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The Fifohazana: Madagascar’s Indigenous Christian Movement By Cynthia Holder Rich ...

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The Fifohazana:


Cynthia Holder Rich

In the early 1890s the monarchy that had ruled much of Madagascar for over a century was coming to a close and would soon be cut off by colonial powers seeking access to the natural resources of the island. Christian mission organizations from Britain, France, and Norway—Reformed, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran, respectively—which had been active on the island for most of the century in which the monarchy ruled, were squabbling over territory, much as their home governments were and had been for some decades. In an effort to maintain control, the last monarch, Queen Ranavalona III, and her consort and Prime Minister, Rainilaiarivony, had increased taxation to the point that people in many regions of the island were starving. Weakened by hunger, the people of the highlands were particularly vulnerable to the epidemics of plague and leprosy that arose during this period.

It was a crucial moment, then, when impending war, disease, hunger, interdoctrinal strife among Christian leaders, and battles for the right to rule and use the island’s riches among internal and external powers raged.