Lord Shall Be Taught to Egypt: The Girls' Boarding School in Babelluk (1892-1923)

Article excerpt

"The Kingdom, O Christ, is a Kingdom of all ages, and Thy dominion from generation to generation" (i)

The immediate and controlling aim in all Missionary work is the awakening of faith in individual souls, and the raising up of a community of Christian believers. In this sense education has from the beginning been an important department of missionary work.

"I attach very great importance to our Schools as one of the best means of sowing the seed of the Word of God with the hearts of the rising generation of Moslems." (ii)

The conditions of Missionary work are not the same in every case, and the initial stages may well prove of diverse lengths; but in every case the Missionary stage is comparatively brief, and we see at once that Missionary work among an unevangelised people, regarded as heathen, involves a certain amount of Christian education, in order that the object of faith and worship may be discerned, and also in order that the elements and activities of the intellectual life may be in harmony with the elements and operations of the religious life. (iii)

It is obvious that in a sense the whole process of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) activity from first to last is in the nature of education. According to the missionaries "heathen", "savage" or "uncivilised" minds must be appealed to, thought must be awakened, and drawn out, in order to convey the simplest religious truths, or to awaken the most rudimentary religious emotions (iv). And in this sense, if not almost the only way to this missionary aim is by educational work among Egyptian young generation.

The education of girls presents a quite different problem compared to that of boys, from missionary point of view, for, though the element of competition is far from being absent in Egypt also, it is certainly less keen; and moreover, the fact that the training of girls in Egypt is to fit them to become wives and mothers, and not, as is so apt to be the result in boys' schools, government officials, makes such work more important and more congruous with the missionary aim.

This paper considers the educational policy of the CMS in Egypt in the abovementioned period in an attempt to understand the mission's social impact in the light of, and in spite of, its lack of converts (v). All sorts of documents and objects such as pictures of school, staff and students, missionary letters and annual reports were used in this study with the aid of historical method for interpretation of the past. At this point we have to note that the most limiting aspect of the study was the fact that geographical and chronological range of the CMS educational activities to Egyptian girls is too great for any one article. Therefore the interpretations and evaluations in this study were based on individual experiences of a single school. And generalizations were made with care because of the density of the content.

The CMS archives in the University of Birmingham constitute main major source of this study. Diaries, reports, letters, memoirs, histories, pamphlets, and many more kinds of texts written by CMS missionaries filled with information about "imperatives to convert, subdue and possess the world through the cultural power and superiority of English Protestantism". (vi) The variety of subject and perspective is enormous, but recent work by scholars such as Brian Stanley and Andrew Porter has none the less gone some way to demonstrate the possibilities of making this overwhelming volume of material more manageable and less daunting (vii). Moreover general histories of the CMS include The History of the Church Missionary Society: Its Environment, Its Men and Its Work by Eugene Stock, The Problems of Success: A History of the Church Missionary Society 1910-1942 by Gordon Hewitt, The Church Missionary Society and World Christianity 1799-1999 by Kevin Ward-Brian Stanley, "The Role of Women in the Church Missionary Society, 1799-1917" by Jocelyn Murray have greatly deepened researchers understanding on humanitarian, educational, medical, philanthropic and social work of the CMS outside the continental Europe. …