International politics, American Protestant missions and the Middle East.
American Protestant missionaries have been active in the Middle East since the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th Century. Their presence has had a notable impact on international relations. Prior to World War I, missionaries were the greatest American interest in the region and the U.S. government often exerted diplomatic pressure on their behalf. The missionaries, moreover, played a pivotal lobbying role during and immediately after World War I, advocating against war with the Ottoman Empire but strongly favoring independence movements and U.S. mandates in the region. Missionary educational institutions, moreover, fomented nationalist movements and instilled western ideas into their students. During this time, international politics also had a tremendous impact on American mission work. World War I interrupted mission efforts and, more importantly, called into question long-held theological beliefs that were the foundation of the movement. Following World War I, mission work in the Middle East virtually collapsed only to resurge again after World War II. During this second wave of effort, mission work has had a smaller impact on international relations because the United States now has greater political and business interests in the region. International relations, on the other hand, continue to have a great impact mission work. U.S. support for Israel politically divides missionaries and their domestic Christian supporters. The latter strongly support Israel while the former are more sympathetic to the Palestinian perspective. In Iraq, international politics both opened and closed the door to mission work. Saddam Hussein’s genocidal attacks against the Kurds and U.S. opposition to his regime have also reportedly fostered pro-American sentiments that make mission work there more feasible. In Iran, the rise of a theocratic government closed the door to direct mission work by Americans but, at the same time, its draconian policies have fostered resentment towards Islam. American efforts to evangelize Iran via TV and radio broadcast are reportedly baring fruit as a result.