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.