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Encountering the Mbuti pygmies: A challenge to Christian mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Encountering the Mbuti pygmies: A challenge to Christian mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo


Department of Philosophy, Practical and Systematic Theology, University of South Africa, Pretoria 0003, SOUTH AFRICA.


This thesis explores the Mbuti Pygmies, a sub-group of the Pygmy peoples, one of the main ethnic groups of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Mbuti Pygmies are settled mostly in the Ituri rainforest, and are, with regard to Christian mission, still unreached and unchurched. The oversight of the churches vis-à-vis these people is highlighted, through this thesis, as a challenge to Christian mission. This challenge is a result of the way Christian mission is understood and undertaken in DRC, namely in the selective and exclusive way of missioning, according to which some peoples are targeted and others forsaken.

Churches in the DRC shy away from the Mbuti Pygmies probably because, on the one hand, these forest dwellers belong to the group of Pygmies whose existence as full human beings is enigmatic and very controversial. Because of the uniqueness of the Pygmy peoples in terms of physical features, culture, and way of life, on the other hand, the non-Pygmy peoples, including Christians, suffer from a kind of complex of superiority that creates in them a spirit of discrimination against the Mbuti Pygmies. As the Mbuti Pygmies are discriminated against even by Christians, it is very difficult for them to be taken into account within the mission agendas of the churches. This challenge to Christian mission is highlighted by two facts. Firstly, Christian mission is designed for all the nations to which the Mbuti Pygmies belong. Secondly, the churches, with their missional mandate to all the nations, shy away from the Mbuti Pygmies as if these people were outside the scope of Christian mission and, thus, unworthy of God’s grace and love.

To remedy this challenge, with the aim of implementing Christian mission in the DRC, this study suggests a missional encounter as a way forward to addressing the Mbuti Pygmies. In practice, this may be implemented through the missionary conversion, the right perception of the Mbuti Pygmies as being fully made in the “image of God” and fully part of the “all nations”, promoting formal education among the Mbuti Pygmies, and sustaining the churches by an integrated theological education.