“A Danish corner in the heart of Lebanon”. Protestant missions, humanitarianism, and Armenian orphans, ca. 1920-1960
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionLes Mélanges de l'École française de Rome - Italie et Méditerranée modernes et contemporaines (MEFRIM). 2023, 134 (2), 251-266. 10.4000/mefrim.12487
This article investigates the role of Danish missionary and nurse Maria Jacobsen (1882-1960), working in Lebanon among Armenian refugees and orphans from ca. 1920 to 1960. The background of the Armenian-Danish relationship in the Middle East goes back to the early twentieth century with the arrival of Danish female missionaries and health workers from the organization Kvindelige Missionsarbejdere [KMA, The Female Mission Workers] in the Ottoman Empire. During the Armenian Genocide, Jacobsen and her Danish colleagues played crucial roles as relief workers and witnesses to the persecutions. After the war, the Danes continued their vocation and religious duty in the form of practical relief work among refugees and orphans in Lebanon, while at the same time promoting Protestant beliefs and values to the refugee community. The Bird’s Nest, an orphanage for Armenian children in Jbeil (Byblos), north of Beirut, became KMA’s main welfare project in the country. From its establishment in 1922, this large institution was headed by Maria Jacobsen until her death in 1960. The article explores the ways in which Jacobsen and the KMA situated Danish faith-based relief in the new post-WWI Middle East. It also looks at the relations to and negotiations with the local Armenian society.