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Banna, Hasan al-  

Joel Gordon

founder and martyred leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers, the archetypical modern Islamist mass movement, was born in Mahmudiyya, a Delta town not far from Alexandria, in October 1906. His father, a devotee of a mystical Sufi order and graduate of the prestigious al-Azhar seminar in Cairo, owned a watch repair shop and sold gramophones, but he gave religious lessons by day. He oversaw young Hasan’s memorization of the Qurʾan and taught him the watch business. Hasan attended Qurʾan school in the provincial city of Damanhur, but in keeping with his father’s modernist religious sensibilities, he went on to government preparatory school, then, at age 14, enrolled in a junior teachers school in the Delta city of Damanhur. In 1924 he entered Dar al-Ulum, the teacher training college in Cairo.

Banna went on to pursue a career in the state educational sector but his life became dominated by a ...


Biayenda, Émile  

Jeremy Rich

Congolese Roman Catholic cardinal, religious leader, and martyr, was born in the Lari village of Mpangala in the Congolese district of Kindamba. His mother Biyela and his father Sémo named him Biayenda, “the lost treasures” in Kikongo, to honor the early deaths of Biyela’s parents. The couple had three children before Biyela’s death, one of whom would later be executed by firing squad. Ultimately, Sémo married another woman, and Biayenda remained close with his half-brothers, including the poet Maxime N’Debeka.

Biayenda began his primary studies at Pangala in 1935 and then continued his education at the Catholic Mission School of Kindamba from 1937 to 1942 Léon Lebanitou a schoolmate of Biayenda recalled how serious the future cardinal was as a boy and how he concentrated on praying rather than playing soccer Another former classmate remembered how Biayenda washed peanuts with soap before cooking them for a group of missionaries ...


Gana, Moussa  

Jeremy Rich

Chadian Christian martyr was born in the southern Chadian village of Madana located about twenty eight miles forty five kilometers from the large town of Doba Unfortunately a lack of source materials makes reconstructing his life a difficult task A majority of Chad s population in the colonial and postcolonial period espoused Sunni Islam as their religious faith However many southern Chadian communities associated Islam with slave raiders from large states such as Baguirmi Bornu and Wadai These groups could be very hostile toward Islam as a result which naturally inspired interest from Protestant missions seeking to convert peoples living on the frontiers of Islam However Gana s story points out the crucial role of Christian converts in spreading their faith independently of missionary support As a very young man Gana chose to work in northern Nigeria a British colony which provided far more economic opportunities for young Chadian men ...


Lwanga, Karoli  

Kevin Ward

Ugandan Roman Catholic martyr, was from Buganda, in the Great Lakes region of East Africa, and belonged to the Ngabi (bush buck) clan. As one of the pages (bagalagala) at the court of the kabaka (king of Buganda), Lwanga came into contact with Catholic missionaries and became a catechumen (one preparing for baptism). He was particularly influenced by his superior at court, Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, who became the first Catholic martyr, beheaded for criticizing the authorities for murdering the Anglican bishop James Hannington. Lwanga pleaded with the missionaries to be baptized immediately. A Catholic priest, Giraud, acceded to this; and Lwanga was baptized on the same day as Balikuddembe’s death, 15 November 1885, taking the name Karoli (Charles).

Lwanga rose to be the head page in the court of the audience hall and was an influential figure with authority particularly over his fellow Catholic pages In Buganda ...


Maurice, Saint  

Phillipe Wamba

According to Christian legend, Saint Maurice (Saint Maurice d'Agaune), the first Christian saint to be explicitly represented as an African, was a primicerius (a high-ranking officer) in the Roman army whose legion was massacred by the Romans in the late third century for refusing to participate in a pagan ritual.

Maurice and his legion, all baptized Christians, were recruited for military service in Thebaid, an Egyptian province on the upper Nile (near the present-day border between Egypt and Sudan). Thebaid, with its capital at Thebes, was the southernmost region of the Roman Empire, then ruled by co-emperors Diocletian and Maximian.

In 287 Maximian commander of the Roman army in Gaul led his troops which included Maurice s legion in a military campaign against insurgents in Gaul On the eve of battle the army camped at Octodurum in what is now Martigny Switzerland and Maximian ...


Nsoumer, Fatma  

Zahia Smail Salhi

Algerian anticolonial leader, was born on 10 July 1830, the year that marked the beginning of the French occupation of Algeria, in the village of Werja, which is situated near Ain El-Hammam in Kabylie. Nsoumer is known in Algeria as “Lalla Fatma” and “Lalla Fadhma Nsoumer” (“Fadhma” is the Kabyle equivalent of the Arabic name “Fatima”). She was also nicknamed “Joan of Arc of Kabylie,” a soubriquet that she disliked. Nsoumer was the daughter of Sidi Ahmad Muhammad, a notable marabout who headed the zawiya (religious school) of Sidi Ahmad ou Mezyan in the nearby village of Soumer. This zawiya was a branch of the Rahmaniya religious order of Sidi Muhammad Ibn ʿAbd al-Rahman Abu Qabrayn, which is followed across the Kabylie region.

From early childhood Nsoumer was attracted to the study of the Qurʾan which she memorized and taught to other children Notably after the death of her ...



Mersha Alehegne

Ethiopian bishop and martyr, was born in Fiche, North Shewa, Ethiopia, as Haile Maryam to a farming family. He was one of the four pioneer Ethiopian Fathers who were officially ordained as bishops in 1928 and one of the major martyrs of the Italian Fascist occupation of Ethiopia (1936–1941).

Abune Petros was educated from elementary school to the highest stage of ecclesiastical education at the monastery of Debre Libanos, where he took vows in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and became a monk in 1916. He started his teaching career at the monastery of Meskabe Kedusan in Amhara Saynt, Wello, and later he moved to Debre-Menkerat monastery in Wolamo, South Ethiopia, where he was authorized by the church as the teacher in charge. In 1924 he was assigned as the main teacher of the well known island monastery of Mary which is situated in Lake Zeway in the ...



Mersha Alehegne

second patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and martyr, was born on 24 April 1910 in Debre Gennet Eliyas, Gojjam, to Ato Jenbere Webe and Weyzero Zeritu Adelahu; his birth name was Meliktu. Abune Tewoflos completed the first and second stages of traditional education at his home parish, Debre Elias. In 1927, he traveled to the Monastery of Addis Aläm St. Mary in Shewa, where he met the famous Neburä Ed Haddis Tekle (later Abune Yohannes) and studied commentary at depth. He received monastic orders at the Monastery of Debre Libanos in 1937 and received ordination as a priest from Abune Abraham, the then Archbishop of Gojjam.

Soon after the defeat of Italian Fascist invaders and the return of the Emperor Haile Selassie I from exile, Tewoflos was installed as memher (head) of the Monastery of Mekane Selassie in Addis Ababa and later liqe siltanat of the ...