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by A.J. McFarland
The Reformed Presbyterian Church is a very small denomination of about six thousand members that at one time had a presence in the Middle East. This scarce record of its activities amongst the Arabs was compiled by Andrew James McFarland, 1869-1952, a missionary clergyman who spent most of his life in Syria despite all the upheavals in the region. In fact, during World War I when the Ottoman Empire was at war with the Allies and most non-Muslims fled, Reverend McFarland remained in Mersine, billeting a German officer and helping treat wounded Turkish soldiers.
Those interested in Syrian history will find the list of clergy valuable as their papers can be located in archives such as those at two of the sect’s institutions, Geneva College and its theological seminary, for insights about the Syrian situation in their time. Of course the 1919 peace settlement meant the dismemberment of the Ottoman territories and the French suzerancy over present day Syria, but the missions stayed on for many years.
Eventually the churches and schools that McFarland established disappeared, but the diaries, correspondence, and reports of nearly a century of Reformed Presbyterian activity are an underused and important resource. This is one of a number of scarce Middle East titles that Westphalia has published to promote interest in neglected archives.
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