EUROPEAN MISSIONARIES

By the 19th century, Europeans missionaries had established their missions in Nigeria, but without making remarkable impact on the local communities. There were only a few communities that were directly affected by the activities of the Christian missions as of that period, even in the coastal areas of southern Nigeria.

In 1842, Thomas Birch Freeman, of African and European descent, and William de Graft, a Fante, founded a Methodist mission in Badagry.

In 1846, an Englishman and a Nigerian, Henry Townsend and Samuel Ajayi Crowther, established a station in Abeokuta. In the same year, a group of Presbyterians from Jamaica, British, Mulato and Black settled at Calabar.

In 1850, the first representative of the Southern Baptist Convention appeared in Nigeria.

In 1857, the CMS stationed its first missionary in Igboland: J.C Taylor, who was born in Sierra Leone by Igbo parents. The Sudan United Mission and The Sudan Interior Mission were to establish their presence much later in the Benue area. The Society of African Missions of the Catholic Church also founded a mission in Lagos. The early Christian missionary activity in Nigeria was largely the work of Africans. Example is, until the Europeans took over in the 1880s, the CMS mission, on the Niger and in the Delta, was all staffed by Africans, under an African Bishop, Samuel Ajayi Crowther. In Yorubaland, European missionaries worked side by side with Nigerian pastors, such as Daniel Olubi, and many other great catechists that were hardly acknowledged or remembered.

Different groups of Christian missionaries did many great things to spread the faith in Nigeria. It is difficult to capture all the activities of the missionaries. However, examples of such activities are as follows: in 1857, permanent missions were established at Onitsha, Reverend J.C. Taylor was in charge.

In Igbebe, a Christian trader, Simon Preddy, established a school for the community. The first evangelist to establish Catholicism in Lagos was known as Antonio. He was born in Sao-Tome in 1800. He visited many places in West Africa and finally settled in Lagos. He built a small church of bamboo, baptized infants, blessed marriages, and prayed with people who were critically ill. He also settled disputes, and became known as “Padre Antonio”.

Father Coquard arrived Abeokuta in 1890. Though not a qualified medical doctor, yet he offered some medical assistance to the community. He also established a leper settlement, for the sick ones whose condition was critical when he reached the town. He was referred to as “Padi Dokito”. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, the missionaries on both sides of the Niger lived very poor lives. They spent whatever little income they got from Catholic charities in Europe on the poor. Example is Samuel Ajayi Crowther, whose life was dedicated to serving humanity through education. He established schools and education centres to serve many communities.