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African-led Christianity in Europe: Migration and Diaspora Evangelism

By Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu
July 2008

A massive growth in Christian presence in the southern continents meant that by the middle of the twentieth century Christian faith had developed into a “non-Western religion.”1 With the rise of churches and prophet movements of African provenance at the turn of the twentieth century, Christianity grew by leaps and bounds in sub-Saharan Africa.

These developments, together with the emergence of Pentecostal/charismatic varieties of the faith, led to seismic changes in the African Christian landscape from the dominant era of historic mission Christianity. With increasing global trends in migration, Christianity in Africa has now gone international.

Today, some of the largest congregations in Europe—Western and Eastern—are either founded by Africans or are led by people of African descent. Discussions on African immigrant Christianity usually focus on churches whose memberships tend to be constituted by Africans or people of that descent. A good example is the Kingsway International Christian Center (KICC) in London, led by the charismatic Nigerian pastor, Matthew Ashimolowo.

My research has taken me to the doors of another type of African-led church whose membership is entirely European. This means the designation of these churches in the diaspora as “African churches” is no longer tenable. For example, Sunday Adelaja’s Church of the Blessed Embassy of the Kingdom of God for all Nations is based in Kiev, Ukraine. Founded some fourteen years ago, it has a membership of approximately twenty-five thousand adults.

Mission, Migration, and Diaspora
In African hands, mission and evangelization have truly gone international and African diaspora Christianity is at the forefront of the new initiatives. Originating in the Jewish biblical tradition, the term “diaspora” now enjoys growing importance in the study of religion precisely because of some of the developments relating to the dispersal of African Christians in the modern West.2

For many of these people, however, the word “return” usually associated with the diaspora does not exist in their vocabulary. Although it is possible to encounter a significant number who may fall within the categories of academic and political migrants, a majority of Africans in Europe are economic migrants. Gerrie ter Haar, a pioneer in the study of Christianity among Africans in Europe, has noted that human migration is something of all times and ages and that “religion has always been a significant aspect” of it.3

Into whichever category they fall, African migrants have always carried their faith with them to the diasporas.4 Unlike the cries of diaspora Jews who, out of exilic despair, could not fathom singing the Lord’s song in a foreign land, modern migrants are doing just that with the formation of churches.

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Dr. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu is academic dean and associate professor of Religion and Pentecostal Theology at Trinity Theological Seminary in Legon, Ghana. In 2004 he was senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.