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HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN ZANZIBAR

The Island of Zanzibar was a door for Christian evangelization in the Eastern and central parts of african Continent. The first Christian to reach Zanzibar were Augustinian Monks from Portugal in 1499. They opened their community in Unguja for the aim of catechesis and caring orphans. They were not tolerated by the Arabs who conquared the coast of East Africa. Christianity was complitely eradicated especially when the last monks were forced out by the Arabs in 1698. After many years then, Capuchin landed in Zanzibar in 1857 and lasted for a very short period of time.
The History of the Catholic Church in Zanzibar is divided in three phases or attempts.
The first attempt
This can be traced as far back as the 15th Century, when the Portuguese Explorers made a stop over at Zanzibar port, on their way to East Indies to look for spices. Among these visitors were some Augustinian Monks who settled in Zanzibar. They did not engage themselves in the work of evangelization, but they built a Chapel at the Old Fort at Forodhani, which was used for prayers by the Monks.  Reference is made in John Baur's 2000 YEARS OF CHRISTIANITY IN AFRICA to an Augustinian Friar in Zanzibar who "enjoyed the friendship of the Sultan". Augustinian archives refer to Zanzibar as "the most fruitful mission centre". East Africans associated these Friars with service to the Portuguese traders and military personnel. Whatever else their activities might have been, all came to an abrupt end when the Sultan, responding to a call from the people of tacked Zanzibar in 1650, killing many of the foreigners, including Augustinian Friars.

The Second Attempt: Capuchins:
In 1857 the Vicar Apostolic to the Gallas. Guglielimo Maasaja. sent two Capuchins to re- establish the Church in East Africa. The first to come to Zanzibar was Gabriele da Rivalta. However, da Rivalta aroused the suspicions of Sultan Majid by his questions about the mainland and had to leave soon after when the Sultan withdrew his "Letters of Introduction" to local chiefs on the mainland even though the Letters had already been given. He was followed by Leon des Avanches who, it seems, did some research on pastoral possibilities because in March 1858 he suggested to Propaganda Fide that Zanzibar could be a starting point for missionary work in East Africa.
The Third Attempt: Spiritan Missionaries:           
While Reunion had been the catalyst of the trouble in 1858 it now became the starting
point of the Church in East Africa. The Bishop, Armand Maupoint of St. Denis/Reunion, wanted to open a mission station in Zanzibar. The Governor Baron Darracan, seeing this as a way to solve the labour problem by covering recruitment of East Africans with the cloak of religion promised his support. But when Msgr. Armand-Joseph Fava, a Diocesan Priest and Vicar General of Bishop Maupoint came to Zanzibar in 1860 he was greeted warmly by Sultan Majid who was being accused by the Arabs of destroying the economy by signing the treaties abolishing slavery. From the very beginning, Msgr. Fava had a vision of what the mission should be. His plan was to emphasize agricultural and industrial work and his explanation of the plan raised expectations of workshops and trained craftsmen. This attracted the Sultan who then gave his full support to Msgr. Fava.

 

 

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