Sankofa is an Akan word from Ghana meaning “returning to your roots, recapturing what you’ve lost, and moving forward.” What are some of the African roots of Christianity?
Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus became refugees in Africa when Herod ordered the slaughter of young boys in Bethlehem. Simon, an African Jew from Cyrene, was forced by the Romans to carry the cross of Jesus on the way to Golgotha where the Lord was crucified. The earliest of the four Gospels was written by an African. John Mark was born in Cyrene in modern Libya to a Jewish family of the tribe of Levi.
The influence of the early African church was great and was concentrated in three areas. First, Alexandria, Egypt, was the intellectual capital of the Mediterranean world. John Mark, Alexandria’s first bishop, was martyred there in AD 68, but the church thrived and expanded its roots in Africa and beyond. Second, the largest Christian community in the Maghreb (an area from modern Libya to Morocco) was Carthage, in modern Tunisia. Three early popes were African from this region. Third, Coptic Christianity flourished in Egypt and Sudan. In the early fourth century, Christianity was declared the state religion of the Kingdom of Aksum, part of modern Ethiopia.
We are heirs to a rich history of ancient Christianity. But the question is: Do we know this history? Do we tell these stories to our children and grandchildren? May the knowledge and legacy of such African giants ignite our own devotion to the Lord!
Begin to learn early African Christian stories of faith, martyrdom, and intellectual life that you can tell your children and your grandchildren.
Search for your country on the Dictionary of African Christian Biography and tell your church and family about what you discover.