Opposition and Survival Strategies of African Independent Churches in Mbeya, Tanzania, 1960s– 2000s.

Ashura Jackson


This paper focuses on the opposition to, and survival strategies of, African Independent Churches (AICs), which emerged in Mbeya region in the 1920s. These churches were against historical churches and colonialism because historical churches would not incorporate African traditional beliefs in Christianity and the colonial government exploited Africans, which led to the AICs experiencing opposition, resulting in their decline in other places in Tanzania. In Mbeya, AICs remained and continued to flourish in the post-colonial period, contrary to people’s expectations, which prompted the researchers to carry out this study, drawing on oral interviews, archival documents and secondary sources. This article examines the opposition to the growth of AICs and their various strategies for surviving the opposition. It argues that post-colonial opposition emerged from different spiritual doctrines, the disturbance to historical churches’ economy, the failure to abide by government laws and the lack of direct impact on the community in areas with established AICs. Regardless of the opposition, AICs spread their teaching intensively, which comprised giving people the opportunity to overcome some psychological problems; combining faith and culture; and women being given opportunities in the churches that operated independently. Hence, AICs flourished in Mbeya and Christianity kept on growing.


Independent Churches, Opposition, Survival Strategies, State, Historical Churches

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