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Friday, October 18, 2013

Early Struggle for Christianity in Madagascar

The Andohalo Cathedral on top of the hill in Antananarivo, Madagascar marks the place where Queen Ranavalona I executed a number of Christians during her 33 year reign from 1829-1861.

At the beginning of he reign Queen Ranavalona I outlawed Christianity and executed convicted Christians by crucifixion, spear, throwing off the cliff, burning alive and poison.

Keith Laidler in Female Caligula describes how Queen Ranavalona executed Christians:

"The seven Christians stood together in the bright sunlight, bound with strong ropes, singing a hymn to their foreign Saviour as the spearmen advanced. Around them a crowd of jostling men, women and children, more than 60,000 strong and dressed in togas of various hues, yelled and jeered at the forlorn expression of faith by the condemned. Hucksters moved through the crowd, calling out their wares, selling snacks and drinks for the entertainment, and noting too a distinct sense of disappointment in their customers. The mob was angry. They felt cheated: they had come to enjoy the destruction of the hated sect, to see its adherents run screaming and panic-stricken from the spears, not watch them taking their slaughter meekly like so many placid sheep. There was little entertainment.

It had been the same just moments before, when a score of the Christians had been burned alive, the same calm acceptance of their fate, the same hateful hymn singing. Nevertheless, they cheered enthusiastically as the spears were driven home and, one by one, the men and women fell and writhed on the sandy ground, their hymn fading slowly into silence, replaced by the groans and shrieks of the dying. Above the still-squirming bodies, on a ridge, a score of crosses stood in mute witness, carrying their ghastly burdens, some of whom still lived despite the day and a half they had hung upon the wood. The stench of the charnel house pervaded the natural amphitheater where the grotesque show was taking place, and the baying, blood drunk crowd, the massed ranks of soldiery and the crucifixions, silhouetted along the skyline, gave the unmistakable impression of Rome at its worst."

So suffered the first Christians in Madagascar -- about 150 years ago. In 1866, the Norwegians arrived and planted the first Lutheran church in Antsirabe (230km south of Antananarivo). The first Lutheran church was planted in Antananarivo (pictured above -- no far from where the Christians were martyred) in 1871.

View from Ambatovinaky Lutheran Church ("A Rock"), the first Lutheran church in Antananarivo.

- Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver on 18 October 2013 using BlogPress from my iPhone


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