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Religion in the British Era
Christianity Education Advocacy
Christianity at the Cape
Colonialism in Cape Town, as elsewhere in Africa, was driven not only by concepts of civilisation and commerce but also by Christianity.

Under the VOC religious activity had been restricted but the British permitted freedom of religion and missionaries arrived from across Europe. Particularly to serve the garrisons, Roman Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian were established.

The Dutch Reformed Church also expanded markedly, both in Cape Town and in the developing rural districts. Perhaps this represented a reaction to British rule, a cultural statement of independence.

DRC churches were often built at the very centre of the new villages - a good expression of the way the Church had become the core institution of the Afrikaner community.

Anglicanism also thrived. As the state religion it attracted the middle classes, including many Afrikaners.

Missionaries arrived at the Cape with a view to the conversion of the 'heathen' - particularly the remnant Khoe and to counter the spread of Islam among the 'free blacks'. The Cape proved a popular place for missionary work, in part because it did not suffer from the diseases that claimed the lives of missionaries in the rest of the continent. Furthermore, their work met with success.

The middle class, especially women, rallied around the efforts of missionaries. Their values emphasised 'self improvement' and they sought to help the poor become sober, literate, cleanly, hard working citizens - in other words, 'respectable'. A 'Mechanics Institute' opened in 1853 'for the improvement of the working class'. It included a library and facilities to teach artisans.

Moral zeal led to such societies as the 'Ladies Benevolent Society' and the 'Bible and Tract Society' and various temperance societies. A 'free dispensary' opened in 1860, and did much to gather accurate statistics on the state of health among the poor. Their efforts sustained the evangelical movement and helped develop welfare programmes in the city.

A lasting consequence of the missionary movement was the establishment of schools, which multiplied the efforts of the government and led to a vast increase in the number of primary schools.

The Diocesan College ('Bishops') was founded in 1849, St Cyprians (for girls) in 1871. The Anglican church also established Zonnebloem College for the children of poor families and various missions and orphanages. The DRC worked on similar projects, particularly under the influence of the Andrew Murray revivals of 1860 and 1875.
The Moravians, the London Missionary Society and the DRC established popular churches and mission stations in the the poorest areas of Cape Town and the troubled frontier regions. The LMS missionaries, in particular, became advocates for the rights of the Khoe and slaves, notably John Philip who campaigned hard for their rights both in the Cape and London.

John Philip argued that all free people should enjoy equality before the law. His conviction was rooted in the legal practices already adopted in the UK, and the movements working in Britain to ensure workers' rights. Based upon his research in the Eastern Cape he wrote critically of the treatment of Khoe by trekboers.

Philip campaigned in Cape Town and London for legal measures to protect them. Thus a directive arrived from London in 1828 'to secure to all the natives of South Africa, the same freedom and protection as are enjoyed by other free people of that colony whether English or Dutch' (Thompson pg 60).

In this regard Ordinance 50 of 1828 made all 'free' people equal before the law.

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