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Madagascar News Forums The Transformation of Antananarivo Reply To: The Transformation of Antananarivo


February 1869. Barely a year after the restoration of normal relations with England and France, Madagascar made a major decision. The Great Island opens its doors to foreign influence: its leaders adopt the religion of the Europeans.
The resistance of sovereigns to foreign ideologies and influences, Christianity in particular, is long and often difficult. Ranavalona I died professing the traditional religion and throughout her reign, she made clear to the English missionaries that she would not allow her subjects to abandon the customs. Radama II, his son and successor, though not hostile to the missionaries, does not embrace the Christian religion either. As for Queen Rasoherina, his wife, she remained very much attached to the traditions and religious beliefs of her country all her life. It was only on her deathbed that she was baptized by the Catholic Jean Laborde.
“On February 21, 1869, fifty years after the first establishment of the missionaries in Antananarivo, Queen Ranavalona II and the Prime Minister are baptized in public” (Pr Phares Mukasa Mutibwa, Makerame University of Kampala, Uganda, 1969 ). At the time of this “conversion”, the English influence was already great with 5,000 Christians in the capital and about 60,000 in Imerina. Although the French Catholic missionaries were more numerous than the English, and certain leaders, including Queen Rasoherina herself, were better disposed towards the French, around 1862-63 the English missionaries had the advantage of Only to resume and continue the work temporarily abandoned during the persecution. On the other hand, the Jesuits only began their work on the Plateaux since Radama II.
The London Missionary Society has the time to better establish itself, to influence the population and thus to constitute a group of Malagasy who support its action and represent an appreciable force that can guide, to a certain extent, the decisions of the leaders. This group includes a part of the elite and can be considered the “Protestant party” headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Rainimaharavo.
“In addition to the queen’s sympathy for the persecuted Christians, while she was still only Princess Ramoma, the existence of this relatively powerful Protestant party largely explains the choice made by the Queen and her prime minister to convert. “
The choice of “English brand” Christianity is all the more understandable in 1869, if one considers the unpopularity of everything French with public opinion; An unpopularity originating in the French attitude during the liquidation of the Lambert Charter and during the negotiations which followed it for the conclusion of the new treaty of 1868. This feeling was so strong that in 1866, Queen Rasoherina herself Is known for his tolerance, withdrew his adoptive children, Ratahiry and his sister Rasoaveromanana, from the sisters’ school, to entrust them to the Protestant missionaries.
The Protestant Party is constantly expanding its influence. Its leader, Rainimaharavo, continues to recruit “supporters” in the army and among the inhabitants of the capital and its surroundings. Little by little, the group becomes dangerous for Rainilaiarivony who knows that many people prefer Rainimaharavo, considered more capable. Finally, “the partisans of the English missionaries were so well organized that they became, in fact, an army of new converts into society. “
All this worries very much Rainilaiarivony who is not yet Christian. His fears will be justified by the attempt of the party of Rainimaharavo to put a Protestant prince on the throne in place of Ranavalona II. For in March 1868 the group of the Minister of Foreign Affairs circulated the false rumor that Rasoherina had turned his back and that Prince Rasata would be proclaimed king. Rainilaiarivony foils the coup. The English missionaries were “disappointed by the failure of the conspiracy to
Christian prince on the throne “.
As for Rainilaiarivony, convinced that the Protestants had serious aims to take power, he decided to oust Rainimaharavo by all means and to take the leadership of the Protestant party himself. The only means found is his own official conversion to Protestantism. What was done in February 1869, the more readily since the mentalities had evolved, the adoption of the religion of the Europeans was no longer regarded as a betrayal. And this, despite the survival of the traditionalist party holding the ideology of Ranavalona I.