ELEVEN JESUITS SET OUT FOR THE INTERIOR OF SOUTHERN AFRICA BY OX-WAGON IN APRIL I 879 ON A MISSION TO PREACH THE CHRISTIAN GOSPEL TO THE PEOPLE BEYOND THE LIMPOPO RIVER; WITHIN A YEAR AND A HALF, THREE OF THEM WERE DEAD. They shared the same ignorance of Africa as their European contemporaries concerning disease, geography, culture, religion and the political rivalries of the people among whom they came. They also shared a narrow frame of reference towards the continent and the failure of imagination that went with it. Further, as people of their time, they saw - and were seen by - other denominations as rivals, and far from co-operating, the churches indulged in an unseemly competition. And yet these men were, in their own way, heroic and faced the difficulties eagerly, even joyfully. Their failures and disappointments far outweighed the little progress they appear to have made but they laid the foundations for what was to follow after 1890 when the colony of Southern Rhodesia was established. This event inaugurated a ninety-year period, when relations between church and state waxed and waned. The missionaries welcomed the order - even if it could not be called peace - and the infrastructure the colonisers introduced. The speed of travel, for instance, went from about 15 km a day by ox-wagon, to 30 km an hour by train. But the Church - and the Jesuits were for long the drivers of what we mean by Church - never managed to decide on a coherent policy vis-a-vis the white government until it was too late. They were divided; the majority of Jesuits worked with blacks but there was a sizeable number who worked exclusively with whites. So, while we can document the enormous and fruitful work that was done over the decades after 1890, we have to acknowledge the failure to give a united witness in confronting the nakedly racialist policies of the state. If we had been able to do this in the 1920s and '30s we might have contributed to the evolution of a more harmonious society and avoided the terrible bloodshed of subsequent years.