PrEST. w. f\ thirkield, d.d.
Gammon Theological Seminary
It is a most grateful task that falls to me, as President of this Congress, to
welcome you, as delegates and friends, to the first Congress on Africa ever held
in the South. This great audience at the opening session emphasizes the
interest of the people in the program prepared for this occasion.
This Christian Congress indicates that God is stretching forth his hands to
Ethiopia—to that "Dark Continent" which, through long and dolorous ages,
has been vainly stretching forth its hands unto God.
While light is breaking in upon its darkness, the hand that blights and
•curses is not yet lifted. In other centuries the curse was the stealing of Africans
from Africa. Now, it is the game among European nations of " shut your eyes
and grab " in their efforts to steal Africa from the Africans. But God is yet in
that world. Not in vain has its two hundred millions stretched forth their
hands to Him. He causeth the wrath of man to praise Him. Even through
the greed and wars of nations, in their selfish partition of Africa, He shall yet
■"save many people alive."
This Congress comes to take its place in the ever-widening plans of God for
Africa. It should now be said that the original intention of the projectors of
the congress was to hold it, as announced, during April, 1896. On account of
the Cotton States and International Exposition, it was decided, as late as Sep¬
tember, that the date should be changed, so as to reach and influence a larger
number of people from all parts of the nation and of the world. This has
necessitated some change in our plans. We congratulate ourselves, however,
that we are able to present a program of such value and importance, and
that the speakers, representing three continents, are now present, with two
■exceptions. Dr. Blyden is detained in London by serious illness. These
places on the program are to be well filled, respectively, by a venerable and
honored missionary with forty years experience in Zululand behind him, and
by a special delegate from the American Colonization Society.
This Congress will have a large, practical tendency. It has definite aims
in view. Problems of the most serious interest are before us. This nation
is, in a peculiar sense, under bonds to Africa. It must come to see its duty.
It must be stirred by an outlook upon its immense opportunity. We aim,
therefore, to give the public clearer views of Africa and of the African move¬
ment. From a survey of the knowledge and experience gained in the last
twenty-five years we should be able to deduce general principles and definite
plans that may influence future work in the line of commercial, industrial,
civilizing, and redeeming effort.