Togo is a country in West Africa, with a warm and tropical climate and which lies between latitude 8° north and longitude 1°10 east. Its total surface is of 56.785 km2. Its general geographical aspect is that of a 600 km long strip of land, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the South to the border with Burkina, in the North. Its coastline is 45km wide with Ghana to the West and Benin to the East. It is 140km wide in its broadest point, between the Sotouba and Atakpamé cities in the center.

The population of Togo is essentially young and 35% of it lives in urban areas.  In July 2012, the population was estimated at 6.961.049. The average age is 15 years (40.9% of the population is aged under 15 years, 56% is aged between 15 and 64 years and 3.1% is over 65 years).

29% of the population is Christian (22% Roman Catholic and 7% Protestant). The majority of the population, estimated at 69%, practices the traditional fetishist and animist beliefs.

Togo has great ethnic diversity and is made up of 38 ethnic groups which are very different in size. These ethnic groups are included in seven greater groups identified by geographical situation and by language and related dialects. Some groups are quite large, such as the “ajatado” group, in the South of Togo, whereas other groups are made up of small minorities:

  • the « ajatado » populations : 44% (Ewé, Watchi, Guin, Aja…) in the South ;
  • the Moyen-Mono populations : 3% (Ifè, Fon, Mahi, Anyanga…) ;
  • the populations of the West Plateaux: 4% (Akposso, Akébou,…) ;
  • the populations of the North chiefdoms : 10% (Kotokoli, Tchamba, Tchokossi, Bassar…) ;
  • the populations of the North mountains and piedmonts : 21% (Kabiyè, Nawdéba, Lamba…) ;
  • the populations of the plains and plateaux of the Extreme North : 14% (Moba, Gourma, Konkomba, Peul…) ;
  • others :  4% (of which Haoussa, Yorouba, non-Togolese), mostly city-dwellers [1].

Evangelical Missions in Togo

Long before the German missionaries arrived in the 19th century, many other missionaries, such as for example the Portuguese Jesuits had tried to evangelize Togo. The area near the coast, where the Évhés live, was explored by the Portuguese during the 15th and 16th centuries. The first evangelical missions of the Roman Catholic Church date back to this time.

The Christian missions in Togo during the 19th century

a/ The missionary activity of the Roman Catholic Church and of the Bremen  Protestant Mission

A Catholic chapel, mainly destined to the use of the descendants of Brazilian merchants was built in 1835 at Agoué.

Starting with 1853, the Bremen Mission, established on the territory of the Evhé people in Keta, in Ghana sent over a hundred missionaries before the beginning of the German colonization[2].  The mission established itself in Mission-Tové in 1893. An evangelical outpost was open in 1895, one year before the missionaries’ arrival. The Evhé language was written and officially established according to the dialect used in the border territories between Togo and Ghana, where most of the Bremen Mission posts were established.

b/ John Wesley’[3]s Protestant Methodist tradition 

In 1843 and 1854, a missionary activity concerning the Guin[4]  population, living along the Aného coastline, began. The leader of this movement was Thomas Birch Freeman, Minister of the Protestant Methodist tradition, of the John Wesley Methodist Mission established in Freetown in Sierra Leone. He made a missionary visit to Aného (Petit-Popo), on the  28th  March 1843. Here, he discovered that George Akuété Zankli Lawson 1st, an influential merchant in the town, had begun a school. He supported this effort at education and made it an outpost of the missionary activity of the Protestant Methodist tradition. He supplied books to the school and brought in qualified teachers from Lagos (Nigeria) and Freetown (Sierra Leone) to support and help Akuété Zankli in his efforts. This is how an educational and evangelical establishment in John Wesley’s tradition came into existence. The missionaries’ arrival only reinforced this education system, to which both children and adults participated.

The Togo school system, mainly denominational, became widespread and better organized in the beginning of the German colonization. In 1903, the German governor Julius von Zech set up an education system with schools for children, village schools and establishments which formed seminarists, taught a profession or opened the way towards a middle school. At the end of the First World War, the French colonization replaced the German system and Governor Bonnecarrère’s reform marked the French system. This reform was structured according to the 4th September 1922 decree, which brought modifications to the German system and made a distinction between village schools, rural and regional schools and secondary schools that could be general technical or professional and led to regional prestigious schools (Grandes Écoles) of the AOF (Afrique Occidentale Française, or the French West Africa).

The German mission in Togo, from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the First World War (1914)

Togo became a German colony on the 2nd of July 1884. At this time, began an evangelical mission under the patronage of the Society of the Divine Word, which sent missionaries. The religious missionary Congregation, founded in 1875 in the Netherlands by the German priest Arnold Jansen (1837-1909) sent the first five missionaries to Togo in August 1892. The missionary work was trusted to Father  Shäfer, Father Superior who was appointed as the Pro-Prefect Apostolic for Togo. The missionary work was also supported by Father Dier and three Brothers: Johannes, Norbertus and Venantius.

The Dahomey Apostolic Vicariate was created on the 28th August 1860, under the pontificate of Pope Pius IXth. Togo was included in its ecclesiastical territory, which strecthed from the Volta to the Niger River, from the Atlantic to Sudan, which at the time covered the territory of what is now Mali. On the 26th June 1883, the Vicariate changed name and became the Apostolic Vicariate of the Gulf of Benin.  Before this, in 1882, another vicariate, the Apostolic Vicariate of Lagos, had been detached from the latter.

Starting with the 12th April 1892, under the pontificate of Pope Leo XIIIth, Togo is detached from the ecclesiastical province of Dahomey and becomes a fully-fledged Apostolic Prefecture.

« On the 25th October 1892, the catechumen instruction was open. The first baptism took place on Christmas day in 1892, with 70 catechumens and 48 pupils. Indeed, after Fathers Schäfer and Dier founded their establishments in Lomé (1892) Adjido, Porto-Séguro, Togoville (1893) and Aného (1895), Monsignor Bücking founded Atakpamé (1900), Kpalimé (1902), Kpandu (1904) and Bla (1906) hence establishing a line that went 200km North of the coast and reached the secluded areas of the country.  Monsignor Schönig took care of organising the Church from within the country. This is how the missions of (1909), Agou, Adéta (1910 – 1911), Tsévié (1911) and finally Ho were created. In 1913, the Mission counted 12 main posts, 47 priests, 15 brothers, 25 nuns, 228 primary school teachers and, in 1914, 19.740 had been baptised, 270 Christian marriages had been performed and 198 schools open. The German Missionaries reached the most secluded places by foot, horse or bicycle. This was the situation in the area when the War broke out in 1914. All of the Missionaries were deported. The Christians decried this tragedy which did not spare their fathers in faith. By January 1918, there were no more German Missionaries in Togo. » [5]

Research work on « The socio-cultural evolution of the Lomé city » [6] gives us information regarding the different evnagelical movements that existed in Togo during the second half of the 19th century. We thus learn that when the German colonial presence started to assert its presence, in July 1884, « in the geopolitical area that was going to become Togo, citizens from other European nations had, in the immediate area both to the East and to the West, already initiated the first steps of their settlement and were trying to consolidate it. These citizens were Christian missionaries from three European countries: Great Britain, France and Germany (to which German-speaking Swiss missionaries were added) [7].

« From Great Britain there came Methodist missionaries (« Wseleyans »), who more than three decades ago had progressively settled in the East, at Aného, between 1842 and 1850 (Debrunner 1965: 63-64)[8].

« In 1863, Catholic missionaries embarked on an exploration from Ouidah (on the Dahomey territory) and visited Grand-popo, Agoué, Aného, Agbodrafo (Borghero 1997). Members of the North German Missionary Society came from Bremen to create posts in several places West of what was going to become Togo: in Peki in 1847, in Keta in 1857, then around Ho (Debrunner 1965:67).

« We should not forget that the Europeans are rediscovering Africa at the end of the 19th century; this is also the time when colonial rivalries are at their peak and when negotiations between Europeans are more and heated as the Berlin conference approaches (1884-85). German colonial presence in Togo will take form progressively and will therefore not have an immediate effect on the missionary work, but it will make itself known as the administration and political framework come into place.

« The German administration would like to avoid missionary societies quarrelling over future Christians and has hence set up a zone system. One measure foreseen by this system was the interdiction in 1890 that Catholic missionaries settle in Aného (the territory’s capital at the time), for the reason that Wesleyan missionaries had already settled there.

«However, the German colonial powers asked the Bremen missionaries in the area close to the Western border of Togo, near Gold Coast, to transfer most of their missionary activities to German territory. (Debrunner 1965 : 105).

« At Aného, in conformity with the insistent wish of the colonial governor, the English Methodist minister was replaced in 1892 by a German minister, Johannes Mühleder.

« As far as the Catholic missions were concerned, negotiations were led at the highest level so that the missionary society that settles in the Togo Schutzgebiet (Protectorate) would be German. This was accomplished in 1892, with the arrival of the first five Catholic missionaries of the Divine Word Society. The evangelical work concerning all denominations would from now on be led exclusively by German Catholic, Calvinist or Methodist missionaries[9].

In April 1901, in Lomé, the building of the great Catholic cathedral started. This would be the fourth site of worship in the country. It was inaugurated on the 21st September 1902 and became the reign of the Vicar Apostolic and then of the Bishop. In February 1906 started the building of a Protestant temple which was ready in August 1907 and was open to the public as a site of worship on the 1st September 1907.

Before the First World War broke out, the Catholic and Protestant missions had accomplished a great achievement, having offered access to education in English and starting with 1906, in German, and offering professionnal training to people of all ages. « In Lomé, thousands of Togolese people had learned to write their mother language, which was a quite stimulating experience. Missionaries from both denominations had indeed provided them with a remarkably wide variety of literature genres: from grammar books to pedagogcial opusculum and school and prayer books » [10].

The beginning of the French mission in Togo after the First World War.

The German evangelical period came to an end when Germany surrendered at the end of the First World War. Togo was placed under the protection of the LN (The League of Nations) and under French administration. All of the German missionaries were deported and had to leave Togo between the 11th of October 1917 and the 9th of January 1918.

Monsignor Hummel, vicar apostolic of the Côte d’Or was named the apostolic administrator of Togo. The Society of African Missions from Lyon sent some missionaries to Togo in September 1921, Father Cessou being one of them. He became Vicar Apostolic on the 7th of June 1923. In the beginning, he was helped in his work by three priests. By 1925, twenty priests were helping him and one priest was assigned for the faithful, who were by then believed to be in number of 30.033 Catholics et 4.953 catechumens. In 1929, a church was built in Sokodé and eight years later, on the 18th May 1937, the Apostolic Prefecture of Sokodé was founded, with Monsignor Strebler as its first Prefect Apostolic. In 1924, the Assahoun parish was created. In 1929, parishes were created in Agadji and Vogan, in 1930 in Noèpé, in 1936 in Tomégbé, in 1940 in Nuatja and in 1943 in Agbélouvé. In February 1956, the country was divided into two ecclesiastical districts : the Lomé archdiocese and the Sokodé archdiocese, led by Monsignor Strebler and respectively Monsignor Lingenheim. Starting with this date, Togo became a fully-fledged church and was no longer a mission territory. [11]

Father Henri Kwakume, the first Togolese priest was ordained on the 23rd September 1928.  After Monsignor Cessou was called into God’s presence, on the 3rd March, the Episcopal leadership of the Church in Togo was entrusted to Monsignor Strebler. He was enthroned Archbishop of Lomé on the 24th February 1956.

In 1957, the Lomé Archdiocese, which included the maritime and the plateaux areas, counted 159.037 Catholics. Monsignor Strebler’s missionary work was marked by the setting up of a local clergy and by the encouragement given to the young to be more involved in the life of the Church. His work also gave education and general Christian teachings a new dynamic. The faithful also benefitted from enlightenment regarding the fundamental values of the Christian family.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Protestant Tradition

The Evangelical Presbyterian Protestant Church had been present in Togo since 1847, through the German mission from Bremen who sent missionaries to the country from Kéta (Gold Coast). Its evangelical work was consolidated in 1922, when the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society (SMEP) ensured the continuity of the work started by German missionaries. On the 25th February 1927, it sent Minister Charles Maître to Togo. Minister Maître’s successors came from reformed churches in France and Switzerland. The Evangelical Presbyterian Protestant Church became independent in 1959.[12]

[1] Nicoué Gayibor, Histoire des Togolais, Tome1, De l’Histoire des origines à l’Histoire du peuplement, page38, Editions Karthala et Presses de l’Université de Lomé (UL) 2011.
[2] Information from R. Cornevin, Histoire de l’Afrique, Volume II : L’Afrique précoloniale : du tournant du XVIe au tournant du XXe siècle, p. 304, Coll. Bibliothèque historique, Éditions Payot, Paris 1966.
[3] Wesley (1703-1791). British Anglican cleric. Ordained as a priest in 1724 by John Potter, bishop of Oxford. In 1784, he broke away from the Anglican Church. On the 2nd September 1784, as a priest, he ordained to priesthood himself two of his itinerant preachers, Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey , in a house in Bristol.  He ordained his friend Thomas Cooke, as an « inspector », or otherwise said, a bishop. For each one of these rituals, he used the ordinal of the «Book of Common Prayer”, even if it is mentioned in the foreword that only a bishop can confer these orders.
[4] The Evhé and Guin people in Togo and Ghana: The history of the Evhé people in Togo and Ghana was largely unknown to historians before the contributions of the German missionaries from the 19th century, which shed light on the people. The works of Minister Jacob Spieth (Die Ewestümme, Berlin 1906) are of great historical value in this field. Minister Spieth translated the Bible from german into Evhé. Other missionaries of the Basel Mission such as B. Schlegel, J.C. Binder, M. Merz and H. Weyle translated parts of the Bible. Jacob Spieth used these partial translations made by his predecessors and also used the 20.000-word Evhé-German Dietrich-Westermann dictionary and is credited with the first full translation of the 1082 page Bible. This work sanctioned the linguistic unity of the Evhé people.
The history of the Guin people shows that a part of the Akwamou people, living on the Twifo territory, had been defeated by the Denkira around 1650. The Akwamou then moved towards the South-East and clashed with the people, who lived on the Accra plains in the beginning if the 16th century together with the Adangbe people, who like them, came from Benin.  The Akwamou defeat the in 1660, at Ayawaso. A part of them left the Accra region in 1687 and settled in the Grand Popp (=Dahomey) and Anécho (=Petit Popo) regions in Togo where they were joined by the Fanti people from Elmina. This is an example of a double migration from the West of what is now Ghana territory of two people that will make up one linguistic substrate, the Guin or Mina: the on the hand, the Fanti on the other. Although they came from the West, with their own traditions, they adopted the language used in the region where they settled, which was an Evhé dialect. The Mina or Guin are related to the Kwa group and to a subgroup which comprises Evhé, Gen, Fon, Gun, Aja, Pla, Peda and a number of related languages. This subgroup is named either subgroup Evhé or sub-group Aja-tado.
[5] The Archdiocese of Lomé website
[6] Agbobli-AtayiI Bertin, L’évolution socio-culturelle de la ville de Lomé,  History Department of the Benin-Lomé University), in : Gayibor N., Marguerat Y. & Nyassogbo K. (ss. dir. de), 1998 : Le centenaire de Lomé, capitale du Togo (1897-1997), Actes du colloque de Lomé (3-6 mars 1997), Collection « Patrimoines » n°7, Lomé, Presses de l’UB, pp. 439-447.
[7] Ibid
[8] Debrunner H., 1965 : A Church between colonial powers. A study of the church in Togo. Londres, quoted by Bertin Agbobli-Atayi, op. cit.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Agbobli-AtayiI Bertin, L’évolution socio-culturelle…, op.cit.
[11] Nicoué Gayibor, Histoire des togolais, Des origines aux années 1960, Tome 4, page 57, Éditions Karthala, Presses de l’Université de Lomé-UL, 2011.
[12] Marguerat Y. Pelei T., 1992 : Si Lomé m’était contée,Tome1. Lomé, Presses de l’UB..