Missionary Society (Rhenish – of the river Rhine)
was one of the largest missionary societies in Germany. Formed from
smaller missions founded as far back as 1799, the Society was
amalgamated on 23 September 1828, and its first missionaries were
ordained and sent off to
South Africa by the end of the year.
Missionary Society was already active in the area, and a
closer working relationship was formed with them. The Society
established its first mission station in the
Cederberg in 1829, named
Wupperthal, and predated the naming of the German city by 100 years.
Very soon, the missionaries started migrating north through the barren
and inhospitable south-western Africa. Here they encountered various
local tribes such as the Herero, Nama and Damara, and were frequently
in the middle of wars between them. The missionaries tried to broker
peace deals between the tribes, and for this reason was later seen as
political assets by the tribes.
Around the same time, debate started in
Germany regarding its colonial
empire, with the activities of the RMS in distant Africa fanning
imaginations. The unclaimed area to the north of the
Cape Colony was
German South West Africa
German South West Africa in 1880, but they quickly ran into
numerous problems, since
Germany was inexperienced at colonization.
Herero and Namaqua Genocide
Herero and Namaqua Genocide during 1904–1907 proved to be the
nadir of their rule, and combined with the effects of World War I,
Germany was unable to maintain a foothold so far from home. South
Africa annexed the area in 1915, renaming it South West Africa. During
this time, missionaries' reactions ranged from compassion and help for
the local tribes, to patriotism and support of colonial interests.
During the 20th century, the Society focused on its work in southern
Africa. The Society ultimately amalgamated all of its mission stations
South Africa into the Dutch Reformed Church, except for Wupperthal
which chose to join the Moravian Church. The mission stations in
Namibia became part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church there.
In 1971, the Rhenish Mission and the Bethel Mission were combined into
the Vereinte Evangelische Mission.
G. Kunze: Im Dienste des Kreuzes auf ungebahnten Pfaden, Barmen 1897,
3rd edition 1925.
Eduard Kriele: Das Kreuz unter den Palmen. Die Rheinische Mission in
Neu-Guinea, Barmen 1927.
W. Berner: Rheinische Missionsgesellschaft (RMG), in Religion in
Geschichte und Gegenwart (RGG), 5. vol., Tübingen 1961, p. 1083.
Bade, K.J., Colonial Missions and Imperialism: the background to the
fiasco of the Rhenish Mission in New Guinea, Australian Journal of
Politics & History, 21:2 (1975), pp. 73–94.
K.-J. Bade: Colonial Missions and Imperialism: The Background to the
Fiasco of the Rhenish Mission in New Guinea, in: John A. Moses - Paul
M. Kennedy (eds.):
Germany in the Pacific and Far East, 1870-1914,
Hermann Reiner: Beginnings at Madang - The Rhenish Mission, in: Herwig
Wagner/Hermann Reiner (eds.): The Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea.
The first Hundred Years 1886-1986, Lutheran Publishing House: Adelaide
1986, Second revised ed. 1987, ISBN 0-85910-382-X,
Paul Steffen: Missionsbeginn in Neuguinea. Die Anfänge der
Rheinischen, Neuendettelsauer und Steyler Missionsarbeit in Neuguinea.
(Studia Instituti Missiologici S.V.D. - 61) Steyler Verlag, Nettetal
1995, ISBN 3-8050-0351-X.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rhenish
Joachim Schubert. "The Rhenish Mission in
South Africa and Namibia".
German South African Resource Page. Archived from the original on
2004-12-16. Retrieved 2006-05-24.
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