An Egyptian in China: Ahmed Fahmy and the Making of World Christianities

Topics: Islam, Egypt, Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair Pages: 24 (8500 words) Published: November 14, 2011
Church Misiory 78:2 (June 2009), 309 326. I 2009, American Society orChurch History doi:10.I017/S000964070900050X Printed in the USA

An Egyptian in China: Ahmed Fahmy and the Making of 'World Christianities " HEATHER J, SHARKEY

"In my early years in Changehow there were still some of Dr. Fahmy's students in practice in the town, and plenty of people, patients and church members, who remembered him with much gratitude and affection. 1 think you will be glad to know that ... there will also be people in Changehow who never knew Dr. Fahmy but who nevertheless will be giving thanks for the work which he started and from which they and many others have benelited over the years." —D. J. Harman to Mrs. Johnston {granddaughter of Ahmed Fahmy), dated Eltham, London, November 14, 1987


Ahmed Fahmy, who was bom in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1861 and died in Golders Green, London, in 1933,' was the most celebrated convert from Islam to Christianity in the history of the American Presbyterian mission in Egypt. American Presbyterians had started work in Egypt in 1854 and soon developed the largest Protestant mission in tbe country." They opened schools, hospitals, and orphanages; sponsored the development of Arabic Christian publishing and Bible distribution; and witli local Egyptians 'University of London, School of Oricnial and African Studies. Council for World Mission Archives (hencefonh SOAS CWM), Annotated Register of L.M.S. Missionaries. 1796-1923, Appendix A. p. 176 #854. "PAHMY, Ahmed." This LMS register states that he was bom in I8iiO. However, Edinburgh University records, completed in Ahmed Pahniy's own hand, declare that he was bom on AugusI 25, 1861: Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections (henceforth EUL). records of "Preliminary Examinütion and Course of Study [Medicine]" for Ahmed Pahmy. "Medical Graduates 1886," shelf mark Da 43. 'The American Presbyterian mission was suhstanti;illy larger than the mission of the Church Missionary Society. Moreover, after Britain invaded and occupied Egypl in 18S2. the Americans did not have lo stniggle as CMS missionaries did lo dissociale themselves from colonial authorities. On Ihe CMS in Egypt, see Matthew Rhodes, "Anglican Mission: Egypl, A Case Study." paper delivered at ihe Henry Martyn Centre, Westminster College, Cambridge University, May 2003, available al

Heather J. Sharkey is an associate professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies in the Departrnent of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania.




organized evangelical work in towns and villages from Alexandria to Aswan. In an age when Anglo-American Protestant missions were expanding across the globe, they conceived of their mis.sion as a universal one and sought to draw Copts and Muslims alike toward their reformed (that is, Protestant) creed. In the long run, American efforts led to the ereation of an Egyptian Evangelical church (Kanisa injiliyya misriyya) even while stimulating a kind of "counterreformation" within Coptic Orthodoxy along with new forms of social outreach among Muslim activists and nationalists. The American Presbyterians in Egypt did not focus on Muslim evangelization until after the British Occupation of 1882 when Protestant missionaries, buoyed by the waves of British imperial expansion, entered their own period of rhetorical and tactical muscle flexing. Ahmed Fahmy's conversion, which occurred in 1877, therefore predated the British Occupation and the missionary tum toward Muslim evangelization by five years. Since there are no signs in missionary records that the Americans had actively tried to convert him, and since the missionaries appeared to greet his declaration of Christian failh with a degree of surprise, Ahmed Fahmy was in some sense an aeeidental convert. He was certainly one of a relatively small group:...
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