Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg was only twenty-three years old when he landed at the south Indian fortress of Tranquebar on July 9, 1706, but his reputation already preceded him. The governor of this Danish colony refused to let him disembark for three days, and when he finally relented, denied Ziegenbalg lodging amidst the other Germans and Danes. The young man and his colleague Plütschau had no choice but to shift for themselves among the poor and despised Portuguese-speaking Indians of the city.
Their crime? They had arrived to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the local Tamil population.
This did not fit the agenda of the Danish East India Company or its governor at all. For one thing, they held the locals in contempt, as dark-skinned savages; for another, the Tamils’ becoming Christians would interfere with the nominally Christian Danes’ abuse of them; and finally, their own habits of drinking, whoring, and slaveholding—already inspiring disgust on the part of the Tamils—would come in for closer scrutiny. Anyway, the King of Denmark had never consulted with them about this mission business. He just decided by his absolute authority to sponsor Ziegenbalg and Plütschau because of his guilty conscience after the death of his mistress and their infant child. The board of the Danish East India Company back home had got a messenger to Governor Hassius before the missionaries arrived and instructed him in no uncertain terms: prevent them from doing what they’re there to do…Read More