By Victor Ochieng
Converting someone from one religion to another isn’t easy. And the white slaves masters knew that very well. That’s why they had to deploy different ways and tricks to convert black slaves to Christianity.
One of the ways through which Blacks were converted to Christianity is the promise of a blissful place called heaven – this promise was made by the plantation owners. “Slave Resistance, A Caribbean Study” reveals that Blacks were told that even as they suffer in their physical lives, being Christians would guarantee them a hardship-free spiritual life in heaven. Having been told about heavenly life, all the beatings and hardships meant only temporary challenges that would end when they went to heaven.
To ensure that blacks didn’t get time for their religious practices, they were overworked. Some slave masters even demanded that the slaves work on both Saturdays and Sundays. The idea was to soften their religious stand over time so that they could easily convert to Christianity.
Putting together slaves who spoke the same language meant that they could still have their moments, even in the plantations, to worship together. To avoid that, masters ensured that those who spoke the same language were separated so they could be simultaneously taught Christianity. Blocking communication thus meant they had to look for ways to improve their social lives, with accepting any other religion being an option.
Academia.edu says that the families of slaves were also separated so as to spiritually break them down as some of them were accustomed to praying together. Breaking the families also meant that their spiritual beliefs were shattered, making them open to any other form of religion.
The capture of the slaves and their eventual transportation to America was a demonstration of power by the whites. This made many slaves to associate that power with the white God. As a result, it was easier for Africans to start paying deity to the Christian God.
An approach that also proved very effective was the conversion of Africans to Catholic. The main reason why it became easier is because Catholic would introduce some of African religious practices, making it easier for Africans to be converted.
Converting to Christianity was also made easier by mixing of diverse religious practices, according to PBS’ “Slavery and the Making of America.” These fusions led to the development of completely new religious practices and spirituality, including vodun and voodoo in Spanish Louisiana and Haiti.
Missionaries also worked hard to convert Africans to Christianity in the West Indies. They preached in chapels located in densely populated areas of a number of the islands controlled by the British. Their argument was that slaves needed religion and that there were also benefits for planters too.
An article titled Slave Religion in Central and South America states that in the colonies of Saint Domingue and Cuba, Christianity was taught to the slaves basically as a way to entrench social control of their lives and not as a means for spiritual nourishment. Through religion, enslaved Africans were taught obedience. In places like Brazil and Cuba, Catholic saints were frequently considered equal to African gods, something that depicted familiarity in the practices.