Letter to the Editor: Missionaries have contributed to just, stable world


Our culture is increasingly critical of the Christian faith. While such criticism is at times valid it often requires correction. For example, the work of Protestant missionaries is regularly critiqued. But recent research by Dr. Robert Woodberry, senior research professor at Baylor University, has demonstrated that Protestant missionaries have been catalysts in the development of stable democracies around the world.

These “conversionary” missionaries, believing strongly in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) yearned for individuals to freely believe in Jesus as savior. To aid their Christian growth, the missionaries were convinced that their converts, including women and the poor, needed to be grounded in Scripture. They translated the Bible in local languages, opened schools, taught people how to read, operated printing presses and published thousands of copies of the Bible and other materials, including textbooks and newspapers. In addition they advocated for religious and civil liberties, including the freedom of assembly and speech. They were also led to speak out against the evils of colonialism and slavery. Many of these reforms helped to develop stable democracies.

A case in point. John Mackenzie was a 19th century missionary in South Africa. When white settlers threatened to take over the natives’ land, Mackenzie helped his friend and political ally Khuma III travel to Britain. There Mackenzie and his colleagues held petition drives, translated for Khuma and two other chiefs at political rallies, and even arranged a meeting with Queen Victoria. Ultimately their efforts convinced Britain to enact a land protection agreement. Without it, the nation of Botswana would probably not exist today.

Mackenzie is but one of the many Protestant missionaries who made a positive contribution to a just and stable world.

Dr. Ian M. Chapman, Edinburg