Investing in Education, Saving the Soul

Missionary expeditions to Greece from America had as an objective to proselytize and “civilize” the Greek populations by means of education. Protestant tracts in Greek were first published in Malta and after 1831 in Greece itself.

Reverent Jonas King, who was later persecuted, had been asked by Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias to supply schools with missionary texts, and missionaries were originally welcome as they filled a gap, especially in the education of girls. The missionaries focused on elementary education and especially on establishing schools for girls. They founded schools in Tinos (Jonas King), Argos (Elias Riggs and Nathan Benjamin), Areopolis of the Mani (Samuel R. Houston and George W. Leyburn) and Athens (Jonas King and Mr. and Mrs. Hill) where they used the Monitorial System of “mutual instruction” in which the older or better scholars taught the younger or weaker pupils. Moreover, Emma Willard and the Troy Society played an important role in training female teachers to staff schools for girls. The work of the Protestants was soon challenged by the conservative faction of the Orthodox Church: all missionary books were banned from schools in 1835 and six years later no religious teaching was permitted other than the catechism of the Orthodox Church. This marked the end of missionary expeditions to Greece.

Despite persecution, the school founded in Athens by John Henry Hill and Fanny Mulligan Hill (Hill Memorial School) not only managed to achieve a high degree of integration into Greek society but also exerted the most important influence on the Greek education system, while Jonas King continued his missionary activity that resulted in the foundation of the First Greek Evangelical Church in 1871.

In addition to edifying and Christian religious books for children and adults, in the 1820s and 1830s the missionary printing presses also produced many educational and scientific books.


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