The Minister Resident in Ethiopia (Engert) to the Secretary of State

No. 209

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of an interesting questionnaire, in Italian and in translation, which Mr. James L. Rohrbaugh recently submitted to the Italian authorities regarding their attitude towards Protestant, and more particularly American, missionary activities in Ethiopia.

Mr. Rohrbaugh, who was formerly connected with the Sudan Interior Mission and now represents the Independent Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, also writes occasionally for the United Press in the United States. However, he assures me that he neither telegraphed nor mailed the contents of the questionnaire to the United Press, but that he did send a copy of it to a religious periodical in the United States which had suggested the idea to him.

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As the answers to the questions were only given after several weeks of careful consideration by the highest Italian authorities in this city they may be considered as official. The Department will therefore note with interest the assurances that missionaries who had been obliged to abandon their stations would be permitted to return to them; that they would be free to preach, so long as they confined themselves to religion; and that they could proselytize among the pagans if they wished.

The Department’s attention is more especially invited to Question (5) and the answer to it which contains a veiled reference to “nonsanctionist” nations during the recent Italo-Ethiopian war, and which goes so far as to promise that if in future the Italian authorities should find it necessary to discriminate between missionaries of different nationalities, American missionaries would receive more favorable treatment.

Respectfully yours,

C. Van H. Engert

Questionnaire Concerning Italian Attitude Toward Missionary Activities

(1) Q. Is it true that the official policy of the Government will be that missions may continue their work so long as they do not interfere with the Government or the State?

A. Yes, the missions will be permitted to explain their objects, provided they remain within the limits of their religious activities and do not act contrary to the laws of the State.

(2) Q. Will the missionaries who have abandoned their stations during the war and disorders be permitted to return to them?

A. Yes, provided that in the past they were not engaged in anti-Italian propaganda, and that their previous places of residence have not proved unsuited for the carrying out of their work.

(3) Q. Will it be necessary for Protestant missionaries to obtain permits from the Government in order to preach in Addis Ababa or in the interior, or will they have complete liberty as was the case under the old régime?

A. Protestant missionaries will be free to preach, provided they limit themselves strictly to the religious field.

(4) Q. Do the official declarations regarding freedom of worship include the right to effect conversions among the pagan tribes?

A. There is no objection to the missions’ proselytizing among the pagans.

(5) Q. Many people in this city are under the impression that the Government is more friendly disposed towards American missionaries than towards those of other nationalities. Is this true and intentional, [Page 323] and if so may it be said that it is an indication of friendship towards America because of the long friendly relations between the Italian and the American Governments?

A. It is a fact that the Italian Government cannot forget those nations which during the Italo-Ethiopian conflict have been most benevolent to it.

If, in the future, it should be necessary to make any distinctions between the missionaries of the various countries it is certain that, as far as possible, those from North America will be favored.