Object of the Society - Early Discouragement of "Women's Work - The Curse of Fetishism and Witchcraft - Position of Woman in Heathen Lands - The First Women Missionaries in Uganda The Story of the Church in Uganda
The Church Missionary Society was founded in 1799. Its members belong to the Church of England and uphold the Evangelical principles of the Reformation. Its object is to send the Gospel to heathen and Mohammedans.
In 1815 the C.m.s. received its first offers of service in the mission field from women. Three ladies offered to go anywhere in any capacity, but the committee resolved not to send unmarried women abroad, except sisters accompanying or joining their brothers.
In 1840 Bishop Wilson wrote from Bengal for money to provide instruction for women and girls. His suggestion was that they should be received into the houses of married missionaries. He was offered the services of a lady in England anxious to take up missionary work in India. He replied : "The lady will not do. I object, on principle and from experience of Indian life, to single ladies coming out to so distant a place with the almost certainty of their marrying within a month of their arrival. I imagine the beloved Persis and Tryphena and Tryphosa re-mained in their own neighbourhood and families." As Dr. Stock aptly remarks in his well-known "History of the Church Missionary Society " : "It will be observed that he con-veniently omits Phcebe of Cenchrea, who certainly did not stay at home." In spite of the Bishop's objections, a few ladies did go to various parts of India and gave most valuable help at various mission stations. Between 1859 and 1867 a few women were accepted, "under very special circurastances," but until 1887 women's work was not systematically organised by the society. The C.m.s. then changed its policy, probably owing to its recognition of the admirable work being done by women for other societies. In 1887 and 1888 twenty women were sent out. The numbers have steadily increased until, in 1910, 823 women were working under the C.m.s. in Africa, China, India, Ceylon, Japan, Persia. Turkish Arabia, N.-w. Canada, and British Columbia, Palestine, and the Mauritius.
A Kure king wearing his crown and surrounded by his subjects. Amongst these pagans the terrible belief in witchcraft, with all its attendant horrors, still flourishes
Some of the many wives of the eldest son of the King of Ogo, who receive instruction each week from
Miss Thomas of the Church Missionary Society
A non-christian Indian was asked which of the various forms of missionary effort he regarded as most likely to succeed, and he replied : " The work of your doctors, for they are winning our hearts; and of your women, for they.are winning our homes."
The work of women missionaries in China and in India has already been dealt with in other articles. (See Every Woman's Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pages 1274, 1395, 1515; and Vol. 3, page 1754.)
In Africa the need for women's work is equally great. The continent of Africa probably contains over 170,000,000 people, about 47,000,000 of whom are under British government. About one-fourth of the people are Mohammedans, and almost three-fourths are pagans. Pagan worship consists largely in propitiating evil spirits. "Fetishes " are worn to keep off bad spirits and to attract good ones. A " fetish" may be a piece of grass or skin, a bone, a stone - almost anything. It may belong to a person or to a tribe. "Fetishes" are to be seen everywhere - at every turning of a road, on every house, on every person. Anything may be made into a "fetish" by a priest, who is supposed to be able to put power into it.
"Fetish" is believed in chiefly in West and Central Africa. Belief in witchcraft is very strong, particularly in West Africa. It is looked upon as a terrible crime, but no man, woman, or child is safe from being accused of it. If one person wishes to harm another, he accuses him of witchcraft. Every wife is obliged to eat some of the food she has prepared for her husband in his presence to prove that she has not bewitched it.
An interesting account of African superstitions and the terrible sufferings they entail is given in " The Children of Africa," published by Hod-der & Stoughton. There we are told that even South Africa is not free from the fear of witchcraft. " South African men or women who are supposed to practise witchcraft may be drowned or strangled, or stabbed or beaten to death, or fastened to the ground naked, and left there to starve, or covered with black ants in a burning sun. Sometimes they are tied to a stake in their own hut, with twigs and dry grass heaped round them; then the hut is set on fire, and enemies stand round it, ready to toss the unhappy victim back again if he manages to escape." An English clergyman, while visiting mission stations in Africa, wrote home : "Never talk about home heathenism any more in the same breath with heathenism as it is here."
Gwandu, a town in Africa, contains be-tween 10,000 and 15,000 inhabitants. It is surrounded by a palisade of poles, and the top of every pole is crowned by a human skull. There are six gates, and the approach to each gate is laid with a pavement of human skulls, the tops being the only parts that show above ground. More than 2,000 skulls are used in the pavement leading up to each gate.
Bishop Johnson wrote in 1903 of the Ibo country, Southern Nigeria. : "A young man, in order to get himself recognised as having attained manhood, must have cut off the heads of at least two persons and exposed them to public view. The frequency of cannibalism has led to an acquisition of a liking for human flesh, which has come to be preferred oftentimes to the flesh of beasts."
Women are in no better position in Africa than in other non-christian countries. It is said that on the lower reaches of the Niger, cases and bottles of gin are the standard by which most things are valued, including wives. In many parts it is less expensive to buy a wife than a cow. In other places they are more valuable. In the Uganda district, for instance, a wife is valued at about a hundred goats, on an average. A young man is allowed to pay for his wife by instalments; perhaps thirty goats down. Then he lives in his father-in-law's " village" until he has paid off his debt at the rate of two goats a month. He then starts a village of his own, buying more wives as he can afford them.
Once, when a king of Dahome died, two hundred and eighty of his wives were killed. A king of Yoruba asked an English traveller how many wives a king had in England, and was very amused to hear "only one." "Why," said the king, "I have so many that if they all took hold of each other's hands and made a long line they would stretch right across my kingdom."
Women in England who have set themselves to consider the position of women in Africa, whether Mohammedan (see Every Woman's Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, page 1275) or heathen, have felt the call come to them to go to their fellow-women with the "Good News " of Christianity which, brought to England long ago by missionaries, has given them the position they hold to-day. English missionaries had been in Central Africa for eighteen years before it was felt safe to allow women workers to join them. The moment they were allowed to go, they went. From those who offered themselves, five were chosen who were considered both physically fit for the arduous journey (seven hundred miles of which had to be done on foot), and also fitted to be the pioneers of women's work in the Uganda mission.
There was a scene of the wildest excitement when they arrived on October 4, 1895. Many women had already become Christians, and were longing for the help and guidance of the women from England in the work of converting their heathen sisters and teaching their children. Education always follows in the wake of Christianity. No one could read in Uganda before the advent of the missionaries. There was no written language. Not only in missionary books but in our own State Papers by Sir H. H. Johnston, H.m. Special Commissioner, accounts are given of that beautiful country where " you tickle the earth with a hoe and it laughs with a harvest," but where the ignorance of the people was indescribable.
One of the best-known names connected with the mission in early days is that of Alexander Mackay. After learning the language he reduced it to writing, and then proceeded to print reading-sheets with a small toy press, which he had taken out with him from England. The people were all most anxious to learn to read. As there were not nearly enough reading-sheets or teachers, a crowd would gather round and all look over the same sheet, not heeding whether it was upside down or sideways. The result is that to-day many of the Baganda (inhabitants of Uganda) can read a book in any position.
It is impossible here to give the wonderful story of the conversion of Uganda. It is to be found in the " History of the Church Missionary Society" and in other C.m.s. publications. By the end of 1895 there were 200 native teachers and evangelists, entirely supported by the Church of Uganda itself; 200 buildings thronged with worshippers or seekers every Sunday and most of them well filled daily; 10,000 copies of the New Testament in circulation; and 6,000 souls under daily instruction. There were 50,000 who could read.
The Church of Uganda is now self-constituted, self-governing, and self-administrative. With the exception of the stipends of the European workers and their houses, the Church is entirely self-supporting, and also sends out missionaries to the heathen kingdoms of the Uganda Protectorate.
Lady missionaries addressing a tribe of African natives. There is a great opening for women's work amongst the natives of Africa, and the progress of Christianity, especially in Uganda, is both rapid and satisfactory