Egypt and Ethiopia were hubs of early Christianity, housing biblical manuscripts and organized ecclesiastical hierarchies. Christianity rapidly spread across Africa, adopting indigenous forms and influencing Northern and Western Europe.

The narrative that Christianity is exclusively a Western religion ignores Africa’s foundational contributions to the faith. By reclaiming Africa’s role in the early Christian movement, we can challenge misconceptions and foster a more inclusive understanding of Christianity’s global history. Africa’s influence on Christianity transcends trade, slavery, and colonialism, highlighting the continent’s rich spiritual heritage.

By Adubiri – Gyimah Angelina, Chief Catalyst.

Sam Ngugi & Yaw Perbi, (2020). Africa To The Rest (From Missions Field To Mission Force Again).

Vince L. Bantu, A Multitude of All Peoples: Engaging Ancient Christianity’s Global Identity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2020), 1. 

Soong-Chan Rah, The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009), 22. 

Stephen J. Davis, Popes of Egypt: Early Coptic Papacy: The Egyptian Church and Its Leadership in Late Antiquity (Cairo: The American University in Cairo, 2004), 19.

Steven Kaplan, “Ezana’s Conversion Reconsidered,” Journal of Religion in Africa 13, no. 2 (1982): pp. 101-109, https://doi.org/10.1163/157006682×00087.

Vince L. Bantu, A Multitude of All Peoples: Engaging Ancient Christianity’s Global Identity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2020), 3.

 

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