Quakers in Africa
There are about 157,000 members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, in Africa. African Friends make up around 46% of Friends internationally, the largest proportion in any one continent. Kenya has the largest number of Quakers in a single nation – about 133,000 in the year 2008 (according to the Friends World Committee for Consultation).
South Africa & Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting
Central and Southern African Yearly Meeting was founded by Friends from London Yearly Meeting. A meeting was first established in Cape Town in 1728. Friends worshipping in South Africa separated from London Yearly Meeting to became an independent Yearly Meeting in 1948. Due to the historic links with London Yearly Meeting, worship is in the unprogrammed tradition, in contrast with Friends' meetings in East Africa.
On April 23, 1902 three Friends — Arthur Chilson, Edgar Hole, and Willis Hotchkiss — set sail from New York to Mombasa, Kenya. They went on behalf of the Cleveland Friends Meeting. From there they made their way across by rail to Kisumu and then by foot to Kaimosi and set up a mission there on August 17. They came from the programmed tradition of Five Years Meeting (now Friends United Meeting)
From that small beginning, Quakerism grew and spread throughout Kenya during the twentieth century, although it is still concentrated in the western area. A mission hospital (Kaimosi Hospital) was founded in 1941. The Friends Bible Institute opened in 1942. Friends gradually spread into other areas of Kenya, with another hospital (in Lugulu), an epilepsy colony, an agricultural college and a college of technology all being established, as well as many new churches. It also spread to the neighboring countries of Uganda and Tanzania. Due to the size, the original East Africa Yearly Meeting split into several smaller Yearly Meetings, some of these splits have been painful.
There is now one umbrella organisation - Friends Church in Kenya (FCK) - which brings together all fourteen Yearly Meetings in Kenya.
- Bware Yearly Meeting, based in Suna in southern Nyanza Province
- Central Yearly Meeting, based in Lirhanda, just east of Kakamega
- Chavakali Yearly Meeting, based in Chavakali, just behind the Boys Secondary School
- Chwele Yearly Meeting, based in Chwele, on the southern slopes of Mt Elgon
- East Africa Yearly Meeting (Kaimosi), based in Tiriki on the Kaimosi mission compound
- East Africa Yearly Meeting (North), based in Kitale town
- Elgon East Yearly Meeting, based in Kitale town
- Elgon Religious Society of Friends, based in Lugulu, just north of Webuye on the Kitale road
- Kakamega Yearly Meeting, based in Kakamega at the Amalemba Friends Center
- Lugari Yearly Meeting, based in Turbo
- Malava Yearly Meeting, based in Malava, just west of the market center
- Nairobi Yearly Meeting, based at the Friends International Center, Ngong Rd, Nairobi
- Tuloi Yearly Meeting, based in Kapsabet
- Vihiga Yearly Meeting, based in Vihiga, just west of Majengo
- Vokoli Yearly Meeting, based in Wodanga, behind the Moi Girls High School
- Soy Yearly Meeting, based in Soy
The Friends Church spread to Uganda from Kenyan Friends, under the auspices of East Africa Yearly Meeting. By 1945, there were Friends Churches in Sibuse, Nabiswa, Kigumba, Nang’oma and Kampala. However, the Friends Church was banned by Idi Amin in 1973, until the end of his leadership of Uganda in 1979. After this, an independent Uganda Yearly Meeting was formed, separate from East Africa Yearly Meeting.
There is also a second Yearly Meeting in Uganda, Evangelical Friends Church - Uganda. They have applied for affiliation with Evangelical Friends International
The first Quakers moved to Tanzania from Kenya to look for land, which they found on the border of the Serengeti Game Reserve. Subsequent missionary activity from East Africa Yearly Meeting increased membership, with service projects aimed at agricultural training - popularly known as the “Lord’s acre plan”. Due to political pressures, many Kenyans left Tanzania in 1978, with Tanzania Yearly Meeting of Friends being founded as a separate organisation in 1980.
Kyela Monthly Meeting of Friends (Southern Tanzania) was founded as a worship group when a local man (Barnabas Mwaihojo) read about Quakers on the internet which led to him setting up meetings in three local villages.
Pemba Yearly Meeting is on the island of Zanzibar.
One of the original missionaries from the USA who first planted the Friends Church in Kenya, Arthur Chilson, and his wife Edna, left Kenya to found the Evangelical Friends Church in Burundi in 1934, which was to be run on more evangelical theology, in line with Evangelical Friends International. All foreign missionaries to Burundi were expelled in 1980, and Eglise Evangelique des Amis du Burundi (Evangelical Friends Church Burundi) now exists as an independent Yearly Meeting run by Burundians, affiliated to Evangelical Friends International.
Eglise Evangelique des Amis au Rwanda was founded by three missionaries, George Morris, Willard Ferguson and Doris Ferguson, who had been serving in Burundi. Unusually for the Society of Friends, the Friends Church in Rwanda practices water baptism.
Democratic Republic of Congo
There are two groups of Friends worshipping in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Communaute des Eglise Evangelique au Congo (Community of Evangelical Church of Congo) are evangelical, programmed Friends affiliated to Evangelical Friends International, formed from missionaries from Burundi in 1981. They still remain a part of Evangelical Friends Church Burundi rather than being a separate Yearly Meeting.
A completely separate, and much smaller, unprogrammed meeting exists in Kinshasa, with a membership of about 50.
Since 1925, there has been one unprogrammed Friends' meeting, Hill House Meeting, in the tradition of London Yearly Meeting, attached to Achimota School and college.
There is a small unprogrammed meeting in Lagos, founded in 1995.
There is a small unprogrammed worship group in Brazzaville.
- Statistics by Country
- Article by Robert Juma Wafula in Quaker Theology, #5, Autumn 2001
- Paper by David Zarembka
- Profile of the Luhya People
- FUM Yearly Meetings