Introduction / History
The nation of Portugal is located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. Despite its relatively small size, about the size of the US state of Maine, Portugal was a world power from the 15th to early 19th century. Over 250 million people speak the Portuguese language. Most Portuguese speakers now live in Brazil. The independence of Brazil 1825 led to the decline in power and status of Portugal. Portugal's two main African colonies, Mozambique and Angola, became independent in 1975 after years of war.
Since the 1980s, Portugal's economy has been steadily improving. Portugal is a member of NATO and the European Union. Leading industries include banking, agriculture, fishing, wood pulp, mining, and tourism. Portugal is the leading cork producer in the world. Large deposits of lithium have been discovered in Portugal. Lithium is used in batteries. Due to a low birth rate, the Portuguese government is offering economic incentives for middle and upper class, educated Portuguese speakers to return to Portugal.
Since the days of their empire, Portuguese people have emigrated to regions all over the world. By far, Brazil has been the leading nation to receive Portuguese people. Other nations with large Portuguese populations include the USA, South Africa, Venezuela, Argentina, and Canada.
Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to set foot in South Africa in 1488. It was the Dutch who settled there, starting in 1652.
There were rural Portuguese who came to South Africa in the late 1800s, but they were small in number. From the 1940s-80s mainland Portuguese migrated there. These were usually skilled laborers. Finally, there were Portuguese colonialists from Angola and Mozambique who left in the 1960s-70s to find a new home.
What are their lives like?
Today South Africa has a very large Portuguese community. Many are international merchants and business owners. The Mercantile Bank is owned by the Portuguese. When riots and other forms of civil unrest happen, their businesses are vulnerable to arson and looting.
The Portuguese community has their own annual festival, Lusito Land. They enjoy sports, especially soccer. They have influenced South Africa in the areas of sports, politics, business, and the arts. A couple women have represented the RSA in beauty pageants. An important part of their social life revolves around the Catholic Church, though many are now Protestant.
What are their beliefs?
The large majority of native Portuguese identify are members of the Roman Catholic Church. The small percent of Evangelicals is slowly increasing, and the gospel is moving among the Portuguese all over the world. The majority, however, are baptized, married and buried in the Catholic Church. Their faith is not an active part of their lives with only a small percentage attending mass on a weekly basis. They are becoming more secular.
Evangelicals and Roman Catholics have much in common including beliefs in the deity of Christ, the Trinity and the inspiration of the Bible. Evangelicals disagree with Catholics with regard to the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the practice of praying to Mary and the saints. There is also a disagreement regarding the role of works in salvation. Evangelicals say that salvation is by faith in Christ alone while many Catholics believe that works are necessary for salvation.
What are their needs?
The Portuguese must see that their nominal, traditional religion will not result in the forgiveness of their sins or a meaningful, fulfilled life. Biblical Christianity is a love relationship with God through Jesus Christ, not merely a tradition or system of laws and morals.
Ask the Lord to send Spirit-filled missionaries and Bible teachers to the Portuguese in South Africa.
Pray for a Christ-centered revival in the Roman Catholic Church that will result in Portuguese Christ followers discipling others.
Pray many Portuguese priests and bishops come to know a personal, love relationship with Christ and teach it during mass.
Pray the Portuguese will listen to radio and TV programs which teach the way to know Christ in a living, biblical way.
Text source: Joshua Project