Missionary Livingstone remembered for anti-slavery fight

(Photo: Wikipedia)A new statue of David Livingstone on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls.

Welsh-born American journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley's fabled words 'Dr. Livingstone I presume," have done much to etch the name of Scottish missionary David Livingstone into hsitory.

But although the medical doctor explored southern and central Africa at the height of the British Empire, he is still respected in Malawi and Zambia, more for his fight against slavery than his evangelizing.

Livingstone, the border town in Zambia, kept the name given to it when it was the first capital of the colony of Northern Rhodesia beyond independence from Britain in 1964 after the renaming of other towns with colonial names.

This month, people around the globe are commemorating the famed missionary and abolitionist's 200th birthday.

The Livingstone Centre in Blantyre, Scotland marked March 19 – the actual date of Livingstone's birth in the town near Glasgow – with the opening of a new exhibit featuring the diary the famed mission and explorer kept during his last African expedition in 1871.

This week, Malawi President Joyce Banda visited Livingstone's birthplace in Scotland after having also attended a special memorial service at the nearby David Livingstone Memorial Church last Sunday.

Malawi's commercial hub is named after the Scottish town of Blantyre.

Banda said in Blantyre, Scotland, "This is a momentous occasion for both Malawi and Scotland. My visit to this historical country seeks to deepen the relationship that has existed between Malawi and Scotland since Dr. Livingstone visited our country.

(Image: Wikipedia)Henry Morton Stanley meets David Livingstone.

"I am looking forward to engaging the Scottish people on matters of trade, investment and development, which Dr. David Livingstone aspired to achieve."

Banda also attended a memorial service at Westminster Abbey in London where Livingstone is buried.

Livingstone sought to improve the lives of those in Africa by bringing Christianity and commerce to the continent. He was less successful in evangelizing than in his fight against slavery. Some stories say he converted only one person to Christianity.

During his exploration the letters Livingstone sent back to the London Missionary Society helped support his war against slavery.

The leaders of all the major churches in Scotland say in a joint statement to celebrate the Livingstone bicentenary on the Church of Scotland website, "We remember with gratitude the life and witness of David Livingstone who campaigned vigorously against the slave trade during his life time.

"We acknowledge that many Christians were slow to speak out against the evils of the Slave Trade and that many were actively involved in it and profited from it.

"The legacies of the Slave Trade still continue to be active in the world today and we recognize that women, children and men are trafficked between and within countries and suffer labor exploitation, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude."

Livingstone explored and charted Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and Tanzania extensively.

The Dean of Westminster, the Rev. John Hall, read from the sermon preached at Livingstone's 1874 burial at the abbey, and Livingstone's three great-grandchildren placed wreaths at his grave.

Livingstone spent most of his adult life serving in the present-day African nations of Zambia and Malawi as a medical missionary.

And although he is credited with pioneering the use of quinine to treat malaria on the continent, he is perhaps better known for his efforts to abolish the African slave trade and to change Western perception of Africa.

Although Great Britain had abolished slavery in 1807 – more than three decades before Livingstone first came to Africa – Livingstone witnessed first-hand the horrific treatment of Africans enslaved by other Africans and sold to Asia.

He believed his mission to spread the Gospel in Africa was not only for Africans' personal salvation, but also to free them from the bondage of slavery.

To this end, Livingstone made several expeditions across southern Africa, when he came across what is known internationally as the Victoria Fall, but in the local Tonga language as Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders) in 1855. It is one of the wonders of the world that straddles Zambia and Zimbabwe.

He became the first known European to cross the width of southern African the following year.

Livingstone also shared his new knowledge of the continent with the rest of the world. In 1857, he published the wildly popular "Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa."

He also published prolifically on the evils of the African slave trade.

It was during his final expedition – trying to find the source of the Nile – that Stanley uttered those words, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" upon finding the doctor in Tanzania, after months had passed without anyone hearing from him.

Livingstone died on May 1, 1873 in Zambia.

The last words he wrote, also inscribed on his grave, were, "All I can add in my solitude, is, may heaven's rich blessing come down on every one, American, English, or Turk, who will help to heal this open sore of the world."

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