- Islam was introduced to Chad, a landlocked country south of Libya, in the 11th century and came to predominate by the 17th century, though many followers of traditional African religions in the southern part of the country never became Muslims. The 1885 Berlin Treaty gave France hegemony over Chad, but the French were slow to move in. In the 1920s, the French Foreign Legion overpowered the local rulers, but independence was granted in 1960.In 1925, Baptist Mid-Missions, a fundamentalist sending agency based in the United States, sent the first Protestant/Free Church missionaries to Chad. Three years later, an interdenominational sending agency, the Sudan United Mission, and the Christian Brethren joined the effort. Through the years, the French Mennonites, the Worldwide Evangelism Crusade, the Church of the Brethren, and the Lutheran Brethren (from America) also established work. Eventually, the Sudan United Mission, the Mennonites, and the Worldwide Evangelism Crusade united to form the Evangelical Church of Chad. With 330,000 members, it is the largest Protestant body. It is followed by the Christian Brethren with 230,000 members. Together, they make up 75 percent of the Protestant community, assuring dominance to a conservative form of Protestantism. They have taken the lead in the Entente des Eglises et Missions Evangéliques au Tchad, a national church council affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance.Other Evangelical churches, with beginnings in the 1920s, are the Baptist Mid-Mission mission, now the Baptist Churches of Chad, the African Inland Mission work (now the Central African Evangelical Church), the Evangelical Church of the Brethren, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Union of Elim Evangelical Churches (a Pentecostal group with Swiss roots). All measure their membership in the tens of thousands.Possibly the largest of the African Initiated Churches is the Central African Evangelical Baptist Association of Churches, which in 1973 was founded by former members of the Baptist Churches of Chad. Several groups such as the Church of Jesus Christ on Earth by His Messenger Simon Kimbangu, a large international church that originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), have started to take root.The entire Christian community went through a crisis in 1973, when Chad's president, Ngarta Tombalbaye, of the Sara people, ordered all citizens to undergo the traditional initiation rites of his people as part of a program of verifying national authenticity. This was accompanied by an attack on the Baptist community, the expulsion of 18 Baptist missionaries, the arrest of 13 Chadian pastors, and the closing of all Baptist churches and schools. More than 130 Christian leaders were killed in the next 12 months, often for refusing to undergo the suspect ceremony. The president also created an independent church, the Evangelical Church of Chad, to serve Sara Protestants. Persecution ended with Tombalbaye's assassination on April 13, 1975.Chad was first established with a secular government, and both Christian and Muslim holidays were recognized. Following Tombalbaye's death, his successors reaffirmed the secular nature of the state and withdrew all laws restricting religious freedom.Further reading:■ David Barrett, The Encyclopedia of World Christianity, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)■ Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, Operation World, 21st Century Edition (Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K.: Paternoster, 2001).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.