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Open Access Conquest and Theology

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Conquest and Theology

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The Jesuits in Angola, 1548–1650

image of Journal of Jesuit Studies

The Jesuits played a key role in the evangelization of the Portuguese colony of Angola and its surrounding Kimbundu-speaking neighbors when they came with the colonial mission of Paulo Dias de Novais in 1575. Their experience is an example of evangelization in a colonial setting in Africa, and contrasts with Jesuit approaches to conversion in the neighboring and independent Kingdom of Kongo. They drew heavily on previous experiences in the Kingdom of Kongo, which had itself become Christian a century earlier and pioneered a marriage between African religion and Christian spirituality. When Jesuits came to Kongo in 1548 they found an existing established church and added relatively little to it before they left following political disputes. When Dias de Novais came to found Angola, he initially was militarily dependent on Kongo’s assistance and the Jesuits, too, were dependent on the Kongolese version of Christianity, which is clear in their choice of vocabulary in the Kimbundu catechism that they sponsored and oversaw in 1628. However, the colonial situation in Angola made the Jesuits more willing to accept the idea of conversion by the sword, and they were notably less tolerant of African religious inclusions in Angola than in Kongo. The contrast in the two approaches was particularly evident when the Jesuits reopened a mission in Kongo in 1619.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of History and African American Studies, Boston University Non-resident fellow, W.E.B. DuBois Institute, Harvard University, jkthorn@bu.edu

The Jesuits played a key role in the evangelization of the Portuguese colony of Angola and its surrounding Kimbundu-speaking neighbors when they came with the colonial mission of Paulo Dias de Novais in 1575. Their experience is an example of evangelization in a colonial setting in Africa, and contrasts with Jesuit approaches to conversion in the neighboring and independent Kingdom of Kongo. They drew heavily on previous experiences in the Kingdom of Kongo, which had itself become Christian a century earlier and pioneered a marriage between African religion and Christian spirituality. When Jesuits came to Kongo in 1548 they found an existing established church and added relatively little to it before they left following political disputes. When Dias de Novais came to found Angola, he initially was militarily dependent on Kongo’s assistance and the Jesuits, too, were dependent on the Kongolese version of Christianity, which is clear in their choice of vocabulary in the Kimbundu catechism that they sponsored and oversaw in 1628. However, the colonial situation in Angola made the Jesuits more willing to accept the idea of conversion by the sword, and they were notably less tolerant of African religious inclusions in Angola than in Kongo. The contrast in the two approaches was particularly evident when the Jesuits reopened a mission in Kongo in 1619.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22141332-00102006
2014-03-12
2018-11-12

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