Page 5, 29th March 1940

29th March 1940
Page 5
Page 5, 29th March 1940 — Stanley's Country, the Congo, now the world's greatest mission field

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Organisations: African Church
Locations: London


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Stanley's Country, the Congo, now the world's greatest mission field

The Belgium Congo Missions report 300,000 baptisms per annum, 26,000,000 communions, and a million catechumens under instruction.

These figures are taken from Gran& Lace, a review produced by Pare Leloir, W.F., which issues a special survey of this Central African progress.

King Albert, the hero of the last war, is stated to have concluded his tour,

made the following year, by expressing the wish, "I should like to see every one of these pagans baptised before I die." Although this was not vouchsafed hind, his successor. King Leopold II, who also made an sates-sloe tour some years ago, can be satisfied that the task is well in hand to-day.

Thanks to the unrivalled zeal and hard work of the sturdy missionaries which Catholic Belgium has been sending with an ever-rising crescendo of late years the ancient pagan customs are steadily giving way to the standards of Christ. Certainly no such headway is reported from any other mission field as that which is gradually coming to be known about the Congo. The latest statistics available record for the year between June '38 and June '39 a net increase of 183,000 Catholics. The total of 26,000,000 communions explains why the Congo churches have the biggest ciboria in the world!

Africans Will Convert Africa tlut the most striking feature, and the most promising for the future of Africa, is the increasingly important part played by the Congolese themselves In the evangettsation of their own people. The principle that the best apostles are those who belong to the race awaiting conversion is clearly responsible for much of the progress. That the new African Church is aware of Its responsibilities is clear from the fact that in the past year no fewer than 2,000 new bush schools were started, thus bringing the total of scholars up by another 160,000. The number of native priests Is rising steadily and eatisfactorily in view of the very recent conversion of the older generation. But already only the elderly can recollect the pagan days when the Cross was unknown.

Already missionaries from one part are evangelising new districts of the Congo, and the day is not far off when they will go further afield.

Family and Tribal Life Changed The far reaching transformation wrought by the conversion of nearly a quarter of the land is most clearly Indicated by the change in the family and tribal structure of native society. Where polygamy was the order of the day now the Christian wife has a new status, and became medical attention has improved very rapidly the birth-rate

is the highest in the world-60 per 1,000. Alongside the thousands of families with anything from six to eight children, there are now growing up houses which men and women vowed to celibacy live a life which has never before been heard of in Africa. It is these who staff the multitude of schools, hospitals, workshops, etc., without which the gradual adaptation to civilised conditions would have taken many years of labour from European missionaries.

Ruanda—Urundi Leads the Way

Nowhere is the change so clear as in the two adjacent kingdoms of Ruanda and Urundi, which were transferred

From Fr.

Herbert Keldany

from German control In 1019. In many respects self-contained they illustrate very clearly the various phases of missionary penetrattoo.

When the first missionaries began their work tlae ruling claeees--who are of Hamitic descent, and claim kinship with the ancient kings of Egypt—were distinctly stand-offish, and most of the conversions came from the conquered negroes of the Bantu race, over whom they ruled. But later, when the Christian transformation was recognised by them, the chiefs demanded instruction, and to-day there are more Catholics, proportionately, among them than among their subjects.

The King is a Catholic, and no one who has seen him surrounded by nis tall and graceful courtiers in the film showing at the Polytechnic Cinema in London would guess that he speaks and writes good French, drives his own car. and plans far-reaching reforms.

Full Circle in Half a Century

The advent of the motor-car, heavy machinery for mining operations in the Kata,nga, and the plane to shorten the great distances between stations, have all contributed to the transformation of material conditions. But none of these changes is so radical as that which has come about in the I earts of the Congolese in less than half a century.

Because this has all happened In our own time there is a danger of passing it by, as did the producer of the film so misleadingly called " Dark Rapture," which is well worth seeing for Its own sake, but specially so if one has a mission-minded Interest. There t he emphasis is all on the primeval native, but anyone who realises the changes which have affected not only the lordly Watussi, but the pigmies, and the people of every tribe, will conclude that they are indeed worthy of the Lord of the Harvest.

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