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From Empire to Republic

The Role of American Missionaries in US-Ottoman Empire Relations and their Educational Legacy

Hacer Bahar

This book focuses on American missionary activities in the Ottoman Empire. After the construction of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission in 1810, American missionaries started to spread the Gospel around the world. The Ottoman Empire was perceived as a strategic place since it occupied Jerusalem. By the time they arrived, American missionaries found a weak central authority. Some of the Ottoman officials considered that Westernization of the public institutions in the Empire could strengthen central authority. In order to protect its integrity, the Ottoman Empire started to grant freedoms to the minorities. After gaining liberties, American Missionaries further strengthened their position in the Empire. This book analyzes the strong image of American missionary schools through Robert College which was established in 1863. Robert College which reflects American ideals, preserves its distinguished place to this day.

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1 The Origins of American Protestant Missionaries

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Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15.

A missionary is a person whose aim is to spread their religion to the inhabitants of foreign countries with the term generally being used for Christians. The term mission originates from the Latin missio which means despatching or sending, amongst other things (Aydın 2005). The term not only means assignment, but mission is also used in reference to the institutions that Christians have established. The earliest missionary activities can be traced back to the Saints or original disciples of Jesus (Cilacı 1982). The history of missionary undertaking can be divided into five time periods: Saints Era (33–100); Church Establishment Era (100–800); Middle Ages Era (800–1500); Reformation Era (1500–1650); Post Reformation Era (1650–1800); Modern Era (1800-Today) (Kocabasoglu 2000, in Taskin 2007: 31).

Saint Paul is considered one of the pioneers of Christian missionaries. He established churches in Anatolia, Macedonia and Greece in order to spread Christianity. In the sixth century, Saint Augustinus sent preachers to the Anglo-Saxons. In the eighth century, Saint Bonifacius tried to spread Christianity throughout Rhein. Charlemagne’s victories also led to the Saxons’ acceptance of Christianity. In the ninth century, Germanic people started to embrace Christianity, and in the same century, Christianity became widespread in Sweden and Bohemia. In the tenth century, Christianity started to be accepted in Denmark and Christian missions emerged in Russia, Prussia and Hungary. With German...

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