Angola Table of Contents
The MPLA-PT maintained a cautious attitude toward religion in the late 1980s, in contrast to its determination in the late 1970s to purge churchgoers from the party. A 1980 Ministry of Justice decree required all religious institutions to register with the government. As of 1987, eleven Protestant institutions were legally recognized: the Assembly of God, the Baptist Convention of Angola, the Baptist Evangelical Church of Angola, the Congregational Evangelical Church of Angola, the Evangelical Church of Angola, the Evangelical Church of South-West Angola, the Our Lord Jesus Christ Church in the World (Kimbanquist), the Reformed Evangelical Church of Angola, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the Union of Evangelical Churches of Angola, and the United Methodist Church (see Christianity , ch. 2). Roberto de Almeida, the MPLA-PT Central Committee secretary for ideology, information, and culture, admonished church leaders not to perpetuate oppressive or elitist attitudes, and he specifically warned that the churches would not be allowed to take a neutral stance in the battle against opponents of the MPLA-PT regime.
The official attitude toward religion reflected the ideological split in the party leadership. Staunch party ideologues, who had purged almost all churchgoers during the rectification campaign of the late 1970s, opposed leniency toward anyone claiming or recognizing moral authority outside the regime. But as they had done in regard to traditional leaders, the president and his close associates weighed the balance between ideological purity and political necessity and soon moderated their antireligious stance. Political opposition had not coalesced around religious leaders, and, in general, the fear of religious opposition was weakening in the late 1980s.
Employing Marxist-Leninist diatribes against the oppression of the working class, only the most strident ideologues in the MPLA-PT maintained their opposition to religion. The Roman Catholic Church was still strongly identified with the colonial oppressor, and Protestant missionaries were sometimes condemned for having supported colonial practices. More serious in the government's view in the late 1980s was the use by its foremost opponent, Jonas Savimbi, of the issue of religion to recruit members and support for his UNITA insurgency. Savimbi's Church of Christ in the Bush had become an effective religious affiliate of UNITA, maintaining schools, clinics, and training programs.
Small religious sects were annoying to MPLA-PT officials. The ruling party suspected such groups of having foreign sponsors or of being used by opponents of the regime. To the government, the sects' relative independence from world religions was a gauge of their potential for political independence as well. Watch Tower and Seventh-Day Adventist sects were suspect, but they were not perceived as serious political threats. However, the Jehovah's Witnesses were banned entirely in 1978 because of their proscription on military service.
During the late 1980s, security officials considered the small Our Lord Jesus Christ Church in the World to be a threat to the regime, despite the fact that the Mtokoists, as they were known, were not particularly interested in national politics (see Internal Security , ch. 5). Their founder, Simon Mtoko (also known as Simão Toco), had been expelled from Angola by the Portuguese in 1950 for preaching adherence to African cultural values. He returned to Angola in 1974 but soon clashed with MPLA leaders over the regime's authority over individual beliefs. He opposed the party's Marxist rhetoric on cultural grounds until his death in 1984. After his death, officials feared the group would splinter into dissident factions. The church was legally recognized in 1988 even though Mtokoists clashed with police in 1987 and 1988, resulting in arrests and some casualties.
Data as of February 1989
Angola Table of Contents