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publications, stimulated biblical scholarship at home and biblical archaeology in the Middle East, and also gave rise to the new phenomenon of Protestant pilgrimages to Palestine. Protestant Christians gained an enduring interest in this part of the world. In addition, missionaries were among the first to bring home to the Christian public in America and Europe the importance of Islam in the modern world. Although the majority of their publications described Islam as a religion that should be rejected as unscriptural and idolatrous and that eventually would disappear, these publications displayed genuine interest in, and sometimes outspoken admiration for, the faith of the Muslims, especially in regard to simplicity and consistency in life and prayer (which were sometimes compared favourably with the more elaborate practices of the Eastern Christians). This ambiguous assessment of Islam was often complemented by sincere attachment to individual Muslims with whom the missionaries became acquainted. A rather mixed message on Islam and the Middle East thus found its way into western Christian consciousness.

Concluding remarks

When the practical considerations that guided missionary administrators of the early nineteenth century in the choice of suitable mission fields are taken into account, the ratherbleakprospects ofmission workinthe Middle East (also visible to nineteenth-century observers) suggest that other motivations were in play. The most important of these was the conviction that Islam constituted the archenemy of true Christianity (Mohammed was regularly portrayed as the eastern Antichrist) and that the 'Lands of the Bible' ultimately should be in Christian rather than Muslim hands. For Protestants, the strong presence of the Roman Catholic missions in the Middle East constituted an additional reason: the works of the pope, the 'western Antichrist', should be counteracted as much as possible. In response, Protestant initiatives in this region incited Catholic missions to work with all the more fervour for the union of the Eastern churches with Rome.

Neither Protestant nor Catholic missions could avoid entanglement in the colonial politics of the nineteenth century. British, Russian and French interventions in this region were not infrequently orchestrated by missionaries who wanted their beneficiaries to be protected from oppressive measures from local governments or other groups, or who wanted to have rival missions expelled or hindered in their work. Again a great deal of ambiguity is to be detected: the missionaries used the western powers as much as possible to their advantage, but at the same time many missionaries (among whom not a

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