Republic of Madagascar
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The world’s fourth largest island, Madagascar is located off the southeast coast of Africa, separated from the mainland by the Mozambique Channel. The island covers an area of 587,000 sq km (226,565 sq miles) with a population of nearly 15 million, making it a sparsely populated island. Though in close proximity to Africa, Madagascar contrasts significantly with its neighbor, in terms of wildlife, people, culture, language and history. Among the earliest inhabitants of the islands were the Merina or Hova peoples who came from the islands now known as Indonesia as early as the first century, settling mainly in the east and central portions of the islands. Later, Arabs and Africans settled along the coasts. By the nineteenth century the Merinas ruled much of the country with a capital city at Tanarive. Late in the nineteenth century France became aware of the importance of the island and set up a protectorate, later making Madagascar a colony in 1896. Following bloody insurrections and independence movements in the middle period of the twentieth century Madagascar gained independence in 1960. Within a decade the new nation faced civil strife and a one-party socialist state was instituted in 1975, with ties to the Soviet Union. Since 1991 worsening conditions have led to attempts to introduce multi-party democracy. The Republic is presently governed by two legislative bodies known as the Senate and the National Assembly.
Given the large size of the island a broad range of landscapes is present, including a mountainous central plateau, dense forests and broad fertile plains to the west. Because of its separation from the African mainland Madagascar developed its own distinct wildlife and three-quarters of its flora and fauna are found nowhere else in the world. Despite the richness of plant life Madagascar is among the poorest countries in the world and is not self-sufficient in food. Staples include rice and cassava; coffee, sugar and spices are grown for export. Agriculture accounts for more than 80% of the country’s economic base. Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world.
More than half of the population of Madagascar practice Traditional/Animist religions (52%) based upon ancestor veneration. Burial rituals and spirit appeasement characterize these religious practices. Witchcraft can also play a role. In the nineteenth century Christianity thrived and spread; today Christianity accounts for about 40% of the religious population. About 7% of the population is Muslim.
The earliest influence of the Stone-Campbell Movement churches in Madagascar can be traced to two missionary families who visited the island briefly in 1971. It was not until 1993 that Doyle Kee and Edwin Crump of the American a cappella Churches of Christ visited the island to launch a plan for a permanent work in Madagascar. Correspondence course students were enrolled, 260 in French and 100 in English. A native Madagascan, John Ratovohery, a part of the Madagascan diplomatic corps in Geneva, became a Christian in 1983 through a correspondence course. While assigned to Washington D.C., John and his family began forming a mission team to move to Madagascar in 1996. John Ratovohery died after working with the church in Madagascar a number of years.
Barry and Stacy Rosie are presently working in Madagascar running a children’s home in Antananarivo, the capital city. The Romain Rakotomalala family is currently living and working with the church in Mahajanga on the west coast of Madagascar.
In the spring of 2004 the Madagascan government, with the blessing of the President, gave World Christian Broadcasting 85 acres of land on which to build a shortwave radio station to broadcast the Gospel. A $10 million investment has been made on this property, and the station should be able when operational to broadcast throughout Africa, the Mid-East, India, western China and Russia, and South and Central America.
In 2004, several students from Madagascar attended Abilene Christian University and Lipscomb University, with support from the government of Madagascar.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
May 2004, edited July 2011/jk
Revised December 9, 2013 by Gary Holloway
Ecclesia De Cristo –Roger Moon, Evangelist
Boite Postale 7713 Antanimena
Antananarivo, Madagascar, 101 Madagascar
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