Conflict, Conquest, and Conversion

Conflict, Conquest, and Conversion: Two Thousand Years of Christian Missions in the Middle East

Eleanor H. Tejirian
Reeva Spector Simon
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 296
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Conflict, Conquest, and Conversion
    Book Description:

    Conflict, Conquest, and Conversion surveys two thousand years of the Christian missionary enterprise in the Middle East within the context of the region's political evolution. Its broad, rich narrative follows Christian missions as they interacted with imperial powers and as the momentum of religious change shifted from Christianity to Islam and back, adding new dimensions to the history of the region and the nature of the relationship between the Middle East and the West.

    Historians and political scientists increasingly recognize the importance of integrating religion into political analysis, and this volume, using long-neglected sources, uniquely advances this effort. It surveys Christian missions from the earliest days of Christianity to the present, paying particular attention to the role of Christian missions, both Protestant and Catholic, in shaping the political and economic imperialism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Eleanor H. Tejirian and Reeva Spector Simon delineate the ongoing tensions between conversion and the focus on witness and "good works" within the missionary movement, which contributed to the development and spread of nongovernmental organizations. Through its conscientious, systematic study, this volume offers an unparalleled encounter with the social, political, and economic consequences of such trends.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51109-4
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    This history of Christian missions in the Middle East is an outgrowth of a project called “Altruism and Imperialism,” begun at the Middle East Institute of Columbia University in 1998. At the time, the idea that missionary activity was relevant to the history and politics of the Middle East was just beginning to become acceptable. Few courses were offered that covered the missionary enterprise, even in religion departments and seminaries, except at evangelical institutions, despite the fact that major universities house important mission archival collections.

    In fact, until quite recently, in the story of the Middle East in modern times...

  5. ONE The Spread of Christianity: The First Thousand Years
    (pp. 1-24)

    The first story recounts Jesus’s recruitment of the first missionaries, the twelve disciples who followed him during his lifetime. Peter and Simon were followed by two more brothers, James and John (the “sons of thunder”), and then by Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James (the Less), Thaddeus (called Jude), Simon the Zealot, and finally Judas, later accused of betraying Jesus to the Romans. The stories of the travels of the first eleven, though perhaps apocryphal in many cases, give us a clear idea of the lands to which the Christian message was thought to have been carried in the first century,...

  6. TWO The Latin West in the Middle East: Pilgrimage, Crusade, and Mission
    (pp. 25-44)

    After the seventh century, Western efforts at conversion in the Middle East centered primarily on members of the Eastern churches to Catholicism rather than Muslims to Christianity.¹ Taken together, the Great Schism of 1054, the Crusades, and the Sack of Constantinople in 1204 marked the changing relationship between Eastern and Western Christendom. As a result of the Muslim conquests of the seventh century, the gradual conversion of the population of the Mediterranean basin, Mesopotamia, and Persia to Islam, and the conversion of northern Europe to Christianity, most Christians were living in western Europe. In response to this new situation, in...

  7. THREE Disintegration, Revival, Reformation, and Counter-Reformation: 1450–1800
    (pp. 45-68)

    Two dates define Muslim–Christian relations in the fifteenth century. The first is 1453, the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks, who already held the territories of the eastern Roman Empire. The second is 1492, the completion of the reconquista that resulted in the expulsion from Spain of all Muslims, most of whom relocated to North Africa, and of Jews, who settled primarily in Muslim lands on the Mediterranean littoral and in areas directly under Ottoman rule.

    From the founding of the Franciscan and Dominican mendicant orders in the early thirteenth century and the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215,...

  8. FOUR The Great Awakening of the Protestants and the Anglicans
    (pp. 69-93)

    William Blake’s famous lines written in 1804 tell us much about the development of the missionary impulse in Britain in the eighteenth century:

    I will not cease from Mental Fight

    Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:

    Till we have built Jerusalem,

    In England’s green & pleasant Land.

    As with the Crusades, there was an emphasis on conquest by the sword, on the centrality of Jerusalem, and now on the identification of England with Jerusalem—the millenarianism that marked the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Imperialism joined with the new ideas of the Enlightenment to inspire the Great Awakening in...

  9. FIVE Missionaries and European Diplomatic Competition
    (pp. 94-114)

    Russian assertion of the role of protector of Eastern Christians in the mid-nineteenth century, a claim that had lain in abeyance since the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji, complicated an already tense situation within the Greek Orthodox community in Jerusalem.¹ Although the Greek Orthodox community was one of the three major Christian communities in the city (Catholics and Armenians were the other two), it had no powerful and active foreign protector like the French in the case of the Catholics (or Latins, as they were called) and the British for the Protestants.² Despite Russian assertions after Kuchuk Kainarji, the Ottomans played...

  10. SIX The Imperialist Moment: From the Congress of Berlin to World War I
    (pp. 115-137)

    After 1870, Italy and Germany, at that time new countries on the European map, flexed their national muscles by looking for colonies in Asia and Africa. Imperial France, which had been humiliated by defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870), was now challenged by a Germany seeking diplomatic predominance in the Ottoman Empire and North Africa. Russia continued the Great Game in Central Asia. In 1877, while Britain was occupied in Afghanistan, Russia repudiated the Treaty of Paris, which had guaranteed the neutrality of the Black Sea. The Eastern Crisis that followed led once again to war between the Ottoman Empire...

  11. SEVEN Achievements and Consequences: Intended and Unintended
    (pp. 138-166)

    By the start of World War I in 1914, there was a significant Christian missionary presence in the Middle East. Whether working as institutional extensions of French, German, or Russian policy in the Middle East and North Africa or on an individual basis as most British and American Protestants did after a century of work, Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants had purchased property and established churches and schools. By 1914, 75 percent of all Western Protestant enterprises in Anatolia and the Balkans (still part of the Ottoman Empire) were under the control of the ABCFM. Other ABCFM enterprises—in Syria, Persia,...

  12. EIGHT World War I: Nationalism, Independence, and the Fate of the Missionary Enterprise
    (pp. 167-186)

    The Protestant missionary movement reached its height in the World Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh in 1910. After a century of increasing activity around the world, coupled with the economic, political, and military dominance of western Europe and the United States, countries from which the missionaries came, they had every reason to expect continued expansion and success. How could they have guessed that within a decade, particularly in the Middle East, the entire structure would lie in ruins? Yet the signs of impending disaster were there.

    The 1908 Young Turk rebellion by the Committee for Union and Progress set in...

  13. NINE Setting the Agenda: From Conversion to Witness—and Back
    (pp. 187-208)

    By 1925, the political map of the Middle East had totally changed from its configuration a decade earlier. The Ottoman Empire, having lost World War I, had been dismembered and become the Republic of Turkey, no longer a multinational, multiconfessional empire. Persia, which had been effectively divided into zones of Russian and Persian influence during the war, had acquired a new monarch, Reza Shah Pahlavi, and would soon acquire a new name, “Iran.” The Russian threat from the north had diminished as the newly established Soviet Union turned inward. British influence, however, increased as the British established League of Nations...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 209-244)
    (pp. 245-270)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 271-280)