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Chad Table of Contents


Protestantism in Chad

The Protestants came to southern Chad in the 1920s. American Baptists were the first, but missionaries of other denominations and nationalities soon followed. Many of the American missions were northern offshoots of missionary networks founded farther south in the Ubangi-Chari colony (now Central African Republic) of French Equatorial Africa (Afrique Equatoriale Française--AEF; ses Glossary). The organizational ties between the missions in southern Chad and Ubangi-Chari were strengthened by France's decision in 1925 to transfer Logone Occidental, Tandjilé, Logone Oriental, and Moyen-Chari prefectures to Ubangi-Chari, where they remained until another administrative shuffle restored them to Chad in 1932.

These early Protestant establishments looked to their own churches for material resources and to their own countries for diplomatic support. Such independence allowed them to maintain a distance from the French colonial administration. In addition, the missionaries arrived with their wives and children, and they often spent their entire lives in the region. This family-based expansion of the missionary networks was not peculiar to Chad in the 1920s. Some of the missionaries who arrived at that time had grown up with missionary parents in missions founded earlier in the French colonies to the south. Some missionary children from this era later founded missions of their own. Many remained after independence, leaving only in the early and or mid-1970s when Tombalbaye's authenticité movement forced their departure (see Fall of the Tombalbaye Government , ch. 1).

The puritanical message preached by many Protestant missionaries undermined the appeal of the faith. Rather than allowing a local Christian tradition to develop, the missionaries preached a fundamentalist doctrine native to parts of the United States. They inveighed against dancing, alcohol, and local customs, which they considered "superstitions." New converts found it almost impossible to observe Protestant teachings and remain within their communities. In the early years, Chadian Protestants often left their villages and settled around the missions. But abandoning village and family was a sacrifice that most people were reluctant to make.

Although language and doctrine probably discouraged conversion, the educational and medical projects of the Protestant missions probably attracted people. The missionaries set up schools, clinics, and hospitals long before the colonial administration did. In fact, the mission schools produced the first Western-educated Chadians in the 1940s and 1950s. In general, the Protestant missionary effort in southern Chad has enjoyed some success. In 1980, after a half-century of evangelization, Protestants in southern Chad numbered about 80,000.

From bases in the south, Protestants founded missions in other parts of Chad. For the most part, they avoided settling among Muslims, who were not responsive to their message. In the colonial capital of Fort-Lamy (present-day's N'Djamena), the missions attracted followers among resident southerners. The missionaries also proselytized among the non-Muslim populations of Guéra, Ouaddaï, and Biltine prefectures. Although Christianity appealed to some in the capital (there were estimated to be 18,000 Christians in N'Djamena in 1980), efforts in other parts of the Sahel were relatively unsuccessful.

In the late 1980s, the future of the Protestant missions in Chad remained unclear. As noted, many Protestant missionaries were forced to leave the country during the cultural revolution in the early and mid-1970s. Outside the south, other missions have been caught in the cross fire of warring factions. Rebel forces have pillaged mission stations, and the government has accused the missionaries of complicity with the opposition.

Data as of December 1988