King Kaleb of Axum is a hero we need: a man willing to defend his brothers and sisters in parts of the world where they could not defend themselves.
Christianity did not come to Africa with colonialism. Northern Africa, especially Egypt, was a center of Christian theology and culture within a generation of Jesus. Ethiopia became one of the first Christian nations and was a major power in the region for centuries. It produced works of Christian thought that are of great value to the global Church.
If you have not heard of the ancient city Axum (Aksum), blame your education. We do not have to imagine a fantastic, advanced African power in the ancient world: Axum existed. Christian Axum is loaded with archeological marvels as one of the oldest continuously occupied city sites on the planet. There were powerful Christian states around the horn of Africa from the third century until very recently. Ethiopia was never colonized until the fascists briefly took control of Ethiopia in the twentieth century.
Too many Americans know nothing of the history of Africa before European colonialism. If they hear anything in schools, then they hear of the great Muslim states such as Mali and of her learned and fabulously wealthy ruler: Mansa Musa. This is good. We do not need less history in our schools, but more. Children should learn that Africa had great Christian states as well! Such history is interesting and plentiful and includes stories like those of King Kaleb, protector of the Christians. Christian Africa, may inspire many Americans to learn more about our African roots, since most Americans are Christians. We do not just need Christian tales, more Mansa Musa please, but everyone can use a hero and Africa, after all, had a powerful Christian state long before Islam existed and a millenium before Western missionaries arrived on the scene.
For Christians this matters as many of our critics scarcely know Christendom exists outside of Europe. The next time some atheist tells you that Christianity brought on the “dark ages” ask them why they are so obsessed with Western Europe! Byzantium flourished as the Western city of Rome fell.* Classical Christian civilization flourished in places like Egypt and Ethiopia. The Irish may have saved a chunk of civilization in these tough times, but the Eastern Romans, Egyptians, and Ethiopians went on creating more of it for centuries!
While the Roman Empire in the West began to fall apart, pounded by Germanic barbarians, the Christians in Axum were developing a splendid kingdom that helped preserve civilized living in that part of the world. A favorite ruler of the period even saved Christians in Arabia from persecution. King Kaleb of Axum (sometimes called Elesbaan) came to the rescue of Christians in Arabia when the Eastern Roman Empire lacked the ability to help. On some accounts, he was initially defeated, and sought advice from holy men back home. He was told that his desire for revenge had led to his defeat. What should he do? He must pledge to end his life in service to God and go fight for justice and leave vengeance to the Lord. Wise King Kaleb took this good advice, attacked the tyrants again, and this time was successful. He kept his promise to God and spent the end of his life in spiritual warfare.
The world is full of crumbled empires and we do well to recall them. Why? First, we learn humility. Our republic will pass away someday and this can happen quickly if we become proud. Second, every people, race, or region of the world has had moments of great glory and contributed to the sum total of our progress. There is endless greatness to study!
*Of course centuries of “dark ages” in the West are also a myth, but even if one grants the existence of such a time in Western Europe: Aksum. The argument is refuted!