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Afrikaner Missionaries and the Slippery Slope of Praying for Rain

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The Late 19th to Early 20th Centuries in Southern and Central Africa

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Rain prayers and ‘rainmaking’ have been much commented upon in respect to African religions including Christianity. This ritual practice was one of the issues that many colonial-era missionaries to Southern and Central Africa mentioned in their diaries and other materials. Their responses were often quite negative, but in certain cases there were attempts by missionaries to meet the indigenous discourse, if not exactly halfway, then at least in some manner by substituting Christian rain prayers for what was often seen as ‘heathen superstition’. This article concerns a much neglected group of missionaries in academic discourse, Afrikaners from the Dutch Reformed Church in the Cape Colony to wider Africa. It considers how they responded to indigenous requests or demands for rain prayers, and subtly poses the thesis that they were in some cases influenced and even convinced against their self-proclaimed biases to consider rain prayers from the indigenous point of view.

Affiliations: 1: Stellenbosch University


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