Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Undeniable Impact on Angola; Mission Schools and Stations

An important part of Angola's history includes the existence and impact of evangelical missions. The influence of Protestant missionary schools is evident considering that many of the Angolans who are currently leaders in government and business today were in fact educated in Protestant schools. In fact, the three leaders of the political movements that emerged at the end of colonialism: António Agostinho Neto who was head of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and current President of Angola; Holden Roberto of the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA); and Jonas Savimbi who was the head of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), were all Protestant School products.

Of crucial importance in this history was the Dondi Mission, established by the Congregational Church near the current city of Huambo at the beginning of the 19th century.  Dondi was the only mission in the nation at that time that provided high school level education and full medical services for Angolan indigenas, the local African population that were considered beyond civilization and denied much of the state-sanctioned social services that were available to Europeans and to the people of mixed race (meticos).

Dondi was located in Angola’s fertile central plateau of Huambo, which had long been the nation’s breadbasket as well as a retreat for wealthy Portuguese settlers fleeing the humidity and congestion of Luanda. The main city in the province, known as Nova Lisboa, under the Portuguese, was also a bustling commercial center that relied on its status as an important stop on the Benguela Railway. The Dondi Mission's approach to work with the local Angolan population immediately drew criticism from the mostly Catholic Portuguese settler community. Most questionable, in the eyes of the Portuguese settlers, was the fact that the missionaries’ primary goal was to convert indigenas who occupied the lowest rung of the colonial hierarchy. Dondi missionaries aggressively reached out to these local African villages and rather than speaking in Portuguese, worked to communicate with Africans win their local languages. They published bibles and flyers in Umbundu and taught Angolans to become pastors so that they could minister to local populations and convert their own communities.

In 1975, the upon the beginning of the civil war, the Dondi Mission was evacuated and henceforth was destroyed during the many years of civil war.  At this time, many groups within the United Church of Canada are organizing a campaign to rebuild the Dondi mission and continue its impact on the nation.  (info from Kate Burlingham: "In the Image of God": Missionaries and the Mapping of Angolan Politics)


Nel said...

The blog is very good! Congratulations!

YTM said...

Interesting; I personally knew Gladwyn Childs and his wife Margaret who were missionaries at Dondi in the early 60's