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Mass Murder and Mayhem in Madagascar-FRONTLINE FELLOWSHIP-DR PETER HAMMOND


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    Nat Quinn

    Mass Murder and Mayhem in Madagascar

    The Female Caligula Who tried to Destroy the Church
    On 26 February 1835, the cruel Queen Ranavalona I (1782- 1861), forbade the preaching of the Gospel in Madagasgar.
    Ultimately many Christians were imprisoned, or martyred under her repressive regime.
    Yet Revival broke out and the Church grew dramatically…

    Persecution in Paradise
    In the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is a large island off the southeast coast of Africa.
    The island is known for its rich biodiversity described as a “paradise on Earth.”
    Born in 1788, Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar’s vicious reign of thirty-three years was brutal, cruel, and ruthless.
    Ranavalona established a reign of terror resulted in the death of more than one-third of her subjects.
    Ranavalona is known as the “Mad Queen of Madagascar”; “Ranavalona the Cruel,” and “the most ruthless queen in history.”
    After years of internal warfare, many of the battling tribes were united under wise King Andrianampoinimerina (1787–1810), bringing peace and prosperity in the region. This king respected the people by giving everyone a portion of land to farm.
    King Andrianampoinimerina was in favour of Western teachings in his kingdom. However, this idea faced opposition from the traditionalists and priests of his court. Later, the king’s uncle tried assassinating him. Yet, his life was saved by the intervention of one of the local tribesmen who pre-warned the king about the conspiracy. Humbled by his gracious act, the king decided to adopt the tribesman’s daughter, Ranavalona, into his court as a possible wife to his son, Prince Radama. Eventually, Ranavalona became the first wife of Radama out of his twelve wives. This gave her a position of prestige in the kingdom.
    However, the relationship between Ranavalona and the prince was not stable. Their thoughts and decisions clashed. Thus, Prince Radama started giving less attention to his first wife, finding her overly tumultuous and noisy. She also argued with the prince, who abided by his father’s policies. Over time, their relationship weakened, resulting in a childless marriage.
    King Andrianampoinimerina passed away in 1810, and Prince Radama became the king with Ranavalona as his queen.

    The Advent of Missionaries, the Gospel and the Bible
    After his father’s death, Radama brought changes in the country and he allowed British missionaries to settle in Madagascar. They transformed the island by building schools and helped to develop a written language. Most significantly, they introduced the Bible and proclaimed the Gospel.

    Intrigues and Intransigence
    These modernized ideas displeased Ranavalona. She stood in horror at how the newly introduced religion threatened the ancient worship of the Malagasy gods.
    In 1828, King Radama died at the age of thirty-five. The plan was to place on the throne the late king’s nephew, Prince Rakatobe. When this plan came to the knowledge of Ranavalona, she mobilised her supporters to place her on the throne.
    To emerge victoriously, she spread a rumour about the tribal god’s message, which destined her to be the immediate ruler. Adriamihaja, a young army officer, supported her in the mission and later became the first minister in Ranavalona’s court. He might have possibly been her lover and father of her son, Rakoto, who was born eleven months after King Radama’s demise. Later Adriamihaja was executed accused of secretly cheating Ranavalona.
    Declaring herself as the Queen of Madagascar in 1829, in her coronation speech, she cautioned: “I will worship no gods but those of my ancestors. The ocean shall be the boundary of my realm!”

    Reign of Terror
    Ranavalona immediately killed all her rivals, including Rakatobe. She also locked Rakatobe’s mother away and starved her to death. This reign of terror established her political dominance.
    Ranavalona then attempted to eradicate the reforms carried out by her husband. She expelled all missionaries, merchants, teachers and diplomats. She cancelled all trade agreements with Britain and France. Ranavalona slit the heads of Europeans, stuck them on pikes, and lined them on the beaches.
    She banned Christianity, the Bible and teaching of Christianity in Madagascar.
    In 1835, Ranavalona declared: “Whoever breaks the laws of my kingdom will be put to death — whoever he may be.”
    Ranavalona adopted harsh methods to eliminate Christianity. Christians were beaten, tortured, starved, pushed from cliffs, poisoned and beheaded – with their relatives forced to watch the brutal executions.

    Trial by Ordeal
    She replaced the “Trial by Jury” with “Trial by Ordeal,” which included making the accused drink the tangena plant’s poisonous juice. This “trial by tangena” involved eating three chickens’ skin, followed by a toxic tangena nut or kernel. Then, Ranavalona induced vomiting in the person. If all the three skins came up, the person was considered innocent. If the opposite happened, then the person was guilty. This method was used by Ranavalona to test the loyalty of her subjects.

    Road Construction in the Jungle and the Buffalo Hunt
    In 1845, Ranavalona ordered thousands of her subjects to go on a buffalo hunt. Some fifty thousand large, the group took a small number of supplies and had to build a road on their way to ease the travel for the Queen. The road construction across the jungles caused the death of the subjects. However, the group progressed regardless of human misery. Astonishingly, the buffalo hunt lasted for four months, during which around ten thousand people died from exhaustion, starvation, and malarial disease, without a single buffalo being killed.

    Boiled and Buried Alive
    Ranavalona included many evil techniques to punish people and practiced it with gusto. During Ranavalona’s reign, her descendants and criminals would be dumped slowly in boiling water and oil or tied down with ropes and burned alive. She would place others into coffins, and some were buried into holes with dirt showered upon them.

    Taxation and Slavery
    Ranavalona followed the tradition of Fanompoana — forced labour in place of tax payments in money or goods. She sold her subjects into slavery to boost the country’s economy, which involved brutal labour conditions, staying far away from homes and many deaths by starvation. These people were either considered traitors, victims of war, non-taxpayers, or Christians!

    Mass Executions
    Approximately twenty thousand to thirty thousand people were executed every year for various offenses.
    Ranavalona’s reign brought down the nation’s population from five million to around two and a half million by the end of her despotic rule.
    Over time, as her reign progressed, the queen became increasingly paranoid and used inhumane trial methods for even minor offenses.

    Those who Hate God, love Death
    On August 16, 1861, Ranavalona died at the age of seventy-nine at the Manjakamiadana palace.

    • In an ironic twist for the anti-Christian Queen, a spark ignited an explosion during her funeral that killed thousands of people and destroyed nearby royal buildings. Even after her death, Ranavalona is associated with the loss of life. Behold, all those who were incensed against You shall be ashamed and disgraced; They shall be as nothing, And those who strive with You shall perish. You shall seek them and not find them— Those who contended with You. Those who war against you shall be as nothing, as a nonexistent thing. For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’ Isaiah 41:11–13
    Repentance, Reformation and Revival Transform Madagascar
    Soon after, the occultic, tyrannic, and extremist policies of Ranavalona were reversed under her son’s reign.
    Her son, Prince Rakoto, succeeded the queen as King Radama II who was converted to Christ.
    The Church in Madagascar experienced Revival and rapid expansion.

    “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” Psalms 85:6-8

    Female Caligula : Ranavalona, the Mad Queen of Madagascar by Keith Laidler

    Dr. Peter Hammond
    Frontline Fellowship
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