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Volume :5 Issue : 20 1979      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

THE POLITICAL ACTIVITY OF THE MISSIONARIES

Auther : Dr. Abdel Malek Al-Tameemi

 

INTRODUCTION: THE ARABIAN AMERICAN MISSION:

           This is an American Protestant Mission with evangelistic aims in Arabia.  It was formed in 1889 by its first founder, Dr. Lansing and three assistants at New Brunswick, New Jersey in the United States.  This mission was belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church in America.

           After detailing the plan of work, the Mission started moving to the fieldwork beginning by Beirut for learning Arabic.  They gathered and studied all the relevant information about the region.  Beirut was not among the areas to be (occupied), but it was a transit station for the Mission’s field works in the Arab Gulf Region.  At Beirut the missionaries got help from the American missionaries who were already active long before the American Arabian Mission was born.

           After Beirut, the Mission went to Basra in Iraq, and started to construct the first station.  That station in later years became the center and the base of the missionaries’ operations in the Arab Gulf Region.  From there, they moved to open stations in Bahrain, Muscat and Kuwait.  They also opened sub-stations at Amarah in Iraq and Matrah in Oman.

           The Mission concentrated on the medical and educational activities as missionary approaches and means for its missionary work.  Actually medically, the Mission greatly and sincerely served the people of the region, but some of these missionaries had a political activity also.  In this study an attempt to understand and analyze the political involvement of the Mission in the Arab Gulf Region. 

 POLITICAL IMPLICATION:

             Imperialism is a result of two important events, which took place in Europe.  The first one was geographical discovery in the 16th century and the other was the Industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th century.  Consequently the European countries began their colonial ventures in the region in 19th century looking for new markets and new sources of raw materials.

           Then the Christian missionaries also began their operations in non-Christian countries, which has already fallen under colonial domination.  Both the two elements thought that there was a common purpose between them and that they should co-operate in order to achieve their aims.

           These matters in fact caused great physical, cultural, economic and political changes which no doubt had been accompanied by equally great changes in the spiritual sphere.  How did the missionaries see in Imperialism, the bridge to reach non-Christians?

           These are some of the Western Writers views:

           “It is a geographical fact that colonial expansion was the immediate signal for the commencement of missionary work”.

           “The Missionaries’ religious interests before the First World war were aided by the continued presence of the European consults which gave them the security of a certain political dignity”.

           “As a result of the Christian Mission in the colonial period, the Christian Church exists in every corner of the earth”.

           It is possible from reading these views to come to an important conclusion that there was a link between missionary work and imperialism.  The colonial powers in fact served missionary work in two directions, paving the way for its activities, and protecting in their field operations.  In the missionaries’ opinion the existence and protection of their work could not be achieved without the help of those colonial powers.  But this was not without its price and therefore some of them found themselves involved in politics, by giving details about the political, social situation etc.., in regular reports.  The missionaries’ close contact with the people and their leaders enabled them to obtain information that the colonial powers could not obtain.

           Such a relationship compelled the people to react against both of them.  The mission co-operated with the British authority, because it realized that without such co-operation it could not assure its future, and it could not obtain British agreement to act there.

           What about the Mission’s relationship with the American Government?

           The Mission managed to build good relationships with both American and British authorities.  The U.S. government had encouraged Christian missionary undertakings in the non-Christian countries when it adopted a policy of protection for all American citizens abroad.  The Arabian American Mission got help from the United States consuls in the region.

           Actually, in order to stay and continue the Mission built good relationship also with the local governments.  At the end we come to the conclusion that the Mission entered upon a political involvement, sometimes compelled and sometimes by choice.

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