The article investigates the emergence and transformation of humanitarian associations in Egypt from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. It argues that on the one hand these associations were new institutions echoing the foundation of new charitable organisations worldwide and in Egypt. The colonial domination of Egypt and its refusal by the Egyptians thereby played a prominent role. On the other hand, the humanitarian associations have to be seen in the continuity of long-established practices and discourses of charity, performed in particular by religious endowments (awqāf). Based on the example of the Egyptian Red Crescent, which is explored through a wide range of un explorer Egyptian, British and Swiss archives as well as a broad historiography in European and Arabic languages, this article emphasises the interconnections between international, regional, national and local institutions in Egypt in the field of philanthropy.
At the end of the First World War, a profoundly transformed Middle East faced massive population displacements and health crises, which presented crucial challenges for humanitarian actors. North American philanthropy and charity played a decisive role in this context. Among the organisations involved, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (cnewa) is not well known. It was established by American Catholics to help Eastern Christians – especially Greek Catholics – and to thwart the influence of Protestantism in the region, mainly by supporting local Churches and missions in their humanitarian and welfare work. cnewa was quickly placed under the supervision of the US episcopate and the Vatican, partly transforming its operations and purposes. Its activity became closely involved with the Eastern policy of the Holy See, which primarily focused on the “return” of Orthodox Christians to the Roman Church. This article, at the crossroads of the history of mission and humanitarian aid, examines the early developments of cnewa and highlights how the Catholic Church dealt with the emergence of modern humanitarian aid in the mid-twentieth century.
From the fourth century ce, Christians were encouraged to redeem their faults by caring for the poor. The most striking manifestation of this phenomenon was the building by the Church of more or less specialised hospices throughout the Early Byzantine Empire (4th to 7th century ce) to accommodate those who depended on charity for their survival. These establishments are mentioned by ancient texts and lapidary inscriptions. About nine such facilities, ptocheion for the needy, xenodocheion for foreigners and travelers, diakonia where food was distributed and other types of charitable hospices can be listed in the ancient province of Arabia (Southern Syria, Northern Jordan). The available data, whether textual or archaeological since some remains are observable on the field, are presented in this paper and compared to those collected elsewhere in the Near East.
Different forms of charity, relief and humanitarian action can be jointly approached as a means of governance and social regulation. More precisely, in the Middle East the question of stability – social and political – can be considered as a central driver for local and international actors alike. This study adopts a broad historical framework, reaching from antiquity to the present day, with the aim of approaching the subject with an openness conducive to understanding the evolution of the actors, modes of action and representations underlying aid initiatives. The longue durée approach allows to show two main specificities of the modern and contemporary Middle East: firstly, the evolution of aid practices is directly linked to human mobility, since they are connected to religious practices, commerce or violence, which led to the need to take a census, to categorise and sometimes isolate populations in order to govern and control them. Secondly, in the absence of the welfare state as the most important provider of aid, the state has until today in the Middle East much less prominence among the multiplicity of aid providers, such as the family, non-governmental, religious and community organisations.
The holy city of Hebron had perhaps the most long established and renowned imāret, called al-simāt al-Khalīl, the Table of Abraham, for feeding the poor and needy people, pilgrims, sūfīs, travelers, strangers, and other guests who arrived at its shrines. Gifts of food and large-scale distributions were standard practice during various religious festivals and celebrations, which were not only substantive but comprised a measure of sanctity as well. This thriving table retained its vitality for the region during also the Ottoman period. This study defines the actual operation of this simāt in the Ottoman period. For this, the article aims to establish the revenue and expense figures of the simāt, and then evaluate personnel records, their wages, and kitchen outlays in order to reach a conclusion about the scope of operations sustained by the simāt. It will make use a set of valuable historical sources like waqf account books to be able to provide valuable insights into not only the actual operation of the simāt, but also its economic and social role in general.
As a privileged site for individual and collective acts of charity, Jerusalem witnessed an important increase in charity and poor relief institutions in the nineteenth century, many of them European-backed and related to missionary ambitions. Partly in response to the perceived threat of the latter, the municipality of Jerusalem gradually became a crucial actor in poor relief, in the framework of an evolving legal framework defining the social responsibilities of municipalities and the rights of citizens. Drawing on the archives of the municipality, as well as diaries and memoirs of Jerusalemites, this article examines this transformation particularly in the realms of social welfare and health services.
Since 2011, more than a million Syrians have fled to Lebanon. Standing close to the Syrian border, the welfare departments of Eastern Christian bishoprics in Zahle are at the forefront of the humanitarian response. Through the comparison of the Maronite, Greek Catholic and Syriac Orthodox Churches, I argue that these faith-based organisations (fbo s) implement an “appropriate” mode of reasoning to design their humanitarian aid strategies which challenges rational assumptions. This article reveals that the “national” or “diasporic” character of Lebanese Christian fbo s matters more than their welfare capacity in determining the Church’s policy of care at times of crisis. These examples illustrate that fbo s present a rare adaptiveness to their beneficiaries’ needs, notably by relying on transnational and diasporic support. Overall, this research demonstrates that fbo s are essential actors in addressing situations of forced displacements, but it also emphasises the importance of considering each fbo’s identity to understand their mechanisms of solidarity.