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Middle East Missions: Nationalism, Religious Liberty and Cultural Encounter

26 May 2011

Organisers: Christian Missions in Global History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, and German Historical Institute London

Venue: German Historical Institute London

This Workshop sets out to explore some key aspects of Christian missionary ventures in the twentieth-century Middle East during and after the demise of the Ottoman Empire. Although the primary focus of the case-studies is Egypt, all four contributions raise issues of wider relevance to the region and Muslim-Christian relations more generally. The first two papers portray Christians operating on a larger, more political canvas. We begin with the challenges faced in an era of Arab nationalism by the Coptic Church, the historic Christian presence in Egypt, as Vivian Ibrahim looks at the campaign mounted to draw in British and mission support for the Coptic cause. John Stuart then probes the sustained pursuit of religious liberty by a long-serving CMS Cairo missionary, who lobbied widely for freedom from discrimination in religious proclamation and observance as a ‘human right’. The second pair of papers shares a more intimate social, cultural and spiritual slant. Samir Boulos analyses two English mission schools, focusing on how different educational institutions shaped concepts and discourses as well as practices, within processes of cultural exchange. Finally, Catriona Laing considers the new missionary strategies evolved by Constance Padwick in the face of the failure of Christian missions to Islam, with an emphasis on prayer as an entry point, coupled with a desire for more translation into Arabic, and greater cooperation with the Eastern Churches. We hope questions from those attending will also offer comparative insights from further afield, alongside comments from Heather Sharkey as discussant.

Workshop porogramme (PDF file)
Workshop report (PDF file), published in: GHIL Bulletin 33 (2011), Vol 2