Christian aid in times of political change - The »Orient« at the Turn of the Century (end of 19. - 20. century)


Church Development Service in times of political upheaval - the "Orient" around the Turn of the Century (early end 19.- 20th Century)

A historical postcolonial view from the Disability Studies on social and scientific achievements


Eberhard Werner



In this essay the historical discourse about the Christian-Islamic rapprochement in the Orient around the turn of the century to the 20th century regarding the tasks for Christian development aid organizations is considered. The power conflicts that arise represent the Christian-Islamic discourse of this time. The so-called "contact zones" of these encounters took place at different epochs and in different spheres of life, which is why the historical analysis of the "contact zones" is significant. It examines the development and influence of Christian development aid organizations and their actors on the political and religious developments of that time. The following focuses and developments are limited and considered: * Printed matter and Bible translations, * Education and research priorities, especially of scientific societies of Oriental Studies, * the importance of transnational focal points, so-called mission-stations, schools, hospitals, and lastly * the discourse around marginalized strata of the population and the maintenance of orphanages, homes and institutions. In the context of Disability Studies, the integrative and inclusive participation thoughts of the actors are of particular interest. The Christoffel Blindenmission (CBM) with its pedagogical-diaconal approach, founded in 1907/1908 as the Christian Mission in the Orient, is an example of the reflections. The ethnographic approach used here shows diachronic-postcolonial discourses on this region known as the Orient. It includes eastern Anatolia, western Iran, northern Iraq and northern Syria.

1. Islamic-Christian Discourses in the Orient - Historical Observations

This article is written from a Christian-Western perspective. As part of an intersubjective approach, personal experiences, observations and research from the field of research supplement the historical facts.

In the 19th century, the Orient regains its magic for the European and American powers. A similar fascination is reported by the 11-12. century. It was mainly inspired by the political-religious church-directed military campaigns ("crusades") and some adventurous pilgrims to Asia (e.g. the Italian Marco Polo * 1254- † 1324). From this time, the encounter of St. Francis (* 1182- † 1226) with the Egyptian Sultan Al-Kamil Muhammad al-Malik (* 1177- † 1238) in 1219 is handed down to us. Their talks represent the beginning of the interreligious dialogue between Christianity and Islam. Contrary to this positive event, this epoch must also be regarded as the first wave of colonial aspirations of the West in the East. They were preceded by Islamic-colonial aspirations in the eighth century, which extended across North Africa to Western Europe. The "reconquista," the liberation of the Iberian peninsula, ended the 780-year Islamic rule over Spain and Portugal. It began in 711 and ended in 1492. After the fall of Constantinople and the Byzantines in 1453 by the Ottoman Emperor Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror (* 1432- † 1481), turned the covetous view of the Western powers on the world discovery or -conquest. The Italian Christopher Columbus (Genoa, ~ * 1451-† 1506) became the most famous face of the time.

Above all, the anti-Ottoman mood of the Reformation, triggered by the Ottoman sieges of Vienna in 1529 by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (~ * 1494- † 1566) and 1683 by Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha (~ * 1634- † 1683), who went down in history as the "Turkish wars", represented the low point of European-Ottoman relations. With King Frederick I (* 1657- † 1713) came as an Ottoman honor gift twenty Turkish lancers into the army of the "long guys". In favor of this, they were allowed in Berlin in 1739 an Islamic place of worship, a cemetery and an Islamic mosque planting. With this step, preceded by diplomatic relations, the political bridge was breached to Constantinople.

In the 19th century, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM)[1] and the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS)[2] began to focus their attention and work on the Orient. During this time developed 

  • the general interest of Christian-diaconal organizations in China (Hildesheimer Blindenmission) and the Near East[3] (Christian Mission in the Orient, today Christoffel Blindenmission), 
  • furthermore the Christian service by single women and 
  • the medical orientation and education Christian development aid organizations. 

This article looks at Eastern Anatolia, the West-Iran, northern Iraq, Lebanon and northern Syria. At that time, political and economic forces as well as American Christian developmental forces had discovered the Orient as an operative-diaconal sphere of influence.[4] The Orient stepped in the foreground in Western literature, science and politics as a strategic research and action object.[5] As will be shown, Western academic Orientalism, Egyptology, Iranian Studies, and Islamic and religious studies have their origins in this historical period.

The Basel Mission was asked in 1829 by Robert Pinkerton if she wanted to start a work in the Orient under "Kurds"[6] . He himself was a member of the Russia British and Foreign Bible Society (founded 1804). The employees Christian Gottlieb Hoernle (*1804-†unknown, Ludwigsburg / Southern Germany) and F. E. Schneider arrived in Tabriz in 1834. Later, Christian Friedrick Hass [*1801] and Asahel Grant joined them. They belonged to the ABCFM. This was founded in 1810 and since 1870 a congregational body, which integrated in 1957 in the United Church of Christ. From the beginning the ABCFM was closely associated with the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Mission (founded 1837), today Presbyterian Mission Agency. Hoernle, after two trips through the Kurdistan region, abandoned the project due to linguistic, racial ideological[7] and logistical challenges. He named the following, in his opinion, unsolvable challenges:

·         the diversity of peoples, languages ​​and dialects of Eastern Anatolia (Armenian, Turkish, Kurmanji, Zazaki, Domari, Lazic, Lom, etc.).

·         the historical powers and their influence. In particular, the following political constellations: the great empire of Armenia, the Kurdistan region, the Russian occupation and the colonial occupation of Italy, France and Great Britain.

·         the peculiarity of tribal Kurdish peoples who roamed their environment within their tribes and clans as nomads and robbers. They were considered ineducable. Last

·         the geographically difficult and climatically challenging operational area: high mountain ranges (e. g. Taurus, Nemrut), deep river and stream runs (Euphrates, Tigris, Pulumur, Murat) and plateaus with dangerous caves, incisions and morays (Blincoe 1998: 37 refers to Waldburger 1983).

At the same time, in 1830, the Christian development workers Eli Smith and Harrison Gray Otis Dwight (ABCFM) traveled from Smyrna (today's Izmir) to the interior of Anatolia and to eastern Anatolia (30). Immediately after this discovery of the Orient, a whole wave of Western Christian development workers came into the area. They understood themselves as "ambassadors of Christ"(ambassadors for Christ) following 2 Corinthians 5:20 and are now referred to as "cultural brokers" or "cultural mediators" in historical research because they mediate between cultures (reciprocal cultural information exchange Zeuge-Buberl 2017:16). The Ottoman authorities and the leaders of the local ethnic groups called them Christian “missionaries”. From then on, the term found a negative connotation that continues to this day, which goes hand in hand with "imperialist, fascist, invader, public enemy, spy" or similar.[8] This is a significant difference to the African or Far Eastern context, where the perception of Christian-Ecclesiastical Aid Services and their actors has been received rather positively (Sanneh 1992:105, 115). Emic (insider perspective) and etic (perspective from outside) postcolonial studies are very different at this point. They are represented by Christian actors in the context of the historical clerical development service by cultural imperialism. This is regarded in postcolonial research as Western-Christian arrogance, which relies on Western economic, military and humanitarian superiority.

The initial interest in Islam was not lost, but escaped through several valves. This had different, but at least two main reasons: Firstly, the self-perception of Muslim rulers and their population as superior to the West, challenged the Christian workers deeply in their cultural-imperialist approach. The own superiority of Christian values ​​was shaken in its foundations. Second, the harsh conversion ban on Islamic rulers was a huge hurdle. Thus, the focus moved to the Jewish as well as the non-Islamic population and especially on the Christian peoples (Armenians, Aramaeans) and ethnic groups (Nestorians, Russian Orthodox, Georgians) in the area of ​​eastern Anatolia, present-day Lebanon, northern Syria, Iraq and Persia. The initial dialogue with the Jewish population remained fruitless as well as with the Muslims. Hope was risen for liberation from the yoke of Islam, in particular the burdening tax, which Christian peoples and ethnic groups had to pay in regard to their dhimmi status, as tolerated fellow citizens in the area of the dar as islam "house of Islam". They therefore first opened up to the Western cultural mediators. But from early on, the church leaders feared the collapse of their own structures. Referred to as "(New) Nestorians," local churches formed in a Western pattern. They distinguished themselves from their ancestral churches (Blincoe 1998: 33, 35). In particular, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Assyrian churches and the Nestorians took defensive measures to the invocation of the Ottoman authorities. At the same time, the Islamic peoples (Kurds, Lazens, Zaza) were cautious by the increase in power of their Christian neighbors.

The Kurdish leaders also came into political conflict with the Ottoman rulers in Constantinople (officially Istanbul in 1930). Since 1840, the High Gate (dynasty in Constantinople) has directly asserted its influence in the East by telegraph and strategically placed military bases. The self-enrichment of Kurdish (»mir«) and Armenian (»raya«) tribal rulers was curtailed. The oppression of Christian minorities by the Kurds, which was often slavery-like, was opposed (Kieser 2000: 120), as a result of the tanzimat reforms of 1839. The non-Islamic people groups fell under the state-sovereign institutions of millet and thus under the protection of the Sublime Porte (Problem area see below). The resulting "contact zones" (contact zones) formed areas of friction of various interests and power potentials (Pratt 1991:34)[9].

2. Crashes between Political Forces - Political-Ethnic Discourses

It is astonishing that despite political instability in these regions, Christian cultural brokers in the Church's development service were concerned with inclusive pedagogical approaches. Pastor Ernst Lohmann (*1860- †1936, German auxiliary federation founded 1896), Dr. med. Johannes Lepsius (*1858- †1926, German Orient Mission - DOM founded in 1895 and Lepsius German Orient Mission - LDOM founded in 1917) and the Swiss Aid Association had already founded orphanages in the Ottoman Empire out of a pedagogical interest. In this time and interest also falls the work of the sisters Christoffel. The political discourse surrounding the mission of the Christian Mission in the East (founded in 1908), which was renamed after the death of Ernst Jakob Christoffel (*1876- †1955) to Christoffel Blindenmission (CBM), can not be understood without the ongoing conflict potentials of these days. In particular, the developments around the decaying Ottoman Empire from the middle of the 19th century are significant. These include the 

  • so-called political "Kurdish question" and 
  • the religious problem area of ​​the "Alevis", a Zoroastrian-Gnostic faith that is made up of Turkish, Kurdish and Zazaan followers. 

These two, until today unresolved challenges from Ottoman times, form the starting point for the encounter of the power parties in Eastern Anatolia. Both questions become political-religious as they demand ethnic differentiation and religious freedom. To give these freedoms, the authorities in the Ottoman Empire (Constantinople), with the solution  of millet separation (see tanzimat -Reformenbelow), as well as in the modern centralized Turkish Republic (Ankara), were only partially prepared. How it came about and how the Christian development aid worked out there should now be considered.

The numerous "Kurdish" uprisings help to understand the power encounter. It is above all the Christian cultural mediators who reported biographically as contemporary witnesses of these events, namely the ABCFM, which cooperated closely with the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Mission (see above), the BFBS and later those German Christian aid agencies that focused on the Orient.[10]

The modern period of rebellion begins with Bedr Khan (Bedri Khan / Bedr Khan / Bedir Khan, *1803-†1868). He became famous for developing an alphabet of the Kurdish languages ​​Kurmanji and Sorani. His efforts were purely political in nature, less Kurdish-nationalist than tribalist power and influence (Heper 2007: 44-45). In consultation with the Ottoman leadership, he is responsible, together with Nurallah from Hakkari and Agha Ismael Pasha from Amadiya, for two massacres against the Christian Assyrians in the Mosul area and north of them in what is today the Turkish Mardin. First in 1843 and then in 1846 over 10,000 Christian Assyrians were executed. The Presbyterian development report from this period demonstrates that by Justin Perkins and Asahel Grant (Blincoe 1998: 15).

In 1880, Sheikh Ubeydullah (*1826- †1883) called for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate under Kurdish leadership in the area around Şemdinan, Hakkari province (Kieser 2000: 127-132). His national-Kurdish insurrection was based on a religious eschatology of near healing fulfillment (Olson 1989: 1-2).[11] He was a reaction to political power changes. sultan MahmudII.(* 1784- † 1839) and his reform-inspired son Sultan AbdulmejidI.(*1823-†1861) generated by the reconnaissance moved tanzimatclass (Turkish "reorganization") with a view to modernization. They were from 1839 to 1876 and ended with the first constitutional epoch. Sultan Abdulhamid II. (Abdul Hamid II, Renz 1985: 66) directs her to an Islamic-religious course (Kieser 2000: 120-121, Heper 2007: 44). The sphere of influence of Ubeydullah ranged from today's Hakkari, Van and Urmia lakes to the northern provinces of Iraq.[12] He was a leader from the still influential Sunni Nakshebendi Order. This can be traced back to the 15th century, but it reached its heyday in the 19th century (Bruinessen 1992: 273-274, Levtzion 1997: 150-151). In 1881, Sheikh Ubeydullah surrendered to the Ottoman authorities and came to Western exile to Istanbul and elsewhere (Olson 1989). The Christian medical development aid dr. Joseph Cochran, of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Mission, testified about this time, as he was in close contact with his personal physician, although he did not agree with Sheikh Ubeydallah's policy (Kieser 2000: 129). It was usus for the rulers Usus and also had a certain fate to use foreign or non-Islamic professionals for personal assistance. To compensate for conflict between Kurdish and Ottoman forces,the Ottomans  founded under Caliph Abdulhamid II (*1842- †1918) from 1878, the "light cavalry." They were named "Hamidiye" units based on the name of the caliph. As elite units, they could appeal directly to him. They were organizationally assigned to larger Ottoman units, but consisted in part of relatively autonomous Kurdish military (Olson 1989: 7-13, 18-19). It was also these units who essentially coordinated and initiated the massacres of the Armenians, the Christian and non-Islamic ethnic groups (Aramaeans, Greeks, Yezidis, Alevis).

In Iran from 1918-1922, the first politically motivated "Kurdish" so-called Simko Shikak revolt took place west of Urmia Lake. At the same time started, in the not yet established Turkish Republic, in the provinces of Sivas, Tunceli (formerly Dêsim / Dersim), and Erzincan, the Alevi Triangle, a conflict with the ruling Sunni Islamic Muslims. As a result of the vacuum of the ended colonial occupation[13] it came to political instability. In 1921, the religiously motivated Alevite flared there Kızılbaş Koçgiri Revolt, also called Ümraniye Hadisesi (German: Ümraniye incident) (1989: 32, 35-38).[14] She had the political wrangling in the transition to the Turkish Republic (1923) as background. Nuri Dersimi , was her best known representative (Olson 1989: 28-29).

This uprising, initiated by Zaza's Alevis, was bloodily crushed and formed the basis for the so-called zaz. Tertele , which in 1938 led to the destruction and devastation of countless villages and entire tracts of land around today's Tunceli. It was followed by mass deportations from 1938, the establishment of state-paid "village guards" (locals) and permanent local Turkish and military presence. This rebellion burned into the collective memory of the Alevi Zaza and was under Pir Reza / Rıza executed (Kieser 2000: 20; zaz. Pir dt. "Elder"). Politically ended the era of the founder of the state Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (*1881- †1938) and uncertainty spread.

In between, there was the Sunni Kurdish-Zaza Sheikh Said Uprising in 1925. This religiously initiated uprising must be understood as a showdown with the newly established Turkish republic and the sunken Ottoman Caliphate. The Caliphate should be reintroduced under Kurdish leadership.[15] Here, too, had used its influence to the Nakshebendi Order. The rebellion was also bloodily suppressed. He was essentially based on Zaza forces that allied with other Kurdish tribes, but which turned away towards the end of the revolt (Olson 1989: 35). For the Sunni Zaza (Hanifi, Shafi) the uprising became a symbol of resistance and defeat. Foreign reporters and Christian cultural mediators were not present due to the events of the World War or could not comment publicly. The travel ban in eastern Anatolia had also met Ernst Jakob Christoffel, who then moved towards Tabriz and Isfahan. He had started with his younger sister Hedwig Christoffel, she moved with him as a substitute for a then required wife, with a more than 2-year mission in an orphanage in Sivas (1904-1907), which was under the direction of the Swiss Hülfsbund. From 1908, both focused their attention on visually impaired orphans in Malatya. All pedagogical tools for the education of this group of people, such as a Turkish or Armenian braille alphabet and reading material were developed by them.

The Turkish military coups of 1960,[16] 1980 and the so-called quiet uprising in 1994 as well as the coup d'état in 2016 brought the conflict areas to the forefront again. The repressions that followed led, as before, to Aramaic, Assyrian, Kurdish and Alevi waves of emigration to Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the USA and Australia. This order describes the popularity of the migration goals. The impact of these uprisings on Christian organizations and workers now comes into focus.

3. Three directions of Christian development services in the Orient

The printing industry (1), the research institutes (2) and the schools as pedagogical centers (3) represent the thrusts of Christian development aid organizations in the 19th and 20th centuries. The ABCFM initially focused on centrally located stations concentrated. Following the example of military-economic colonial expansion, outposts and outposts were set up. They had the tasks of medical care and the education of help-seeking locals. They were involved in a strategic supply network. Following the Jewish Law (Hebrew Bible) and the New Testament, social justice was especially important for orphans, women and marginalized groups. The network followed the Western idea of ​​the local church, which in turn came from medieval monasteries and monasteries. In Africa and Asia, this colonial expansion was established, but found littlesupport in the Orient. If one considers the social discourse of the central stations, it turns out that in the Orient the social network was fulfilled by the militarily and economically linked "caravanserai" as the center of social life. Around them developed the religious (mosque, cem-evi engl. "Community house") and economic activity (commercial centers). The Christian approaches remained foreign bodies. Over time, the medical and pedagogical idea became locally established, but the socially permeating holistic approach was only partially effective. Here, the orphanage, the creation of institutions for people with physical or mental disabilities or the maintenance of schools met the nerve of local diaconal needs better. In particular, the Swiss, the German Orient Mission (Dr. Lepsius) or the homes of Christoffel are important because of their target group approach (Homogeneous Unit Principle according to McGavran 1990[17]).

Due to the lack of response from the local populations to the stations, only the printing industry remained to distribute (religious) printed matter, which consisted of schools and medical facilities. The schools have had a lasting impact and some have been transferred to the national school system as professional institutions in the 20th century (see below). The stimulated social, political and religious impulses can only be guessed.

Little is known of this time from the social discourse of people with physical or mental limitations. Neither, as they were perceived in the social latitude, nor as the Christian institutions and organizations encountered them, nor do we learn of handicapped Christian workers of the ABCFM, BFBS or other institutions, which would have affected the perception of the cultural brokers. For instance cultural broker Betty Warth, herself visually impaired worked in the Malatya orphanage with a huge impact (Thüne 2007: 75). Purely statistically[18] and due to the many wars and the then limited medical possibilities, this is still a question of perhaps unconscious repression of people with impairments this interesting question remains for Disability Studies.

The inclusive view of pedagogical-diaconal development aid on people with visual, physical and mental limitations had consequences for the whole society, which, however, proved to be unsustainable due to political upheavals. From personal stories of the successor generations, the high esteem that was paid to these institutions for a long time (see the school in Çüngüş about 100 km southeast of Malatya, personal interview with M. H. 2010) becomes clear.

In Christoffel's life's work, we find the focus on this pedagogical line of Christian development aid. He also follows the principle of the boarding school, that is a holistic institution in the sense of a service institution. Here Christoffel is completely in the diaconal tradition of Christian development aid of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The cultural imperialism of the American institutions, which he denounced, had already opposed an anti-colonialist approach to preaching in the mid-nineteenth century (Zeuge-Buberl 2017: 16-17). But this did not seem to be obvious to their colleagues from other nations. At this point, it should not be forgotten that "American culture" is a pluralistic-heterogeneous one in its history, and that there are serious differences to the likewise multi-layered "German worlds of life" (e. g. intercultural teams in Roembke 2000: 14, 21 and others).

Considering the efforts of the ABCFM (today's Syria), the American Bible Society (ABS), the London Religious Tract Society, the American Tract Society or the BFBS, it is initially preferred to distribute literature via printing presses, especially in Turkish and Arabic (Zeuge-Buberl 2017: 42). Slowly these printing presses are turning into native hands and form the basis for local newspapers and printed matter. It can rightly be summed up that the transcription and distribution of written material in the commercial languages ​​of the ruling peoples in the East was driven by the influence of Christian cultural mediators in the 19th century.

4. Research Societies - Preparation of Educational Institutions

Prior to the digital age, the foundation of an educational approach was the ability to transcribe and disseminate knowledge about printed matter. A condition that came to pass. From 1840, the focus of development aid organizations is on scientific research societies. These include the American Oriental Society (1842, based in Ann Arbor), Syro-Egyptian Society[19], German Oriental Society (1845 in Leipzig, since 2006 in Halle) and the Syria Society of Literature and Arts (1847 in Beirut, Witness -Buberl 2017: 79-81). Later, the German Orient Society (1898 in Berlin) is added. The idea is to stimulate education, research and science at the local level, especially in Turkish and Arabic. At the same time, the cultures and languages ​​of the Orient should be brought closer to the Western public in the sense of an anthropological-linguistic and ethnological approach. These research institutes, which are committed to Oriental studies, Arabic studies and Iranian studies, are still active today. Also university facilities emerged during this time. For example, in 1839 founded  Robert College, which  merged in 1971 to Boğazıcı University (Kieser 2000: 101). With the late state takeover and leadership by local forces, these institutions lose their diaconal Christian orientation.

5. Focus on Disability Studies- orphans and people with

From the nineties of the 19th century on, the ABCFM  began through orphanages in conjunction with schools its work in eastern Anatolia. From 1896 on, German development workers from the German Orient Mission (Friesdorf / Harz) like Lepsius (Damianov 2003: 24) worked locally.[20] There was a demarcation of evangelistic aid workers like Pastor Wilhelm Faber. Its work was settled among the Jewish and Muslim population. Rather, the diaconia and the love service among the old-established churches, especially the persecuted Armenians, came to the fore. With Ernst Lohmann and Dr. Lepsius who joined in 1896, the German Help League for Christian love work in the Orient moved in the same footsteps. The Hamidian Massacre of the Armenians (1894-1896), named after the Sultan Abd ul Hamid II, moved the focus of many Western development aid organizations instantly to the needs of the fleeing, uprooted, lingering Armenian population and especially on the children, orphans and helpless persons. Tessa Hofmann describes the collective Armenian memory of this as well as the annihilations of the years 1909, 1914-1915:

The contents of our events are those events which in Armenian are called mets jererni - in English the "great crime" or the "great sacrilege" in Greek as sphagi and xerisomos and in Aramaic as sayfo or gunhe. Sphagi means massacre, xerisomos uprooting, sayfo sword (annihilation) and the gunhe equivalent to it means fatalities. (Hofmann 2007: 17).

The siblings Hedwig and Ernst Jakob Christoffel focused on visually impaired people. Her pedagogical target group-oriented diaconal approach led her first to Malatya, later to Ernst Jakob Christoffel to Tabriz and Isfahan, following the respective political developments on a regional and local level (Thüne 2007, Schmidt-König 1969). The aim of the institutions was the holistic education and social integration of orphans through occupations that guaranteed independence and training opportunities. The representation of as craftsmen (e. g. wood and textile processing), teachers with special attention to people with physical and mental limitations as well as medico-therapeutic professions belonged to the repertoire of the institutions. 

Inevitably, the social refusal or incapacity to deal with this group of people included the task of development aid workers to show the social relevance of these persons. It was not until the active diaconia that the overall social significance of inclusion with regard to integration became clear. The diversity of society is reflected in its integrating function. Christoffel had this in mind, but remained a child of his time, that he did not short-circuit with the local authorities in a sustainable way, but intervened in the local structures from the outside and so his works did not survive the political transformations.

6. Conclusion - Christian Diakonia in inter-religious discourse

Initially addressed to the Muslim population, the service of love focused on the traditional Christian churches in the Orient in the course of disappointment.

·         Political-religious regulations narrowed the diaconal scope. These included the ban on conversion, the strict gender and ethnic separation due to the millet regulations. The latter provided official protection to the various religious and ethnic groups, but was not guaranteed locally and marginalized them in addition to their dhimmi status (citizens with special status).

·         The ethnic-religious social diversity of the region called for linguistic and cultural adaptation. These include Aramaeans, Arabs, Romanes, Armenians, Lazes, Kurmanji Kurds, Zaza-born groups, Turks. Nomadism, Yazidis, mystics (Mewlana), Alevis and the different Islamic schools of law and orientations (Hanifi, Sheikh, Hanbali, Sufi).

·         The strictly hierarchical tribal structures. Local feudal lords appear as agha (political force), pir (political-religious force), sheikh (politico-religious force), mir (dt prince, political force). These local powers are highly sensitive and quick to mobilize, so that excesses of violence are rarely prevented (eg slander, robbery, kidnapping). Activities by "strangers" are critically eyed. Today's restructuring according to economic factors brings about a vacuum of social cohesion. The "we" gives way to an "I" feeling which prevents common endeavors. This is particularly evident in the Zaza people, who until today did not develop a uniform writing system for native-language publications.

·         The topography of eastern Anatolia with high mountain ranges, deep valleys and wide rivers. The poor accessibility requires enormous mobility and logistical effort. Aids, care and social contacts are difficult to obtain.

Except for the last observation, which plays only a minor role due to modern mobility, these observations are true to this day, albeit in a different form. The Turkish legal system, the dissolution of the tribal structures and the central educational policy play their part in shifting the boundaries of the contact zones.

The international arrangements for the participation, integration and inclusion of persons with disabilities were ratified by the US / UK / Germany / Iran / Turkey and Syria in 2009 and Iraq in 2013.[21] None of the initiatives started with people with disabilities survived the political changes on the ground. Nonetheless, the Christoffel Blindenmission persists in the successing organizations.

It can be concluded that the forced focus on Armenians and orphans led to a one-sided focus on the traditional Christian circles in eastern Anatolia. In addition, however, the fate of visually impaired, physically and mentally challenged people in this context was a vision shared only by Christoffels. The other Christian relief organizations in the Orient did not share this perspective. This is where disability studies begin, as this focus was not foreseeable. As with the Hildesheimer Blindenmission it remains to further research, which influences favored this focus.


Blincoe, Robert 1998. Ethnic Realities and the Church - Lessons from Kurdistan - A History of Mission Work, 1668-1990. Pasadena: Presbyterian Center for Mission Studies.

Bruinessen, Martin M. van [1989] 1992. Agha, Sheikh and the State - Kurdistan Politics and Society. 2nd renewed edition Berlin: Edition Parabolis.

D'Andrade, Roy 1995. The Development of Cognitive Anthropology. Cambridge: Cabridge University Press.

Frost, Michael & Hirsch, Alan 2004. The Shaping of Things to Come. Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church. 4th ed. Peabody: Hendrickson.

Heper, Metin 2007. The State and Kurds in Turkey. The Question of Assimilation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hofmann, Tessa 2007. Speaking with One Voice - Against Genocide: Opening, in Hofmann, Tessa (ed.): Persecution, Expulsion and Annihilation of Christians in the Ottoman Empire 1912-1922Lecture, 17-59. 2nd Edition. Berlin: LIT publishing house.

Kieser, Hans-Lukas 2000. The Missed Peace: Mission, Ethnicity and State in the Eastern Provinces of Turkey 1839-1938. Zurich: Chronos.

McGavran, Donald A. 1990.growth Understanding church. Lörrach: Wolfgang Simson Verlag.

Olson, Robert 1989. The Emergence of Kurdish Nationalism and the Sheikh Said Rebellion, 1880-1925. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Ortmann, Bernhard 2017. The Hildesheimer Blindenmission in Hong Kong: Blind and visually impaired children in the factory and perception of a women's mission, ca. 1890-1997. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner.

Pikkert, Peter 2008. Protestant Missionaries to the Middle East: Ambassadors of Christ or Culture? Hamilton: WEC Canada.

Pratt, Marie Louise 1991. Arts of the Contact Zone. Profession (Modern Language Association of America) 19, 33-40. New York: MLA.

Renz, Alfred 1985. Land around the Ararat: East Turkey - Armenia. Second revised edition. Munich: Prestel.

Roembke, Lianne 2000. Building Credible Multicultural Teams. Pasadena: William Carey.

Schmidt-König, Fritz 1973. Ernst J. Christoffel: Father of the blind in the Orient. 9th ed. Casting: Brunnen-Verlag.

Thüne, Sabine 2007. Ernst Jakob Christoffel - A Life in the Service of Jesus: Ernst Jakob Christoffel Founder of the Christian Blind Mission in the Orient, The Circle of Friends, Employees on the basis of letters, writings and documents on behalf of the Christoffel-Blindenmission. Nuremberg: VTR.

Witness Buberl, Uta 2017. The Mission of the American Board in Syria: Implications of a Transcultural Dialogue. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner.


Dr. Eberhard Werner, Institute for Evangelical Missiology (IfeM), casting.

Institute for evangelical missiology

Heegstrauchweg 68

35394 Giessen



[1] Founded in 1810 in Massachusetts as a result of Second Awakening. This institution went on from 1957 on in the United Church of Christ.

[2] Founded in 1804 in London by William Wilberforce of the Clapham Saints or Clapham Cleavage . Today based in Swinton / UK.

[3] The Hildesheim Blind Mission has this focus and needs China Inland Mission (Overseas Missionary Fellowship Today) be seen in connection to Hudson Taylor (1905 * 1832- †). Detailed Ortmann, Bernhard 2017. The Hildesheimer Blindenmission in Hong Kong: Blind and visually impaired children in the factory and perception of a women's mission, ca. 1890-1997. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner.

[4] Uta Zeuge-Buberl names the year 1819 as the beginning of the activity of the ABCFM in the eastern part of the Ottoman Empire. 80 Christian workers and their families settled there for a long time (2017: 13-14). At that time, the Ottoman authorities opened to the Western powers, with France under Napoleon Bonaparte cooperating with the Ottoman rulers, Germany as a military protector and America as a new nation, especially for inventiveness and new developments.

[5] Karl May's fictional travel narratives reflect this time. According to this epoch he glorifies the Orient in the wilderness of Kurdistan [1881 final 1892]. Interestingly, he collapses under the weight of the realities of the Orient during his later travels in 1899-1902.

[6] The terms "Kurdish", "Kurdistan" or "Kurdish" refer to a political, ethnic and religious conglomeration of peoples and language groups. They gather around the Taurus and Zagros Mountains, the West Iranian plateaus, the northern Syrian desert area and northern Iraq. One theory is that the name derives from the crunching noise "kurr, kurr, kurr" as it passes through the snow. The decisive factor is that neither the international community nor the »Kurds« themselves call a state entity their own or that they would be able to rule autonomously, except in northern Iraq (the Sorani region).

[7] The ideological race did its peak in the 19th and 20th century. Due to the National Socialism and the associated abuse it became scientific off. It is only because of the scientific possibilities of the 1980s of the last century, especially DNA and genes to analyze, finds the genetically-related race and descent theory in the scientific world, especially in cultural anthropology and archeology and forensics again new hearing (D 'Andrade 1995: 1-2 biological anthropology).

[8] Interestingly, in public space in Turkey, the English term "mission" dt. Mission is value neutral in the sense of mission / task. Website appearances or descriptions of Turkish institutions use the term together with engl. »Vision« "German vision / objective. In contrast, the election propaganda of Turkish politicians uses and defines the Turkish term "missionarlar", or missionaries, on their billboards as anti-state elements (own observations).

[9] Pratt, Marie Louise 1991. Arts of the Contact Zone. Profession. Modern Language Association of America 19, 33-40. New York: MLA.

[10] For the positive effect of Christian services worldwide and historically see Kieser (2000: 24) in 7 theses or also witness Buberl (2017: 16-17, 26).

[11] Eschatological judgments of judgment and salvation are part of Abrahamic religions. Immediate expectations, promises of salvation and the appearance of charismatic leaders who appear as messiahs, mahdi or prophets can be found in Jewish, Christian and Islamic historiography. More recently, it was ISIS / Daesh who took political promises of salvation politically to their advantage. These movements do not always have to be bloody or military, but they are always exclusive in their appearance (eg, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesuits, Hasidim, Mewlana, Ahle Haqq).

[12] This region was performed in the transition from the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic from 1919 to 1920 by the Kurdish separatists Simko shekak and proclaimed in the aftermath of World War II for a few months of the year 1946 as a Kurdish Republic of Mahabad.

[13] Detained in the Treaty of Sèvres on 10 August 1920.

[14] Türk. Kızılbaş is called "red head" and is said to come from the red Alevite headgear.

[15] The most recent parallel is found in the territorial foundation of the now defeated the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by the same organization as DAESH known. Their territorial claims in the border region of northern Iraq to eastern Syria also include settlement areas of the Kurmanji and Sorani-speaking Kurds.

[16] In 1961, the German recruitment of Turkish "guest workers" from eastern Anatolia was added.

[17] The Homogenous Unit Principle (HUP) was justified by McGavran by arguing that homogeneous groups of language, culture, traditions, customs, and customs could best be achieved with a contextualized gospel. Above all, David Bosch sensed here a hidden racism and vehemently rejected the principle (Frost & Hirsch 2004: 51-52). But nowadays, the dream of heterogeneous society-penetrating churches or churches is a dream. Except for so-called "social blurring," which is 2-4% of the community members who leave their own social group for special occasions out of curiosity, close personal ties or also the thirst for adventure, the respective denominations reflect their peer group. Be it the middle class of established communities (Brethren, Mennonites, Baptists, Gnadauer Association, etc.) the young generation in special target group communities (ICF, Jesus Freaks) or even the national churches according to their various organizations (YMCA, Boy Scouts).

[18] It can be assumed that on average 5-10% of the population live with disabilities. For this UNESCO has published statistics for years.

[19] Founded in 1844 in London, from 1872 merged with the Society of Biblical Archeology of 1870, which ceased its work in 1919.

[20] Dr. Lepsius was involved in founding the Hilfsbund and the German Orient Mission in 1896. In 1917, Dr. Because of the silence and attitude of the DOM, Lepsius was a member of the Armenian genocide and founded Dr. med. Lepsius GermanMission Orientation(LDOM).

[21] (as of 2018-08-09).