The Consul at Nairobi (Smith) to the Secretary of State

No. 31

Sir: I have the honor to report that, there being no American Legation or Consulate in Ethiopia, I have made inquiries regarding the status of American missionary societies and personnel in that territory, and have been reliably informed that the Sudan Interior Mission at Addis Ababa was to be closed down January 15, 1938, and the Italian Government was to purchase the mission property. My informant regarding this information, Mr. George W. Rhoad, a missionary [Page 713]who had spent five years at Addis Ababa just prior to 1932, stated that he had been told that the Italian Government had already occupied the buildings of the mission, except the leper building. The main building, situated on a bluff over the city, was immediately taken over, upon the arrival of the Italian troops two years ago, and probably turned into a fortress, as it overlooked the entire city, and commanded the road to the city from the south.

My informant stated that there were only three American Missionary societies operating in Ethiopia, The Sudan Interior Mission, referred to above, The United Presbyterian Mission and The Seventh Day Adventists. He stated that all were closing down, the Italian Government purchasing the properties and the missionaries leaving the territory. It was his view that the policy of the Italian Government was apparently to re-place all missionaries with Italian Roman Catholic priests, and even the French Roman Catholic missionaries, according to him, had been asked to leave, and had departed. He stated that the only possible exception might be a few American medical missionaries, who might be permitted to remain, and carry on strictly medical work, leaving the saving of souls to the Italian Roman Catholics.

Another informant, a member of the local Seventh Day Adventists, stated that his organization was still carrying on at Addis Ababa, and that there were three Americans with their wives still there. He stated further, as their tour of duty had expired long ago, they had been trying to get out of Ethiopia for the last year, but that the Italian Government would not permit them to leave. It was his view that this attitude on the part of the Italian Government was caused by the fear that they knew too much about conditions obtaining at Addis Ababa. When I asked him whether this office should take steps to see that they were permitted to leave the country, he said that The Seventh Day Adventists organization in Washington knew the situation and had probably already approached the Department of State. This is the only case I have heard of in which the Italian Government is alleged to be holding missionaries in Ethiopia, and I am inclined to view it skeptically.

The Seventh Day Adventists, my informant states, are still running a boys’ school and a hospital at Addis Ababa. Their hospital at Dessie was badly damaged during the conquest, and the organization now carries on no operations outside of Addis Ababa.

In short, the Sudan Interior Mission, which formerly had a personnel of 70, is now practically out of Ethiopia. The United Presbyterian Mission, which formerly had a personnel of about 30, is also practically closed up. The Seventh Day Adventists, which formerly had between 30 and 40, still maintain a small staff at Ethiopia, and [Page 714]according to my local informant, do not intend to leave Addis Ababa unless they are obliged to do so. But their activities are confined to teaching and to medical work and no religious work by this or any other American missionary organization is now being permitted. Thus the number of American missionary personnel in Ethiopia is probably less than ten.

Should any further information come to this office, it will, of course, be forwarded to the Department for its information.

Respectfully yours,

E. Talbot Smith