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The rols of Sudan interior mission (S.I.M.) missionary in the British colonial leprosy campaigns in Katsina Emirate

Forschungsarbeit 2011 30 Seiten

Geschichte - Afrika




Generally speaking, from the early part of colonial rule in Nigeria to around 1930, the colonial administration of Northern Provinces had been in a period of socio-economic and political conservativism, especially in the emirates of Hausaland.[1] Before the 1930s, Katsina emirate in particular, and the emirates of Hausaland in general had insignificant presence of missions and their activities were very much negligible.[2] From time immemorial leprosy had alarmed rulers and clergy who in turn favoured segregation and isolation of lepers to restrict the spread of the disease. Being a Biblical disease, missions had been able to engage in the struggle for the provision of relief and cure for thousands of Africans both Muslims and non-Muslims. The colonial authorities saw the advantage of using the missions in this way to address the pressure to enter the areas by assigning specific role to them. In the middle of the 1920s, the subject of social welfare in northern Nigeria attracted new considerations from the colonial government. The mission societies exploited this opportunity to press hard on the colonial government to allow them extend their activities into the emirates.[3] Dr. Rowland Bingham, the founder of the Sudan Interior Mission (S.I.M.) used that opportunity and pressurized the British colonial Government to allow the missions to enter the emirates of Hausaland, especially Kano, Katsina and Sokoto.[4][5] By 1929, some missionary societies such as S.I.M. had started losing patience with the way Government was handling the issue. A meeting was summoned at Miango, where several mission groups attended and discussed these colonial obstructions to their activities among Muslims in Hausaland.[6] At this meeting Dr. Bingham of the S.I.M. threatened to start preaching openly in the market place of Kano if something serious was not done.[7] After the Miango conference, Dr. Bingham went to England and visited the headquarters of the International Council of Missions. The secretary of the council Dr. Oldham (1921 – 1938) assured Bingham that something concrete would be done to ease the prevailing tension. Dr. Oldham arranged for a meeting between Heads of Missions, Government officials and the Governor of Nigeria. It was at this meeting that the Governor promised to allow missions access to the emirates of Hausaland.[8] When the missions were allowed to start works in the emirates, the territories were divided among the mission groups. Katsina emirate was given to three principal missionary groups which included the following: the Anglican Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.); the Sudan Interior Mission (S.I.M.) and the Roman Catholic Mission (R.C.M.).[9] Meanwhile, among these three groups the C.M.S. and the S.I.M. were the major players in Katsina emirate. But the S.I.M. was the most important group that remained in the emirate up to the 1970s.


Among the Missionary groups that worked in Katsina emirate the Sudan Interior Mission (S.I.M.) was the most important as far as socio-political changes in the emirate were concerned. The S.I.M. was founded in 1893 by three Anglo – American gentlemen of diverse background. The founders of this Mission were: the Scottish Canadian Walter Gowans (a Presbyterian), English Canadian Rowland Bingham (who was affiliated to the Salvation Army and in sympathy with the Plymouth Brethren) and the American, Thomas Kent (a congregationist).[10] The trio felt that it was an obligation upon them to advance the course of Christianity in the vast ‘un-reached’ Sudanic interior of Africa because up to the time of the foundation of their Mission, the area had no sufficient contact with the Gospel. In other words, the founders of the S.I.M. had deep spiritual responsibility of extending the Christian faith to the Hausa-speaking people.[11] In 1893, the three gentlemen raised funds privately and came to Lagos with the zeal of reaching northern Nigeria. After reaching Lagos, Gowan and Kent proceeded to the north as far as Bida while Bingham was left at Lagos. However, by the end of 1894, both Gowans and Kent died and Bingham returned to Canada. In 1898, he formed a Christian Council for the Sudan at Toronto which gave him the courage to return to Lagos with two other Missionaries in 1900. However, on reaching Lagos, he fell sick, so serious that he had to be sent back home.[12]

In 1901, When Bingham recovered, he formed another group which included Mr. Antony , Mr. Taylor and Mr. Banfield, in his effort to start Mission work among Hausas in Northern Nigeria. Bingham contacted Lugard for assistance to facilitate his journey to the far north. This third attempt paid up because Lugard promised to help them. When they embarked on their journey Lugard allowed them to travel on Government boat to Pategi, a small Muslim emirate on the bank of the Niger. Here Bingham and his colleagues established first S.I.M. station in Northern Nigeria in 1902.[13]

The central aim of the S.I.M. Mission in the Sudan was the generation of converts and churches, not ‘civilized’ school leavers and schools. In line with this, converts would remain vernacular Christians who would not be permitted to become westernized. They should only be driven by the same evangelical zeal as the Mission themselves.[14] Therefore, from the initial stage of their entry into the Sudan, S.I.M. was very reluctant in shouldering social responsibilities of the targeted people, either for the sake of charity or showing Christian love for the body and soul.[15]

As an expatriate Mission body its central offices were once located at Toronto, Canada. Later they were moved to New York and now they are located at Charlotte, North Carolina, the heart of the American Bible Belt. The central administration of S.I.M. at Charlotte handled major policy decisions and recruited potential missionaries.[16] After the 1930s, when the activities of the Mission were expanded over large areas, two field offices were created at strategic locations within its areas of influence. The first field office was established at Jos, Northern Nigeria. This office was responsible for the management of the activities of the S.I.M. Missionaries in the Western Sudan (an area comprising Nigeria and French West Africa). The other field office was established at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This office was responsible for administering the Missionaries activities in the Eastern Sudan (Anglo – Egyptian Sudan).[17]

Once missionaries were in the field, it was to these offices that they would be sending reports of their activities. That’s why S.I.M. Missionaries at Tsibiri and Maradi, both territories in the Republic of Niger, kept contact with Nigerian S.I.M. Missionaries at Jos in the course of discharging their assignment.[18]

In his philosophical speculation, Bingham, the founder of S.I.M., espoused an approach to interpreting the scriptures known as pre-millennial dispensationalism, which held that the divine creation of the world occurred in 4004 BC and that the Bible is an inerrant account of and guide to human history until the second coming of Christ. According to this approach, history could be divided into seven different “dispensations”, in each of which God revealed himself to humanity in ways appropriate to the times. The current (sixth) age would be succeeded by a millennium of rule by Christ over earth before the final conflict between good and evil and the last judgement. With this in mind Bingham thought that it was a spiritual obligation on him to undertake the task of taking the gospel to unexplored areas of the world, for evangelism to cover the whole world, which he believed would trigger the beginning of the new age and the second coming of Jesus Christ.[19]


Leprosy is a special case because of its antiquity, its unpredictability and its global presence. The disease, therefore, found a prominent place in the colonial civilizing mission because it is biblical disease. Leprosy could be counted among the most serious social scourges in the society during colonial period. In Katsina emirate leprosy was a great scourge and the missions were encouraged to enter into the campaign in arresting the spread of the disease.[20]

In 1924, the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association (B.E.L.R.A) was established to facilitate war against the disease throughout the British Empire. The British colonial government used this association to demonstrate the benefit of their rule for their colonial subjects, whose tolerance for leprosy sufferers was proof of their ignorance of the disease. This campaign was started from the Indian subcontinent, and by the 1930s had reached Sub-Saharan Africa.[21]

In December, 1927, the Governor of Nigeria suggested to the colonial office that the missions should undertake leprosy control work and cooperate with the N.A.s which will give them the best of opportunities to work among the Muslims. In 1928, he arranged with the British Empire Leprosy Relief Agency and the North American Church of the Brethren mission to establish leprosy settlements at Garkida, in Biu, Bornu province, a religiously mixed area under an emirate N.A.[22]

In 1935, the B.E.L.R.A. decided to take major step in fighting leprosy in Nigeria. Therefore, its medical secretary, Dr. Ernest Muir was directed to visit Nigeria and study the leprosy problem, and to offer suggestions for further anti-leprosy work. The colonial office welcomed this move and the Director medical and sanitary services, Northern Provinces arranged the visit to existing leper settlements and colonies.[23]

With his considerable experience of leprosy work in India, Dr. Muir toured lepers’ settlements in the Nigerian provinces. In his tours he visited about 17 settlements out of designated 24 throughout Nigeria. Among the 17 settlements visited was Babbar Ruga Lepers settlement in Katsina. By the time he was conducting these tours, government reports had indicated that there were about 5022 leprosy cases receiving medical attention in various Native Administration’s (N.A.) and Missions’ run settlements and colonies. Out of this number, 3242 cases, representing 64.6%, were in southern Nigeria while 1779 cases, representing 35.4%, were registered in Northern Nigeria. Even in the Northern Provinces, Borno province had the highest incidence. Both Native Administration settlement at Maiduguri and the Mission colony at Garkida had 282 and 450 cases respectively. At the same time Babbar Ruga Farm Colony, Katsina had 278 cases, second only to Maiduguri throughout the Northern provinces.[24]


[1] Sa’ad, A. “The Northern Provinces Under Colonial Rule 1900 – 1959” in Ikime, O. (ed) Groundwork of Nigerian History. Ibadan: Heinemann. 1980. p. 472

[2] Shankar, S. “Medical Missionaries and Modernizing Emirs in Colonial Hausaland: Leprosy Control and Native Authority in the 1930s”. Retrieved from 9/12/2007. p. 7

[3] Vishigh, I. R. “Christianity and Islam In Dialogue: Northwest Nigeria, 1960-1990” Ph.D University of Jos, 1997. Retrieved from 20th June, 2007 p. 10

[4] Ibid.

[5] NNAK/KATPROF/881/S.2, Christian Council of Nigeria p. 83.

[6] Crampton, opcit. P. 67

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid

[9] Vishigh, opcit. P. 7

[10] Cooper, B. M., “Evengelical Christians in the Muslim Sahel”. P. 8. This title is available online. See, http://www.muslimsahel.htm. Accessed on 20th March, 2007.

[11] Ibid

[12] Crampton, opcit. P. 38

[13] Hassan, S. “The Impact of S.I.M./ECWA on the Development of Christianity in Katsina State: Case Study of Kankia Local Government Area 1936 – 1999’ (M.A. Thesis, B.U.K. History. 2002) p. 17

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid. p. 5

[16] Ibid. p. 9

[17] NNAK/KATPROF/2217, Vol. II, Katsina Leper Settlement

[18] Cooper, opcit . p. 9

[19] Cooper, opcit. P. 8

[20] NNAK/KATPROF/2217, Vol. II, Katsina Leper Settlement

[21] Ibid. p. 3

[22] Ibid.

[23] NNAK/KATPROF/718/Vol I, Lepers and Lepers Settlement.

[24] Ibid.


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Titel: The rols of Sudan interior mission (S.I.M.) missionary in the British colonial leprosy campaigns in Katsina Emirate