Visit the MIR in complete safety thanks to the protection plan put in place (in French).


Protection Plan

Basement corridor

The first display evokes the ambiguous nature of Protestant missions through a few selected objects, photographs and engravings. Though the first, ill-fated missions set forth as early as the sixteenth century, our focus here is on the great nineteenth-century missionary societies. Their main objective – to spread the Gospel – went hand in hand with European colonial expansion. Protestant missions, albeit deeply influenced by the emotional and literal-minded spirituality of the Revival well into the twentieth century, also made a tangible contribution in the form of schools and dispensaries. Little by little, the missionary ideal spread to every branch of Protestantism, and missions increasingly saw their purpose as defending the interests of indigenous peoples. Not infrequently, they aided decolonisation by providing people with the tools of their emancipation, notably through an extensive school system and a Protestant ethic that emphasised human dignity. In other words, the focus of missions progressively shifted from individual conversion – an often difficult task in societies with communal social structures – to the promotion of mutually enriching cultural exchanges, development projects and North-South partnerships. Twentieth-century liberation theology evidently played a pivotal role in bringing about this change. From this point on, the message of the Gospel was proclaimed by pastors from local churches, whose often phenomenal growth can be ascribed to a more culturally appropriate interpretation of faith. This account of missions is exemplified by the Zambezi expedition

led by the “French Livingstone”, François Coillard (1834-1904). It was a long and surprising path that led from the arrival of the first missionary in Lesotho, in 1857, to the meeting, in 1968, of Pastor Charles Bonzon, director of the Société des missions évangeliques de Paris, and Kenneth Kauda, Zambia’s first president, elected in 1962, who, before spearheading Zambia’s liberation struggle, had been educated at a mission school in Lubwa.