the western missionaries. The local Christians functioned as pastors in the Protestant churches, as teachers in the schools, and as evangelists and Bible women in the more remote regions. In the latter half of the century also the medical professions became popular. Roman Catholic missions displayed the same variety of activities, including the overall emphasis on teaching. In addition, the female congregations, like the Protestant women, were very active in the medical professions. The contribution of Middle Eastern Christians to Roman Catholic work can be illustrated very clearly by the increasing number of indigenous religious who entered the orders in the Middle East. They, for example amongthe Filles de la Charite, accounted for up to 41 per cent of all religious in 1914.12

Judged by their own conversionist aims, the work of the Protestant missions to a large extent was a failure. The number of Muslim converts in the early years of the twentieth century was very small (a 1906 estimate suggests a maximum of 200 converts from Islam in the entire region, forming a tiny minority among some 30,000 communicants in the Protestant congregations of the Middle East).13 The Eastern churches were carrying on much as before, Roman Catholicism was strengthened rather than weakened, whereas Christianity in general was not regaining the territories it had lost over the centuries to Islam.

Despite this overall failure of the initial aims, however, the missionaries could point to small successes that to them made their work worthwhile. The first of these was the existence of small but vigorous Protestant communities all over the Middle East. Although not part of the missionaries' original plans, their existence and modest growth appeared to promise the ultimate victory of evangelical spirituality in the region. These small communities suggested that 'new faith' could find a home in 'ancient lands' and exert a positive influence on the Middle East as a whole. This was also proved by the fact that the Eastern churches, sometimes supported by missions from the Russian Orthodox, High Church Anglicans/Episcopalians and Lutherans, in the second half of the nineteenth century went through a modernising process in which better education of the clergy and lay leaders formed the basis for new spiritual life in the community as a whole, among other things by establishing communal schools on a modern basis.

12 Verdeuil, 'Travailler a la renaissance', p. 281.

13 Cf. Zwemer, Islam, pp. 217-18 and Richter, A history of Protestant missions, p. 421, where further statistics on the state of Protestant missions of his day can be found. For geographical and statististical data on the Catholic missions, see Werner, Katholischer Missions-Atlas, pp. 9 and 16-20.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment