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Evangelical Christians in the Muslim Sahel

Barbara Cooper

Publication Year: 2006

Barbara M. Cooper looks closely at the Sudan Interior Mission, an evangelical Christian mission that has taken a tenuous hold in a predominantly Hausa Muslim area on the southern fringe of Niger. Based on sustained fieldwork, personal interviews, and archival research, this vibrant, sensitive, compelling, and candid book gives a unique glimpse into an important dimension of religious life in Africa. Cooper's involvement in a violent religious riot provides a useful backdrop for introducing other themes and concerns such as Bible translation, medical outreach, public preaching, tensions between English-speaking and French-speaking missionaries, and the Christian mission's changing views of Islam.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: African Systems of Thought


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pp. ix-xii


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Introduction: Fundamental Differences

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pp. 1-30

On market day in Maradi, one can experience one of the finest pleasuresin life: sitting in the tiny buvette on the street corner southeast of the marketplace and watching the passing crowds. Sipping a cold soda fromthe kind of thick, heavy bottle that Americans of my generation associate nostalgically with the innocence of childhood, enjoying the sensation of...

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1. Anatomy of a Riot

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pp. 31-60

Muslim men, angered, among other things, by the opening of the International Festival of African Fashion (FIMA) in the capital of Niamey, took to the streets of Maradi and damaged or destroyed numerous drinking establishments, the Vie Abondante church and food stores, property of the SIM mission, lottery booths of the Pari Mutuel Urbain, cars, and...

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2. Love and Violence

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pp. 61-83

After my experience in the riot, I found myself haunted by the question posed to me in the street that day by the insouciant gentleman with the cell phone: “Madame, est-ce que vous nous aimez?”—Madame, do you love us? I needed to understand why, of all the things he might have chosen to say to me at such a moment, he chose to ask whether people like me (Christians? missionaries? westerners? whites?) were truly capable of love.

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3. From “Satan’s Masterpiece” to “The Social Problem of Islam”

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pp. 84-114

The rhetoric of demonization has, as we have seen, been common in the religious discourse of almost all parties in the region at one point or another (with the notable exception of the Catholicism of the post–Vatican II era, as the above epigraph suggests) and has a logic that is extraordinarily destructive. However, the image of Islam SIM missionaries in the region have held has not been static...

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4. A Hausa Spiritual Vernacular

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pp. 115-146

Because of the emphasis on direct access to the Bible in evangelical Protestant Christianity, the first and most essential task of missionaries in West Africa was to translate the Bible into local languages. The Christianity propagated by evangelical Protestantism was, by contrast with older Christianities, remarkably textually oriented, anticlerical, inflexible in its disposition toward other sacred texts, and dismissive of other modes...

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5. African Agency and the Growth of the Church in the Maradi Region, 1927–1960

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pp. 147-182

When I spoke with Christians in Maradi about the history of their community, I was often puzzled by the deep resentment of Christians toward the mission that had introduced Christianity into the region. Why did they convert if the mission was so terrible? If Christianity is the central pillar in their lives, then why weren't they grateful to the mission?

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6. Disciplining the Christian: Defining Elderhood, Christian Marriage, and “God’s Work,” 1933–1955

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pp. 183-223

After three years of struggling with little success in Zinder and another five breaking new ground in the Maradi region, SIM finally had, in 1933, the beginnings of a church in its more promising location in Tsibiri. The mission had attracted a core group of converts through contacts with the family of Musa Marafa, through the novelty of providing an alternative literate monotheism, and through the daily exposure to local populations as a major...

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7. “An Extremely Dangerous Suspect”: From Vichy-Era Travails to Postwar Triumph

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pp. 224-252

By the late 1930s, SIM’s persistent attempts to gain spiritual purchase in the Hausa-speaking region finally appeared to be showing results. In Nigeria, the mission had taken over the Kano and Katsina leper settlements from the government and had constructed a third settlement at Sokoto; the leprosy work was immediately “fruitful,” making it likely that the mission would push to open further leprosaria and medical stations in Nigeria and Niger (Beacham 1940, 3).

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8. Impasses in Vernacular Education, 1945–1995

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pp. 253-289

On a Sunday morning in Maladi, as we are walking up the street leading from the mission compound to the Seventeen Doors EERN Church, my Christian friends and I pass goats; a circle of boys crouched in the dust with their backs to us, lost in some imaginary world; the man who sells sandals; a woman frying ’kosai beancakes with her little girl beside her—Muslim neighbors busy with their own Sunday routines.

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9. Handmaid to the Gospel: SIM’s Medical Work in Niger,1944–1975

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pp. 290-328

When Adamu Na Mamayo was a young man in Nigeria tending his father’s cattle, he was encouraged to pursue Koranic learning as his father, a Fulani Muslim scholar, had done. He was eighteen and well trained in Islam when his family discovered that he was showing symptoms of kurtu, or leprosy. They sent him to a SIM leprosarium in Nigeria for treatment in the early 1950s.

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10. The Tree of Life: Regenerating and Gendering the Garden after the Fall, 1975–2000

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pp. 329-362

Iwas invited to visit some of the villages in which SIM has worked in the areas of agro-forestry and rural development by an impressive Maradi celebrity named Ibrahim Yahaya, popularly known as Jaho. Jaho hosts SIM’s weekly development radio show on Radio Anfani. The show airs live at noon when people are at home preparing the midday meal and is rebroadcast in the late afternoon when people are listening to the radio in the cool of the day.

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11. C

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pp. 363-399

Some Hausa were visiting some European Christians for the first timeand were very unfamiliar with their habits and customs. So the leader of the Hausa was keeping an eye on his companions and noticed that they kept making mistakes and doing uncouth things as they were eating and so on.

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Epilogue: SIM’s Successors and the Pentecostal Explosion

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pp. 400-412

It is commonplace today to view the explosion of Pentecostalism in the past twenty years as a new and distinctive phenomenon. Certainly it has a number of features that are strikingly different from the evangelical Christianity SIM introduced into the region. However, despite the emphasis within Pentecostalism upon a distinct rupture with one’s past, as a historian I can’t help but be struck...


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pp. 413-414


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pp. 415-434

works consulted

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pp. 435-454


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pp. 455-462

E-ISBN-13: 9780253111920
E-ISBN-10: 0253111927
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253347398

Page Count: 480
Illustrations: 9 b&w illus., 3 maps
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: African Systems of Thought
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 162129560
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Evangelical Christians in the Muslim Sahel

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Missions -- Niger.
  • Sudan Interior Mission.
  • SIM (Organization).
  • Christianity and other religions -- Islam.
  • Islam -- Relations -- Christianity.
  • Christianity -- Niger.
  • Islam -- Niger.
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