This article focuses on the encounter between two actors of the mission of the Gülen Movement: Turkish teachers dedicated to the cause, and African teachers hired locally. It underlines the gap existing between the two groups as well as their diverging teaching conceptions. Through a sociological analysis of this religious institution, this article is an attempt to explain the origins of these gaps as well as the points of convergence between them. Beyond the observation of objective social status differences, it uses a processual approach of their commitments in the religious institution to shed a new light on the day-to-day reality of a Muslim Mission originating from Turkey in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The history of Christians and Muslims in Egypt are often studied separately. The situations of Muslims and Christians are indeed very different—the structures of power differ, the fact of being a minority for Christians, many theological differences etc.—but the social context is mostly similar. The histories of religious reformist movements among Muslims and Christians share a lot of similarities. One possibility to approach the subject would be to propose parallel histories showing differences and common points. Another one would look for transversal ways of analysing inside missions (Egyptian missions trying to convert/reform Egyptians). Alain Roussillon’s body of work on reformism (social, religious and political) can help develop this second option of research. This communication would like to show how “reformism” can be a useful paradigm to analyse a particular and central aspect of both Christian and Muslim missionary movements: the mission targeting poor people and intending at the same time to fight superstitions and to reform their social behaviours perceived as backward.
This concluding chapter draws on the different studies that this book collects, dealing with missionary work and preaching in the Arab world within monotheistic religions, while engaging in a dialogue through the ethnographic fieldworks of the authors, in Tunisia and in the Arab diaspora in Sweden. They explore guidelines for a theoretical framework to think through missionary work. Thus, they underline the issues which run through different chapters of the book. In accordance with the analogies made both by religious actors and scholars of religion, the authors spin the economic metaphor in order to carve out some aspects of missionary work, such as the importance of mobility and migrations, racial differentiation, models of gendered division of labour, and general issues of hierarchies and power. Four points emerge from the chapters as key areas of overlap, offering heuristic research avenues for a comparative anthropology of the missionary phenomenon: 1) a comparative sociology of missionary work; 2) an analysis of missionary geographies and the associated spatial metaphors; 3) the question of mobility in missionary activity, a condition engendering anonymity and distrust and serving to cast suspicion over the authenticity of conversions; 4) finally, a path focused on interpreting missionary activity through the prism of gift, exchange and debt.
Mission incorporates at its essence the idea of preaching, of communicating to others. In Western Christian terms, this has formed the basis of the discipline of homiletics, but this perspective—of which I am a part, in terms of heteropatriarchy, racial capitalism and colonialism—represents only a fraction of the wider topic, and in this essay, I explore ways of broadening these horizons.
I argue that we need to decolonise our discourse on homiletics, recognising that in different forms, missionaries and others have sought to persuade and convince others of their own positionality. The language used by Middle East mission historians has varied in describing this, but more broadly the question of how we decolonise reflections on preaching, on homiletics, is deeply problematic: too often is is about simply ‘adding’ (e.g. Jewish or Muslim) perspectives, but this is insufficient. ‘Adding’ leaves the framing intact and suggests that what is at stake is not the framing itself, but the breadth of the framing. That is not decolonising.
Instead, I argue we need to rethink the framing of this discourse altogether, and I seek to offer ways to do that, inspired by Critical Religion and postcolonial scholars. In particular, I emphasise our own positionality as historians and storytellers of missions, and using Spivak and Rothberg amongst others, I argue for an intersectional approach to mission history that involves reflecting on our own positionality in the wider discourse of missions and preaching and thereby re-forming the discourse. This does not make the discourse about us but recognises our place as future historical figures in discussing these questions, therefore more truly reflecting how we engage in decolonising processes that do justice to all the participants in a preaching relationship, both historical and contemporary.
Far from being monopolised by the Genocide of 1915, Armenian history of the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries offers a wealth of opportunities for further inquiries, across a vast array of topics. One such example is that of Evangelical missionary activity in Ottoman Armenia: after the creation of a Protestant millet within the Ottoman Empire in 1846, mainly composed of Armenians who turned to the Evangelical confession, missionaries—especially from the United States—began to be a more and more customary presence among Armenians under Ottoman rule. Such activities sparked a competition between the Evangelical missionaries, the Armenian-Catholic communities (who enjoyed French support) and the traditional Armenian Apostolic Church, often backed by the Russian Empire. To see such events at the light of the Genocide would be tempting, but also anachronistic. In order to avoid the effect of hindsight, which is particularly dangerous for historical research, the aim of this contribution is to see how the Evangelic missionary activity grew and developed in Armenia up to the beginning of the First World War, in order to understand, as far as it is possible, the aims and the visions of the missionaries and of the newly converted communities alike
This chapter addresses the issue of Christian missions in the Middle East by departing from the figure of Western ‘missionaries’, which tends to obscure religious dynamics on the ground. After positing the Istanbul Evangelical circuit as a fragmented totality and missionary labour as unevenly divided among believers, we put forward hypotheses on this labour, based on an ethnography of Evangelicalism in Istanbul. Data suggests that missionary labour is not a profession, that it is a marginal activity, oriented towards Christian majority countries, and finally a political migration institution.
Reflecting on a mission involving a religion with universal but non-proselytizing ambitions such as Judaism obviously entails reflecting from the viewpoint of the “inner mission.” However, beginning in the late eighteenth century, in the wake of the dual phenomenon of emancipation and assimilation, the Judaicities of Western Europe transformed, and imagined a confessionalised and nationalized Judaism compatible with modernity. Paradoxically, this new form of Judaism led to the development of a philanthropy directed especially toward the Jewish communities of the Mediterranean basin. Beginning with private initiatives such as those of Moses Montefiore, this phenomenon became institutionalized during the second half of the nineteenth century via associations such as l’Alliance israélite universelle (AIU) founded in 1860, and its counterparts the Anglo-Jewish Association (AJA, 1871) and the HilfsVerein der Deutschen Juden (HdDJ, 1901). While these organizations claimed to be defending a national model, their grasp of Oriental Judaicities—everywhere considered archaic from the standpoint of the ideal of progress embodied by Europe—were broadly in agreement, as were their strategies for regeneration. These strategies used the same approach as Christian missionaries: founding institutions such as schools, hospitals, and other charities, which would serve as crucibles for the unification of Judaism on the model of Europe’s “regenerated” Judaicities, with respect to both the renewal of religious practices and support for the idea of civilization. The phenomenon expanded rapidly in both the Ottoman and Persian Empires, as well as in North Africa. Leaders were quickly recruited on site from among local populations, demonstrating the theoretical relevance of this project that some have called the “interior colonization of Judaism,” one that left a lasting mark despite the resistance it met.
Before and during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876–1909) the Ottoman state envisaged a Sunni “Missionary Society” (Daîler Cemiyeti) that would fight Christian missionary zeal. Although “orthodox” Sunni Islam does not involve active proselytizing in the Christian sense of “saving souls,” some officials promoted a Sunni establishment in areas where non-Sunnis such as Alevis, Alawis/Nusayris, and Yezidis lived and the dissemination of counter propaganda books among them. One of the major proposals was that a “Book of Beliefs” consisting of the doctrines of various non-Sunni beliefs should be written for trained Sunni missionaries in order to be able to respond to their followers and write refutations against those beliefs. This chapter is a preliminary overview of a still largely unexplored topic about the “civilising mission” of the late Ottoman Empire in the context of an “internal mission” as an attempt to stabilise the order in the face of “disobedient” religious groups in the early 19th century, and later as an attempt to prevent the work and influence of Protestant missionaries who were active in Ottoman domains. Drawing on Ottoman archives and published sources (chronicles, yearbooks), I attempt to tie together and analyse efforts of the Ottoman State to “correct the beliefs” of non-Sunni groups in the Empire with the official “orthodox” Sunni creed by way of a Sunni missionary project, utilising the ideology of “Panislam”.