The Near East Relief and the American Board Commissions for foreign missions humanitarian partn...


The active involvement of missionaries was an essential element in the history of Near East Relief (NER), the largest private and American humanitarian association in the Middle East from 1915 to 1930. Most of these missionaries were associated with the American Board Commission for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). They often spoke local languages and may have been living in the Ottoman Empire for many years, in regions where some of them had indeed been born. The presence of these missionaries was key to NER’s performance as large operational organization. These missionary women and men functioned as NER humanitarians and NER ‘experts’ alongside agronomists, sanitary engineers and university professors. They were themselves welfare specialists, medical doctors, teachers and administrators. While their presence shaped the practices and vision of the NER, tensions arose between the more secular arm of NER and these missionaries over the place of religion in their common project and relations with local populations.