Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Orthodox History: How US Slavery Undermined Protestant Missionaries in 1860 Beirut

The important blog Orthodox History has recently posted a very interesting account by an English Protestant missionary in Beirut about how the issue of slavery undermined the efforts of primarily American Protestant missionaries, who overwhelmingly targeted Orthodox for conversion.

In the 19th century, American and English Protestant denominations sent loads of missionaries to the Ottoman Empire in an effort to convert the native Christian population — most of whom were Orthodox — to Protestantism. These missionaries would write letters to be published back home, usually condemning the “ignorant” Orthodox for idol worship, etc., and excitedly reporting back whenever they managed to win a convert.

Things weren’t going so well for those Protestant missionaries in 1860, though. On May 31, 1860, the New York Evangelist published excerpts from a letter written by an English missionary in Beirut complaining that the existence of slavery in the United States was undermining Protestant efforts to convert the native population in Syria. This letter was first published in the Levant Herald of Constantinople.

Read the account here.

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