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I am an African, and a member of the Anglican communion. Ironically, Christianity is not up to a hundred and fifty years old in my lineage. My Christian heritage began with my late grand-father who died in the year 2008 at the age of 106. His father(my great-grand father) was heathen. His mother(my great-grand mother) was a heathen prior to her conversion in about 1910. My great-grand father died a heathen in about 1905, which was before the advent of Christianity in my ancestral home right here on the African continent. My heathen ancestors revered the idols they worshipped and served. They were polytheists, who worshipped several gods like amadioha, eri, okonko, odoh and so on. Names like these undoubtedly sound weird to the members of my Western audience whose ancestors laboured so hard to bring the Christian faith to my primordial and ignorant ancestors. In my country Nigeria, located in the West African sub-region, the gospel of Christ was first preached in the year 1842 by Thomas Birch Freeman. Thomas Freeman was an emancipated slave who became a Wesleyan minister and a missionary to Africa. He was ordained in England in the year 1837, and was sent to the African continent in 1842, the year the first Christmas celebration was marked in my country. His missionary expedition came after the failure of the Niger expedition of 1841. The Niger Expedition of 1841 was first conceived by Thomas Fowell Buxton, an English abolitionist, politician, reformer and evangelical christian. His intention was to spread the gospel of Christ to the dark continent of Africa, where some of the most savage of all customs and traditions existed. Examples of such draconian traditions were: human sacrifice, cannibalism, the killing of twins, the display of human skulls as trophies of war heroism and so on. But this expedition which was the brain child of Buxton and chaired by Prince Albert(husband of Queen Victoria) turned out to be a fiasco because almost all the Caucasian missionaries who embarked on the journey to Africa perished. This was largely due to the tropical diseases they had contracted like malaria and black water fever. No African in that expedition died due to their resistance to these tropical diseases, stemming from the fact that they had been accustomed to them from their birth. It would also be pertinent to note that the quinine drug had not been discovered at the time.
The failure of this expedition would eventually lead to African missionaries like William Henry Sheppard, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Thomas Freeman, George Anyaegbunam and a host of others being assigned this commission. Samuel Ajayi Crowther(the first African Bishop) took the faith to places in Southern Nigeria like Onitsha. In 1864, he tried relentlessly to intervene on behalf of slaves who were to be buried alive with the Prince of that Kingdom. Odili, the son of the Obi(king) had died, and was to be buried alongside eleven of his slaves, who were to be buried alive with him in order to continue their lives of absolute servitude to him in the after life. One of them was an eight year old girl who had a tray containing some food items and a pair of shoes for the deceased prince. Samuel Crowther pleaded with the Obi, Obi Akazua to spare the lives of these miserable slaves but to no avail.
The discovery of the quinine drug came with an influx of European missionaries to the African continent. They came zealously and enthusiastically with the love of Christ and His redemptive work. A very good example was the famous Scottish missionary from Aberdeen Mary Slessor who stopped the traditional killing of twins in Calabar and Okoyong. Others risked their lives to stop cannibalism and introduced foreign food items like maize, cassava, beans, rice, tomatoes, potatoes and so on as alternatives to human flesh. Africa has since then seen the best from these missionaries who brought the light of the gospel to lighten their darkness, by liberating them from age-old draconian practices that had held millions or perhaps billions captive over the centuries. The best should continue to be exhibited to the remainder of dark worlds on earth by Christian nations, charities, organisations, evangelical missions and churches. Do not relent as you trudge on.
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