The history of Christianity in Nigeria can be traced back to the 15th century during the time the Portuguese were the first Europeans to visit the shores of the province via the Atlantic. The Portuguese brought Christianity with them but were unable to successfully plant Christianity because of their involvement in the slave trade. It can be disputed that the actual intent behind their voyage was more in the interest of the slave trade than it was for missionary goals and objectives. Most of the Portuguese slave traders took Nigerian slaves to be resold in the Americas and parts of Europe. Hence, they were not committed to missionary work.
In the 17th century, trials were again made to establish Christianity in the region through Roman Catholic missionaries. Just like the Portuguese, the Roman Catholic evangelists also arrived as traders. They traveled into the hinterlands to make the trade with locals and preach to them and even visited the cities of Benin and Warri. However, many of the kings and legendary rulers took more interest in the guns and mirrored the Europeans had brought with them to do trade, and barely showed an interest in the new religion being introduced to them.
After the destruction of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1833, things took a fantastic turn. Slaves captured by European masters were released and sent to Freetown in Sierra Leone. These slaves had lived with their masters in Europe and America, and many had accepted Christianity at the time they were released. In 1841, freed slaves arrived in Sierra Leone, and gradual changes began in British policies. Slavery was lowered upon, and the British government took it upon itself to enforce new laws and policies, in a bid to stop dealing and keeping slaves.
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Freed slaves from Nigeria sailed from Sierra Leone to Lagos and Badagry on vessels acquired from slave courts in Freetown. Some of the freed slaves stayed in Abeokuta (capital of Ogun State) and other cities in western Nigeria. They also had chances to obtain education given by the Church Missionary Society (CMS). They learned Christianity and lectured the gospel to their family and kin. After some time, a significant number of former slaves changed over to Christianity. One of those slaves deserving of specifying was Samuel Ajayi Crowther. He was caught at age 12 by Fulani slave pillagers and sold to Portuguese slave merchants. He later recovered his flexibility and went ahead to end up the principal African to be appointed minister by the Christian Missionary Society (CMS) notwithstanding his sanctification as the cleric of the Niger domain. Samuel was one of the pioneers of nearby Christian preacher work in Nigeria and added to the translation of the Bible into the Yoruba language.
Impact on Nigerians
After the turn of the century, Nigeria has seen the remarkable change in many areas of life. A large percentage of Nigeria’s population is religious and in religion, they have found assistance from financial hardship and failure of government systems. Christianity has provided the formation of customary laws. The impact of Christianity on culture continues to deepen until today. Also, Christianity is fast growing to be one of Nigeria’s most significant export as Nigerian pastors and preachers are planting large churches in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. This common trend continues to put Nigeria on the global map.