African slavery and African Catholicism

Many historians and scholars hold that the domination of European rule in Africa caused African slavery and the development of African Catholicism. However, there is much evidence showing that the development of African slavery and African Catholicism occurred due to deep rooted African systems and an already established traditional form of religion. It will also provide evidence of the roots and development of African slavery. Roots and Development of African Catholicism and African Slavery Many scholars view Christianity in Kongo, especially Catholicism as a foreign religion introduced by the colonizers during the 15th and 16th centuries. In addition, these scholars often deem this form of religion as serving the interests of foreigners more than the indigenous Kongo people. The result of this assertion is that Christianity overlooked the independence of Kongo people. In addition, this caused most historians to view the deemed introduced Christianity as a form of colonization and domination by the Portuguese in Kongo. Moreover, these historians also assert that the conversion of Kongo to Christianity and the development of African Catholicism was a direct effect of westernization of Kongo (Thornton, 147). The history of religion and African Catholicism was quite different from the assertions of these historians and scholars. The conversion of Kongo in to Christianity was under a free will. Consequently, it is evident that the Kongo people and leaders highly determined the structure of the church and its doctrines as well as practices. It is also evident that the Portuguese attempted to control the church under political terms. However, this was not possible since Kongo highly controlled the activities and practices of the church. Even though contemporary studies reveal that there was substantial syncretism in Christian doctrines in Kongo, the European clergy who visited Kongo, recognized it as conventional (Thornton, 148). In the case of African slavery, there are misconceptions by most scholars as to what prompted slave trade in the region. Most of these scholars considered the roots of African slavery as a product of economic underdevelopment in Africa, in which forced labor dominated the economy rather than free labor. However, this was not the case but there was the spirit of slavery rooted deep in the African institutional and legal structures of communities of Africa. In addition, this kind of slavery occurred very differently from the form of slavery in Europe. The main reason that slavery occurred widely in the Atlantic Africa was that in African law, slaves were the only recognized form of private ownership. It became very perverse in the African society because there lacked landed private property (Thornton, 74). The incorporation of Christianity as a part of indigenous religion is the main reason it survived and hence the documentation of the cult dates from the early sixteenth century to the present day. In the nineteenth century, Christianity briefly disappeared from Kongo. However, the disappearance was not due to a lack on the part of Kongo, a failure on the part of the clergy or a resurgence of suppressed local religion. Rather, it was because of the changing definition among European clergy including Rome as to what made up Christianity, together with more chauvinistic attitudes towards non-Western and particularly colonial peoples that happened after I850 (Thornton, 148). In African law, one could only establish a claim on a product through taxation and slavery rather than through the fiction of land ownership. However, this did not make the African legal system backward or egalitarian, but only legally divergent. Due to this