This thesis documents the development of Christianity among the Dinka of
Sudan both during and since the missionary era. It explores the major themes in the
dialogue between the Dinka and Christian missions, Catholic and Protestant, and
asks what, during each period, have been the reasons for Dinka resistance to
evangelisation as well as motivations for conversion.
An introductory chapter addresses the problems of missionary translation
and vocabulary, defines key Dinka terms, and examines theories of Dinka origins
and early religious influences. Chapter II surveys the history of Dinka
confrontations with foreigners during the 19th century, and asks how these
encounters conditioned their responses to Christian missions.
Chapters III through V document three missionary ventures in Dinkaland
asking what precedents each set for the Christian communities which later emerged.
The mid 19th Century Austrian Catholic mission on the Upper Nile and in Northern
Sudan is examined with interest in three notable Dinka converts of the period. Two
chapters survey the 20th Century work of the Anglican, Church Missionary Society
(CMS), and the Roman Catholic, Verona Fathers. What distinguished the
approaches of each and what responses did they evoke? The contributions of key
missionary figures and prominent Dinka Christians are evaluated. Of significance
are the contrasting attitudes which Dinka converts developed toward their ancestral
divinities and the manner in which they related these to the divine persons of
The final two chapters focus upon the thought and independent initiatives of
Dinka Christians, contrasting developments among Catholics and Episcopalians.
Translations from a selection of vernacular songs form the basis of Chapter VI, and
reveal the distinctive vocabulary, metaphor and theology which have developed over
five decades. The final chapter documents the emergence of an increasingly diverse
indigenous Dinka church in independent Sudan, and evaluates the impact of civil
conflict upon the rapid growth of the church in rural areas.