The combination of eschatological concern with conviction that Christian missions needed to explore new directions was also instrumental in revitalising Protestant attention to Islam. A growing sense that Islam had for some time been neglected at Christianity's expense surfaced in the 1870s, just as Reginald Bosworth Smith wrote of Mohammedanism in Africa as 'spreading itself by giant strides almost year by year'.10 European concern with North Africa, especially following the Ottoman crisis of 1875-8 and Britain's occupation of Egypt in 1882, the entrenchment of the Mahdist state in the Sudan (1885-98), and evidence of mounting Arab nationalism, provided a background to the evangelical persuasion that Islamic resurgence was to be interpreted as one amongst the major 'signs of the times'. Anglican opinion was particularly alive to the problem. CMS conferences in Allahabad (1873) and London (1875), and ensuing discussions, mapped out strategies for moving against Islam from Sierra Leone, the western Sudan, the Niger valley, the Punjab, Aden and Cairo (where the CMS re-established itself in 1882). General Charles Gordon's death at Khartoum in 1885, and analogies such as that drawn by Douglas Thornton -'the Arabic language is read by as many people as Chinese' - only intensified a widespread concern.11 Protestant and Catholic interests also came closest in their common concern to combat Islam. New Roman Catholic missions, for example those of Daniel Comboni and Cardinal Lavigerie, built outwards from bases in Africa itself- Cairo, Algiers and Carthage - their sights fixed on the Nile, the western and eastern Sudan, and eventually East Africa.
Was this article helpful?