365D.1163/62: Telegram

The Ambassador in Italy ( Phillips ) to the Secretary of State

152. Commenting on the reports of the News Chronicle regarding the expulsion from Ethiopia of seven Protestant missionaries the Government [Page 701] spokesman this evening writes that many of the missionaries in Ethiopia are either spies, swindlers, or dangerous fanatics who have become agents provocateurs among the native populations. It must be clearly understood, he says, that Italy, who has promised peace to the natives, intends to bring order into the country and will not hesitate to expel all undesirable foreigners. After eliminating banditry and perpetual civil war, he adds, “the natives have no need of further division through religious sects and quarrels introduced by foreign propagandists”. The Lekemti massacre for example was perpetrated and the Addis Ababa outrage participated in by graduates of the Swedish Protestant schools. Gayda then mentions the following “insignificant and suspect” Anglo-Saxon missions which have been dealt with by the Italian authorities:

The American Bible Missionary Society “proved so unimportant that when the American authorities intervened in its defense they themselves had a great deal of trouble in identifying and justifying it”. Gayda describes the society in derogatory terms and adds that Ruth Shippey, Bertha Domermuth and Elena French, who, with little regard for religious work, taught languages in Ethiopia, were expelled when found to be in close contact with Colonel Sandford, a British officer actively engaged in espionage.

The News Chronicle report refers to members of the British Bible Churchman’s Missionary Society and British and Foreign Bible Society who were “mixed up in many mysterious enterprises”. These missionaries’ religious work was of no use either to the church or the converts. “But to interfere with the religious conscience of the natives by giving money tips and by quarreling with other missions means creating spiritual and political disorder and calling for just and salutary repression by the Italian authorities”.