Fr .Aylward Shorter M.Afr, photo prise à RomeAfrican Recruits and Missionary Conscripts
The White Fathers and the Great War (1914-1922


Fr. Aylward Shorter M.Afr.


"This study of the White Fathers' sufferings, sacrifices and heroisms, depicted so vividly in the stories of the missionaries - and even perhaps particularly in those of the young aspirants - illuminates most freshly the rapprochement between the Church and French society and…the recapturing of that deeper human unity which finds its roots in Christianity…It is splendidly knit together with fast-moving, graphic stories which illuminate the horrors of the war and the terrible nobility of so much suffering and sacrifice."
- Richard Gray, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

It is a surprise for many people to learn that over two million Africans served in the First World War as soldiers or labourers and that hundreds of thousands died, or were killed, in action. It is equally surprising for them to learn that large numbers of Catholic missionaries from Africa were conscripted for active service on the Western and Eastern Fronts. Not only did they serve alongside the Africans, as comrades in arms in colonial regiments, but they were involved in the welfare of these often neglected soldiers. Moreover, as chaplains and transport officers, they also played a role in the war which black troops were fighting on behalf of the European powers in Africa itself.

How was this experience integrated into the subsequent life of the Church in Africa, and how did it affect relations with the colonial powers? Remarkably, the war years saw the beginnings of a Catholic breakthrough in Africa, a continent that is now massively Christian, with the Catholic Church as the majority mainline denomination. This is a story that has not so far been told.

This book begins to answer these questions. It is a story that has not so far been told, and it is narrated here from the point of view of the Society of Missionaries of Africa, popularly known at the time by its nickname "The White Fathers".

Aylward Shorter, a member of the Missionaries of Africa, is a pioneer mission anthropologist and leader in the effort to understand the principles of inculturation. Author of many books and articles in the fields of social anthropology and African history, he is working in the history project of his Society. He lives in London, England.

Cover photograph: Archives, Missionaries of Africa.

Publisher :"Missionaries of Africa History Project".
Pages : 270

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