The term “Protestant” comes from “protesting against the Roman Catholic Church.” Neither Roman Catholicism nor Protestantism derived from the Afrikan worldview but there was an Afrikan centered Christianity that emerge in the 18th century, called Antonianism. Antonianism developed in the Kongo, at a time that the people of the Kongo or the BaKongo desperately needed peace. During this period the Kongo was wrecked by civil war at the same time there was a thriving European slave trade, and the threat of being shipped across the Atlantic was ever-present. It was with this backdrop that a new religious ideology was developed, which combined traditional Kongolese culture with an adapted Christian message. This new system was needed to replace the old one under which so much turmoil existed. This movement was led by a Kongolese woman named Kimpa Vita, who had been trained as a traditional priestess or a nganga marinda (a person who consults the supernatural world to solve problems within the community). Her Christian name was Dona Beatriz and as a Christian she claimed to have derived her inspiration from the mother of God as depicted in the Old Testament. Three events gave Beatriz her credibility: First, Dona Beatriz, at the early age of 17, predicted that God would soon punish the Kongo. Soon after, one of Beatriz's followers, Appolonia Mafuta, found a stone which she alleged to be molded in the shape of Christ's head. Finally, after overcoming a lengthy illness, Beatriz claimed to be possessed by Saint Anthony's spirit—giving the movement its name.
Speaking as a medium for Saint Anthony, Beatriz claimed to have direct connection to the spirit world. She believed that she perished each Friday, only to be resurrected the following Monday. Between the time of her death and her resurrection, Beatriz claimed that she was given instructions from God. These divine decrees were given to the Kongo and this enabled her to build a temple, form a group of disciples, and start a national church completely independent of Rome. Beatriz called for the revitalization of the kingdom through adherence to a vision of Catholicism that was set firmly within Kongo history and geography. Her message was directed at unifying the Kongolose people as her spiritually was not separate from her politics, and her politics was not separate from her spiritually. She preached a message that was "Africanized," but Christian nonetheless. This divine communication with God spoke of an African Holy Family. According to Beatriz, Jesus was born in Mbanza, Kongo and baptized not at Nazareth but in the northern province of Nsundi, while Mary's mother was a slave of the Kongo nobleman Nzimba Mpangi. Beatriz spoke of Christ and his disciples as black Africans and agents of change. She also taught that the Last Judgement would soon occur within the Kongo. Although the movement recognized papal authority, it was hostile to European missionaries, whom it considered corrupt and unsympathetic to the spiritual needs of Kongolese Catholics. Beatriz and her followers briefly occupied Mbanza, from which she sent emissaries to spread her teachings and urge rulers of the divided Kongo territories to unite under one king.
Antonianism changed the traditional Catholic prayer "Saive Regina" to "Saive Antonio" making it more relevant to Kongolese modes of thought. Her version taught that the sacraments of marriage, confession, and baptism were meaningless since God invariably knew one's intention. Because of this Beatriz burned crosses and traditional religious objects (nganga objects) as unnecessary fetishes. She used the politically powerful isimbi cult to further her movement, and ultimately to empower her to appoint the new king. At this point she commanded all nobles to cease the fighting which was detrimental to the kingdom's harmony. Pedro Constantininho was one of the nobles who joined the movement, converting to Antonianism. Beatriz named him king. This aligned her and all of her followers against the former king, Pedro I, who was supported by the Portuguese Catholic Church and, consequently, by the Pope. By naming Pedro Constantininho king, Beatriz made enemies within the Catholic community. This would eventually lead to a full-fledged holy war, Catholicism vs Antonianism. In 1706, already an anathema in the Roman church's eyes, Beatriz gave birth to a child while claiming to be a virgin; hence, this was an immaculate conception. This outraged the Church, and in June of that year, she was captured by King Pedro II and burned as a heretic at the behest of Capuchin monks. Her infant son was spared.
For Christianity to be meaningful to Afrikan people it must be Afrikan centered. Why should it be Eurocentric as it is now? The idea of making Christianity, or any religion or spiritual practice to suit the needs of the worshipers is not new. It has a history as long as Christianity itself. Let us learn from our history--let's take a lesson from Dona Beatriz and her efforts in the Kongo.