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The Cradle of Our Faith


This show is based on a booklet printed by the PC (USA) ... And Ruth of Moab was great-grandmother to David. 42 one another as I have loved you ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Cradle of Our Faith

The Cradle of Our Faith
  • The enduring witness of the Christians
    of the Middle East

love one another as I have loved you. John 1512
love one another as I have loved you. John 1512
An Enduring Witness
  • This slideshow is based on a booklet printed by
    the PC (USA).
  • The seven countries profiled in this slideshow
    span two continents and vast stretches of
  • Our continuing mission in the Middle East
  • The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a
    long-standing relationship with Middle Eastern
  • Presbyterian missionaries began arriving in the
    Middle East in the 1820s, establishing schools,
    hospitals, and Protestant churches, many of which
    continue to flourish to the present day as
    leading institutions for education and health

Living Stones
  • The Christians who live in the Middle East today
    are the living stones of the Early Church
  • a vital, dynamic presence in a region that is
    both the cradle of ancient civilizations and the
    site of contemporary geopolitical developments
    that affect us all.

At its roots
  • At its roots, Christianity is an Eastern
    religion, born and matured in the Middle East.
    The great diversity of Christian peoples, sects,
    and denominations in the Middle East is a
    testament to the fact that the region has been a
    vitally important corridor among empires
    throughout the centuries. It is also a testament
    to the diversity of the peoples who have chosen
    to follow in the steps of Christ and his apostles
    who opened up the faith to the whole world.
  • But now, after two millennia of continuous
    presence, Christianity is on the decline in its
    birthplace. The Christian communities of Egypt,
    Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Israel/Palestine, Jordan,
    and Syria have all experienced a dramatic
    decrease in numbers, shrinking in some countries
    to a mere 10 percent of their former size over
    the last century. These are communities that
    trace their roots to the first century of

Christian Exodus
  • Many point to the rise of fundamentalist Islam as
    a primary cause of the diminishing numbers of
    Christians in the birthplace of Christianity. The
    dwindling numbers, however, cannot, be reduced to
    a single issue. Christians from each of the
    countries treated in this book have a unique
  • The root causes for the declining numbers are
    diverse, complex, and often interrelated,
    including economic necessity, human rights
    abuses, political repression, corruption in
    governments, and quality of education.

No Mans Land
  • Because of a common perception that America and
    Europe are made up of Christian nations, the
    Christian communities of the Middle East have
    become symbols of the West in the minds of their
    neighbors. In these days of the clash of
    civilizations mindset, Middle Eastern Christians
    can feel lost in a no mans land, lacking full
    acceptance by East or West. Though deeply and
    thoroughly Eastern in history and culture, they
    are now seen as allies of the West because of
    their religion.

  • Because of this connection, Christian churches
    often bear the brunt of misdirected local anger
    when Western Christians are perceived as
    aggressively hostile to Islam. Christians
    experienced a backlash in reaction to Pope
    Benedict XVIs speech in September 2006 that
    offended Muslims. After the Popes statement,
    attacks in the West Bank and Gaza caused damage
    to five churches. Around the same time, two
    churches in Iraq were damaged and two priests
    were killed.

Conflict Turmoil
  • In a region devastated by turmoil and conflict,
    wars between states, civil wars, revolutions,
    ethnic cleansing, and foreign interventions have
    caused untold hardship to the peoples of the
    Middle East since the end of World War I.
  • A huge wave of Armenian refugees was scattered
    around the Middle East in 1915 during the
    Armenian genocide in Anatolia (now Turkey), when
    half of the worlds total Armenian population was
    massacred. As a result, there are substantial
    Armenian populations throughout much of the
    Middle East.

End of Ottoman Rule
  • Ottoman rule over the Middle East through the
    nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was
    resented throughout the region as the empire fell
    into decline and corruption. The defeat of
    Ottoman Turks in World War I brought colonial
    British and French mandate rule, which was
    resisted by emerging militant nationalist
  • Within a quarter of a century, the Arab states of
    the Middle East had achieved independence from
    the European colonial administrations
  • Egypt in 1922 (nominal) and 1954 (full)
  • Iraq in 1932
  • Syria in 1940
  • Lebanon in 1943
  • Jordan in 1946

No Self Rule for Palestine
  • When Israel was formed in 1948, Mandate
    Palestine, unlike its neighbors, was not granted
    self-rule and self-determination, but became a
    zone of mounting conflict. Britain not only
    maintained its colonial presence but presided
    over a massive influx of European Jews fleeing
    European anti-Semitism and Nazism, which
    ultimately led to the partition of Palestine.
  • Sixty years after the end of colonial rule
    elsewhere in the region, Palestinians (both
    Christian and Muslim) living under the forty-year
    Israeli occupation continue to yearn for
    statehood, independence, and self-determination.

A Jewish State
  • The Western-sponsored establishment of a Jewish
    state in the Arab Middle East, predictably,
    brought stresses to relations among Middle
    Eastern Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Sadly, the
    Mizrahi Jewish communities that once prospered in
    Alexandria, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Tehran
    are now shadows of their former vital selves or
    are extinct.
  • The wars of 1948 and 1967 created waves of
    Palestinian refugees whose descendents number in
    the millions, many of whom still live in United
    Nations administered refugee camps in the region.
  • There are over 4 million refugees in the greater
    Middle East and a total of 8 million worldwide.
    According to the United Nations, Palestinian
    refugees comprise one-third of the global refugee

Recent Turmoil
  • Since the U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq in
    2003, an estimated 40,000 Iraqi Christians have
    fled to Syria as a result of death threats by
    religious extremists. Although exact figures
    cannot be confirmed, Christians continue to flee
    Iraq in large numbers. Fortunately, many Iraqis
    fleeing their country have found security and
    religious freedom in neighboring Syria.
  • During the Israel-Hezbollah war in the summer of
    2006, Syria received Lebanese refugees fleeing
    Israeli attacks on their country. The Syrian Red
    Crescent Society provided food, water, and
    medical care, while the government opened schools
    and other institutions to accommodate Lebanese

love one another as I have loved you. John 1512
Syria Statistics
  • Total area
  • 71,183 sq. miles
  • slightly larger than North Dakota
  • Population
  • 18,881,000
  • Languages
  • Arabic, Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian,
    French, some English
  • Religions
  • Sunni Muslim, 74 Alawite, Druze, other Muslim
    sects, 16 various Christian groups, 10 plus
    tiny indigenous Jewish communities
  • GDP per capita
  • 3,900

Christians Today
  • With approximately 1.8 million believers, Syria
    has the second-largest Christian population in
    the Middle East, after Egypt.
  • From the earliest days of the church, Syria has
    provided a place of refuge from persecution.
    Today, Syria continues to offer security,
    humanitarian relief, and religious tolerance to
    refugees fleeing violence in the region,
    including Iraqis and Lebanese.

An Ancient Christianity
  • The ancient Arameans of the Old Testament, who
    inhabited the country from about the first
    millennium BC, are the ancestors of the
    present-day Syrians.
  • A great majority of these Arameans spoke Aramaic
    until about the seventh Christian century, when
    the rise of Islam made Arabic the official
  • Aramaic is still used in the liturgy of the
    Syrian, Chaldean, and Maronite Churches.

A Diverse Christianity
  • The majority of Syrian Christians belong to the
    Eastern communions, which have existed in Syria
    since the earliest days of Christianity. The main
    Eastern groups are the autonomous Orthodox
    churches the Uniate (Eastern Rite churches,
    which are in communion with Rome) and the
    independent Nestorian Church.
  • Even though each group forms a separate
    community, Christians nevertheless cooperate
    increasingly through their ties with the National
    Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon and the
    Middle East Council of Churches.

A Richness of Liturgies
  • The largest Christian denomination in Syria is
    the Greek Orthodox Church of Syria. The
    designation Greek refers to the language of
    liturgy, not to the ethnic origin of its members.
    Arabic is also used.
  • The second-largest Syrian Christian group is the
    Armenian Orthodox, or Jacobite, Church, which
    uses an Armenian liturgy. Many of these Armenian
    members of the great Christian family of Syria
    escaped the massacres and deportations that took
    place in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) from the
    early 1890s to the early 1920s.

Arab Christians
  • With the exception of the Armenians, most
    Christians in Syria are Arab, sharing pride in
    the Arabic culture and traditions. In proportion
    to their number, more Syrian Arab Christians
    participate in political and administrative
    affairs than do Muslims. Especially among the
    young, relations between Christians and Muslims
    are improving.

Shaping Church History
  • The abundance of archeological remains dating to
    the early Christian Era, as well as the currently
    functioning churches dating back to the fourth
    century, attest to the uninterrupted presence of
    the Christian community in Syria as well as its
    important role in shaping Christian history.

Government Recognition
  • Christian holidays are official state holidays
    and members of the clergy are excused from
    military service.
  • Christians in Syria enjoy considerable rights
    within its secular system and perceive the regime
    as their protector. Christians find it easy to
    obtain authorization to repair or build churches
    and to pray or have processions in public without
    harassment. Religion is not mentioned on identity

The Apostle Paul Syria
  • The ancient wall that surrounds the Old City of
    Damascus was built during the Roman Era. The
    Street Called Straight (Acts 911) is the
    2000-year-old Roman Via Recta.
  • St. Pauls Church in Damascus was built in the
    fourth century on the site where the Apostle Paul
    hid from his enemies. It was from this city wall
    that Paul was lowered in a basket by his
    disciples, to later become the apostle to the
  • There were already Christians in Damascus when
    Paul was converted on his journey there. Paul was
    on his way to Damascus to persecute those same
    Christians, many of whom had fled persecution

We Pray Together
  • . . . that the Syrian government will continue to
    provide religious freedom as well as refuge for
    those fleeing danger and persecution in
    surrounding countries.
  • . . . for the safety and well-being of Iraqis of
    all faiths who have found refuge and hospitality
    in Syria since the invasion of Iraq.

love one another as I have loved you. John 1512
Lebanon Statistics
  • Total area
  • 6,448 sq. miles,
  • 0.7 times larger than Connecticut
  • Population
  • 3,874,050
  • Languages
  • Arabic, French, English, Armenian
  • Religions
  • Muslim, 59.7 (Shi¹a, Sunni, Druze, Isma¹ilite,
    Alawite or Nusayri) Christian, 39 (Maronite
    Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic,
    Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian
    Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic,
    Chaldean, Assyrian, Coptic, Protestant) other,
  • GDP per capita
  • 6,200

The Creation of Lebanon
  • Lebanon was created in 1920 by France out of the
    Greater Syria colonial mandate with the aim of
    establishing a Christian-majority nation within a
    Muslim-majority region. Since then, Lebanon has
    struggled to build a unified national identity
    out of its multi-confessional diversity.

Christians no longer a majority
  • Lebanon is the only Middle Eastern country where
    Christians were once dominant and still retain
    considerable political power.
  • As the Christian population has declined relative
    to others, so has their influence. Although an
    official census has not been taken since 1932, it
    is estimated that Christians now comprise only
    about 35 percent of the population.

Power Sharing
  • The relative size of its various religious
    communities is a deeply sensitive issue
    Lebanons 1975-1990 civil war was fought largely
    along sectarian lines.
  • Many Muslims believe that Christians hold
    disproportionate political and economic power.
    Some Lebanese Christians do not identify
    themselves fully as Arabs.
  • To assure political representation of all
    religious communities, Lebanons constitution
    prescribes a power-sharing formula under which
    the president is a Maronite Christian, the
    speaker of the Parliament is a Shia Muslim, and
    the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim.

The Maronite Christians
  • The Maronite community, named for a Syrian hermit
    named St. Maron, is Lebanons largest Christian
    group, with a population the size of all other
    denominations combined.
  • The Maronites began as a schismatic sect of the
    Orthodox Church in the 7th Century and were
    considered heretical for subscribing to
    Monothelitism. Cast out, many Maronites sought
    refuge in Lebanons mountains. Their descendents
    live in mountain villages throughout the country
    today and Maronite monasteries continue to have a
    strong presence.

The East West Split
  • A split endures to the present day in what is
    commonly called Eastern and Western Christianity.
  • This is not to be confused with the split between
    Rome and Constantinople, the Catholic/Orthodox
    split which occurred later in the 11th century.
  • The Catholic and Orthodox Church are both in the
    Western branch of Christianity
  • Maronites ended up as part of the Western church
    they have been in full communion with the Roman
    Catholic Church since the Crusader period. Today,
    their patriarch has the rank of cardinal.
  • The East-West schism among Christian sects of the
    Byzantine Empire occurred in the era of Islams
    emergence and partly explains the unprecedented
    speed of Islams expansion.

Refugees in Lebanon
  • Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in
    Lebanon live in overcrowded refugee camps,
    struggling to meet basic human needs. They are
    barred from working in dozens of professions,
    receiving Social Security, or owning or
    inheriting property.

Israel-Lebanon War 2006
  • The Israel-Hezbollah war lasted 34 days during
    the summer of 2006 and cost the Lebanese economy
    well over 2.5 billion.
  • Roughly one million Lebanese were displaced,
    1,200 Lebanese civilians were killed (a third of
    them children) and 15,000 homes were destroyed.
  • An estimated one million unexploded Israeli
    cluster bombs continue to cause death and injury
    in southern Lebanon.

PC (USA) and Partners
  • Presbyterian missionaries arrived in Lebanon in
    the 1820s and have had a strong presence ever
    since, founding schools and graduate learning
    centers such as the American University in Beirut
    and the Near East School of Theology.
  • The NEST provides a Protestant seminary education
    for students from the entire region. The Middle
    East Council of Churches (MECC), which plays an
    important role in the work of social justice
    throughout the region, was based in Beirut for
    many years.

We Pray together . . .
  • . . . for a government that represents Lebanese
    of all confessions and a determination among all
    Lebanese to work for the good of the country.

love one another as I have loved you. John 1512
Jordan Statistics
  • Total area
  • 57,226 sq. miles,
  • slightly smaller than Indiana
  • Population
  • 5.9 million
  • Languages
  • Arabic English widely understood
  • Religions
  • Sunni Muslim, 92 Christian, 6 (mostly Greek
    Orthodox, some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian
    Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and
    Protestant) other, 2 (some Shi¹a and Druze)
  • GDP per capita
  • 4,700

The Old Testament in Jordan
  • Why did the the men of ancient Israel find the
    women of ancient Jordan irresistible? King
    Solomon was famous for his love of foreign
    women, including Moabites, Ammonites, and
  • Nehemiah mentions the many marriages of Jewish
    men to women from Ammon (Amman) and Moab (central
    Jordan). Moses wife Zipporah hailed from Midian
    (southern Jordan). And Ruth of Moab was
    great-grandmother to David.

More Old Testament
  • Twenty miles south of Madaba is Mukawir, ancient
    Machaerus, the fortress built by Herod the Great.
    Here Herod imprisoned John the Baptist and Salome
  • The Old Testament records Moabs conquest by the
    Israelites, after which it was granted to the
    tribe of Reuben. After the Moabites regained
    control of the area in the ninth century BC,
    Isaiah (152) gloomily prophesied, Moab shall
    howl over Nebo and over Medeba Lot sought
    refuge from the Lords fire and brimstone in
    Jordan, and Moses, Aaron, and John the Baptist
    all died there.

Moses at Mount Nebo
  • At 2,700 feet above sea level, Mount Nebo
    rises above the Dead Sea (1,400 feet below sea
    level), providing a panoramic view across the
    Jordan Valley to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Moses
    is believed to have been buried on Mount Nebo
    after looking from its heights into the Promised
    Land he would never enter. (Deuteronomy 3417)

From the Roman Era to Islam
  • During the Roman Era, Christianity spread rapidly
    in what is now central Jordan. By 451, Madaba had
    its own bishop. In its heyday from the third to
    the seventh century AD, Madaba was the major
    Christian center on the east bank of the Jordan
    River, drawing scores of Christian pilgrims and
  • Madaba surrendered without a struggle to the
    Muslim armies in the early seventh century, which
    allowed the city to retain its Christian
    identity. Churches were built and
    Christian-themed mosaics were laid for at least a
    hundred years into the Muslim Era. Abandoned
    during the Mameluk period (1250-1517), Madabas
    ruins lay untouched for centuries.

The Crusaders
  • Petra, southern Jordans magnificent Nabatean
    rose-rock city, was also abandoned beginning in
    the eleventh century. When the Crusaders arrived
    in the Jordan area in the early twelfth century,
    Christian monks still inhabited the Monastery of
    St. Aaron on Jebal Haroun, the highest mountain
    in the Petra area.
  • To defend this territory, the Crusaders built a
    string of fortresses, including the great
    fortress at Karak. By 1189, however, the last of
    the eastern fortresses, the Li Vaux Moise castle
    near Petra, surrendered to Saladin, opening the
    way for the Muslim armies to liberate Jerusalem
    and effectively ending the foreign domination of

Ottoman Rule to the present
  • Four centuries of Ottoman rule (1516-1918)
    brought a period of general stagnation to Jordan,
    as the Ottomans were primarily interested in
    Jordan for its importance to the pilgrimage route
    to Mecca.
  • Modern-day Jordan gained independence from
    Britain in 1946 and became the Hashemite Kingdom
    in 1950. King Abdullah II claims a direct lineage
    to the prophet Mohammed.

Modern Jordan
  • Jordan affirms Islam and has at the same time
    been open to modernization. In general, Muslims
    and Christians live together in Jordan with
    little tension or discrimination.
  • Jordans religious minorities are well integrated
    into urban neighborhoods and society.
  • Since the establishment of the Hashemite Kingdom,
    Christians have been guaranteed freedom of
    worship, religious education, and parliamentary
    representation. More than half the Christian
    population is in the middle or upper class in
    Jordan and is highly educated, which has led to a
    high level of participation in public

Jordans Refugees
  • Since Israels founding in 1948, Jordan has taken
    in over 1.7 million Palestinian refugees. Today,
    Jordanians of Palestinian descent comprise over
    half the population. Jordans future is
    inextricably tied to developments between
    neighboring Israel and the Palestinians.
  • Jordan was a destination for Palestinians fleeing
    the conflict in Kuwait in 1991. Since 2003,
    Jordan has received hundreds of thousands of
    refugees (Christian and Muslim)from neighboring
    Iraq. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR,
    Iraqi refugees absorbed by Jordan total over
    700,000, with more arriving every day.

Todays Christians
  • Jordanian Christians today are mostly Greek or
    Eastern Orthodox with Armenian, Syriac, and
    Coptic churches representing the Oriental
    Orthodox Church.
  • There are also Greek Catholic (Melkite), Armenian
    Catholic, and Latin Catholic churches in Jordan.
    Evangelical (Protestant) churches include
    Anglican, Lutheran, and Baptist churches whose
    missionaries began arriving in the mid-1800s.
  • Christian churches have a significant impact on
    society because of schools and hospitals founded
    by the various denominations.

We Pray Together
  • for Jordans people as they struggle to welcome
    many thousands of Muslim and Christian Iraqi war
  • for Christian schools, hospitals, and other
    institutions that minister to the needs of all

love one another as I have loved you. John 1512
love one another as I have loved you. John 1512
Iran Statistics
  • Total area
  • 1 million sq. miles,
  • slightly larger than Alaska
  • Population
  • 67 million (July 2006 est)
  • Languages
  • Persian and its dialects, 58 Turkic and its
    dialects, 26 Kurdish, 9 Lori 2 Baluchi, 2
    Turkmen, 2 other, 1
  • Religions
  • Shia Muslim, 89 Sunni Muslim, 9 Zoroastrian,
    Jewish, Christian, and Bahai, 2
  • GDP per capita
  • 8,300 (2005 est.)

From Pentecost to Today
  • Parthians and Medes - ancient Persian tribes -
    are listed among the first Christian converts in
    Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 29). Christianity,
    as mobile as its ancient adherents, has deep
    roots in what was called Persia.
  • Since that first day of Pentecost, there has been
    a continuous Christian presence in Iran.
  • The actual number of Christians in Iran is
    difficult to determine. United Nations figures
    estimate there to be 300,000 Christians, while
    Iranian government sources are sometimes quoted
    as giving a total of 110,000.

The Armenians
  • The majority of Irans Christians are ethnic
    Armenians who live throughout Irans main cities.
    They are seen in Iran, as elsewhere in the Middle
    East, as highly skilled and industrious.
  • Although there have been moving borders and
    cultural exchanges between Persians and Armenians
    from time immemorial, a great wave of Armenians
    came to be part of Persia in the late 1500s when,
    as a result of wars with the Turks, the Persians
    gained a large number of Armenian subjects.
  • In 1606 the shah founded New Julfa, just south of
    Esfahan in central Iran. By granting land to the
    Christian Armenians for their resettlement, they
    were encouraged to carry on their religion and
    commerce away from the main Islamic centers. New
    Julfa today is still a predominantly Armenian

The Black Church
  • St. Thaddaeus Cathedral (also known as Qara
    Kelissa, the Black Church) is in remote
    northwestern Iran near the border with Turkey.
  • It is thought to have been erected in 68 AD and
    is dedicated to Thaddaeus (the disciple Jude),
    who was martyred while spreading the gospel in
    Iran - and, who according to tradition is buried
    here along with Simon (Simeon).
  • The church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1319
    and reconstructed to its present form by 1329.
  • Once a year, Armenian pilgrims from all over Iran
    gather to celebrate the Day of St. Thaddeus in

The Assyrians
  • The other large group of Christians are the
    ethnic Assyrians whose numbers historically have
    been greater in Iraq than Iran. These Christians
    represent the oldest split in Christianit -
    between the Church of the East and the rest of
    Christianity Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant.
    This split dates to the Council of Ephesus in 431
    AD, with the parting of the Assyrians.
  • Today, unofficial estimates indicate that an
    Assyrian Christian population of approximately
    10,000 follow Eastern rites and are found in Iraq
    and Iran, and in Diaspora communities, including
    a small minority among the St. Thomas (Mar Thoma)
    Christians of southern India.

PC(USA) in Iran
  • Protestant missionary ministry in Persia began in
    the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Much of
    the work was directed toward supporting
    indigenous churches and improving education and
    health care.
  • Unlike the older, ethnic churches, they engaged
    with the Persian-speaking community. Their
    printing presses produced religious material in
    various languages.
  • Some Christians moved to Protestantism. Churches
    using the Persian language still thrive within

Living as a Minority
  • Under the Islamic Republic regime of Iran, all
    churches that predate Islam are recognized,
    including the indigenous Armenian and Assyrian
    congregations, who alone are granted a number of
    rights such as parliamentary representation.
    Despite its long history in Iran, Christianity
    has nonetheless often been feared as sympathetic
    to alien, Western ideals.
  • Protestant churches formed in Iran within the
    last 150 years face particular problems of
    acceptance and toleration, though to a lesser
    extent than do members of the Bahai and Sufi
  • At its inception, Islam was the state religion,
    and, by definition, conversion out of Islam was
    looked upon as treason.
  • Since it is considered apostasy to convert from
    Islam to any other religion, Protestant converts
    from Islam are not recognized. Nevertheless, the
    doors of the new Evangelical churches are open to
    all and some of these congregations are growing.
  • Most Christian denominations continue to shrink
    due to emigration.

  • Many Iranian Christians, as part of the general
    exodus of Iranians after the 1979 Islamic
    Revolution, have emigrated -- mostly to the
    United States, Canada, and Western Europe. In
    1975, Christians numbered about 1.5 of the total
    population. In 2000, only about 0.4 of Irans
    population were Christians.
  • Statistically, a much larger percentage of
    non-Muslims than Muslims have emigrated out of

We Pray Together
  • for minority religious groups facing
    discrimination, that they may have freedom of
    religious expression, equal employment
    opportunities, and acceptance and
    tolerance in society.

love one another as I have loved you. John 1512
Statistics for Israel/Palestine
West Bank
  • Israel
  • Total area
  • 12, 877 sq mi
  • slightly smaller than New Jersey
  • Population 7 million
  • incl. about 450,000 in the Occupied Territories
  • Languages
  • Hebrew, Arabic, English
  • Religions
  • Jewish, 76.4 Muslim, 16 Arab Christian, 1.7
    other Christian, 0.4 Druze 1.6 unspecified
  • GDP per capita
  • 24,600
  • West Bank
  • Total area
  • 3,596 sq. mi.,
  • slightly smaller than Delaware
  • Population
  • 2.46 million, incl. 700,000 refugees displaced
    from Israel), not including about 400,000 Jewish
  • Languages
  • Arabic, Hebrew (Jewish settlers and many Arabs),
    English (widelyunderstood)
  • Religions
  • Muslim, 75 (mostly Sunni) Jewish, 17
    (settlers) Christian and other, 8
  • GDP per capita
  • 1,100 (2003 est.)

  • Christians in Israel/Palestine experience many of
    the same profound stresses as their sisters and
    brothers elsewhere in the Middle East.
  • In addition, together with their Muslim
    neighbors, they endure unique hardships rooted in
    the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Birthplace of Christianity
  • Bethlehem the birthplace of Jesus
  • Jerusalem the city of his resurrection
  • The Christian Church was born in Jerusalem at
    Pentecost (Acts 2) and has continued
    uninterrupted in the Holy Land for more than
    two millennia
  • despite the domination of the Roman Empire, the
    collapse of Byzantium, the rise of Islam, five
    centuries of Ottoman rule, and the effects of two
    world wars.

Muslim Presence
  • Muslim Arabs took Jerusalem in 638 and held
    control of the city until the Crusades began in
    1095. Though the Crusades spanned over two
    hundred years, their after effects have been felt
    throughout the Middle East in the centuries

Two Millenia of Christian Presence
  • Today, Christians in Jerusalem are a powerless
    minority, as they were at the time of Jesus.
  • Though Christians over the millennia have
    afforded Jerusalem special significance and gone
    to battle to control Jerusalem, Jesus was
    uninterested in Jerusalem as property, instead
    directing his disciples to go out of the city and
    take the good news with them.
  • In the 20th century, the most drastic change in
    demographics occurred with the 1948 birth of
    Israel, which guaranteed citizenship to any Jew
    in the world. About 5 million Jews have
    immigrated to Israel.
  • Today in Israel, Christians comprise less than 2
    percent of the total population, living primarily
    near the Galilee cities of Haifa and Nazareth as
    well as Ramle, Lydda, and Jaffa.

The Christian Community
  • The largest Christian community is the Greek
    Catholic (Melkite), followed by the Greek
    Orthodox, Latin-rite Catholic and Maronite. There
    are Armenians, Anglicans, Lutherans, and other
    smaller congregations.
  • Christian communities in Israel do not receive
    state funding equal to that of Jewish communities
    for education, health care, infrastructure, or
  • Eligibility for many educational and social
    services is based on military service. Most Arab
    citizens of Israel (Christian and Muslim) cannot
    serve in the military.

Current Conditions
  • The expropriation of Palestinian land for the
    security wall and the construction and expansion
    of Israeli Jewish settlements has been a
    consistent and growing problem for Palestinians
    (Christian and Muslim) ever since the occupation
    of the territories during the 1967 war.
  • This picture shows the entrance to Bethlehem, now
    a virtual prison behind a 25ft high concrete wall.

An Exodus of Christians
  • Life has become so difficult that many
    Christians, often more able to emigrate than
    their Muslim neighbors, have left, seeking
    stability, security, and economic opportunity in
    Western countries.
  • The Christian population of the West Bank and
    East Jerusalem, around 20 percent a hundred years
    ago, has shrunk to a mere 1 percent.

An Exodus of Christians
  • Tourism and agriculture, vital to the Palestinian
    economy, have been profoundly impacted by
    movement restrictions, land seizures, razing of
    planted areas, demolitions, and settler violence.
    Israel controls all borders between the
    Palestinian territories and neighboring
  • Movement, residency, and immigration are
    controlled by Israel through issuance (and
    non-issuance) of permits for Palestinians and
    non-Palestinian workers and visitors in Jerusalem
    and the territories.

Dire Needs
  • The Christians of Gaza trace their roots back to
    the apostle Philip. Today, there are fewer than
    2,000 Christians living in this small, densely
    populated zone with almost 1.5 million Muslims.
    The vast majority of Gazans are refugees and
    their descendants, displaced from Israel during
    the 1948 and 1967 wars.
  • Seen here, the Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children
    in Gaza City receives Presbyterian Hunger Program
    support. In addition, a California Presbyterian
    church has adopted a classroom there for five

A Double Minority
  • Christians in Israel/Palestine face special
    difficulties as a double minority to Jews and
    Muslims. Cognizant of their congregations dire
    condition, the patriarchs of the Christian
    denominations in Jerusalem issue an annual joint
    statement to the world about the condition of
    Christian life in the Holy Land.

Presbyterian Presence
  • For this reason, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
    has partner churches in Israel/Palestine that
    serve Lutheran and Anglican Arab congregations.
    Our closest partners are the Episcopal Church of
    Jerusalem and the Middle East and the Evangelical
    Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land
  • In the mid-nineteenth century, comity agreements
    among Protestant missionaries determined that the
    Anglicans and Lutherans were to provide witness
    to the Holy Land, while the Presbyterians were to
    send missionaries to Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran,
    and what would later become Lebanon.

  • The work of the PC(USA) is primarily in
    ecumenical relations, education and health
    services, development and relief, interreligious
    dialogue, human rights and justice,
    reconciliation and peace.

we pray together
  • . . . for churches and other organizations
    working to meet human needs, to build
    understanding and respect between Jews and Arabs,
    and seeking a just peace.

love one another as I have loved you. John 1512
Iraq Statistics
  • Total area
  • 270,985 sq. miles,
  • just over twice the size of Idaho
  • Population
  • 27 million,
  • 1.5 million internally displaced persons (UN -
  • Languages
  • Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian
  • Religions
  • Muslim, 97 (Shia, 60-65, Sunni, 32-37)
    Christian and other, 3
  • GDP per capita
  • 3,400 (2005 est.)

Cradle of Civilization
  • This is where the Bible begins. Iraq, the land
    between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, is the
    cradle of civilization. Known as Mesopotamia -
    Greek for land between two rivers.
  • Iraq is the modern-day name for the lands known
    in the Bible as Babylonia, Chaldea, and Assyria.
  • Abraham and Sarah hailed from Ur of Chaldea, now
    a ruined ancient city in the southern part of
    Iraq near Basra. Heeding Gods call, they
    traversed 750 miles to settle in Palestine near
    what is now the West Bank city of Hebron.

The Nestorians / Assyrians
  • There has been a Christian presence in Iraq since
    the first century, including various Orthodox
    churches, Chaldean Catholics, and Church of the
    East Assyrians. The Assyrians - also called
    Nestorians - emerged as a distinct Christian
    group in 431 AD at the Council of Ephesus and
    spread rapidly eastward.
  • The Nestorians of the early Assyrian Church,
    through their universities in the fourth to sixth
    centuries, had a key role in bringing Greek
    philosophy, science, and medicine first to the
    Persian world, and from there to the Islamic
    world during the Abassid Caliphate (758-1258),
    whose seat of power was Baghdad. It was from the
    Nestorian university of Nisibis (in today¹s
    southern Turkey) that the forgotten works of
    Aristotle and Plato were transmitted back to
    medieval Europe.

Assyrian Contributions
  • Assyrian scholars of both Nestorian and Jacobite
    denominations contributed greatly to the
    advancement of the Islamic civilization,
    translating major works of medicine, philosophy,
    mathematics, astronomy, and other sciences from
    Syriac and Greek into Arabic. In the same period,
    Christian physicians were famous for their
    medical skills and training facilities.
  • The arrival of the Crusaders, followed by the
    Mongols, incited anger against non-Muslim
    communities. The Assyrian population was reduced,
    surviving mostly in the plain of Nineveh and the
    mountains north of Mosul, but also in Turkey and

Syriac and Aramaic in Iraq
  • All Assyrian churches share the Syriac language
    (a form of Aramaic) and a common history with
    Chaldeans, sometimes called Chaldo-Assyrians, who
    broke away in 1552 from the Church of the East
    and reunited with the Roman Catholic Church. Both
    groups are ethnically Assyrian, and claim to be
    heirs of the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia.

Suffering of Christians
  • Like the Armenian Christians, Assyrians have
    suffered persecution and, over the centuries,
    resisted attempts to be stripped of their
    language and culture.
  • Under Ottoman rule, they sided with Britain
    during World War I, while Iraq under the same
    rule was allied with Germany. After the
    dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Assyrians were
    protected under the British Mandate that ruled
    Iraq. Upon the departure of their British patrons
    in 1933, the situation deteriorated, and
    thousands of unarmed Assyrians were executed. The
    Assyrian Patriarch fled to exile in Cyprus, then
    to Britain, and eventually to Chicago, where he
    reestablished his seat in 1939.

  • Nestorians trace their origin to the Council of
    Ephesus in 431AD, when their religious leader,
    the Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, broke
    away from the Byzantine Orthodox Church. Isolated
    from the rest of Christianity, the Nestorians
    have preserved many of the rites and traditions
    of the Early Church that have disappeared
    elsewhere and they still use an Aramaic-based
  • The Nestorians, who penetrated China during the
    Tang Dynasty with missionary activity beginning
    in 635AD, are credited with bringing the secrets
    of silk farming to Byzantium.

Modern Era
  • During Saddam Hussein¹s purging of the Kurdish
    population of Iraq in the 1980s, hundreds of
    Assyrian villages were destroyed, their
    inhabitants scattered as refugees in cities or
    neighboring countries. Dozens of ancient
    churches, some dating to the early centuries of
    Christianity, were bombed to ruin. The teaching
    of the Syriac language was prohibited and
    Assyrians were forced to give their children
    Arabic names. Those seeking government jobs were
    forced to sign ethnicity papers identifying
    themselves as Arabs.
  • The fall of Saddam Hussein, once seen as having
    the potential to bring peace to Iraq, has
    unleashed unprecedented violence against the
    Christian community in Iraq. After decades of
    living in relative harmony with the Muslim
    majority, Iraqs ancient Christian minority is
    threatened as never before.

PC(USA) in Iraq
  • The PC(USA) has had a vital local presence in
    Iraq since its mission work began there in the
    mid-nineteenth century. Our denomination
    maintains a supportive partnership with the
    Presbyterian churches of Iraq.
  • There are five active Presbyterian congregations
    in Iraq two in Baghdad (one Arabic-speaking, the
    other Assyrian) and one each in Mosul, Kirkuk,
    and Basra. Before the fall of Hussein,
    Presbyterians and other Protestants in Iraq
    numbered between 3,000 and 3,500.
  • The PC(USA) participates in much-needed relief
    and development work in Iraq through the Middle
    East Council of Churches, as well as through
    direct support.

Violence in Iraq
  • Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March of
    2003, there were approximately one million
    Christians living in Iraq- roughly 5 percent of
    the population. Iraqs leaders have denounced
    attacks against Christians, but a series of
    bombings targeting churches indicates that
    Christians are now equated with the occupation,
    regardless of their actual views.
  • With the violence of war and the backlash of
    extremist activity, Christians have been leaving
    at unprecedented rates. By October 2006, more
    than half had left Iraq, joining families around
    the world or finding refuge in Jordan and Syria.

We Pray Together
  • for the building up of a government able to keep
    peace among Iraqs religious and ethnic
  • that Christians in Iraq will be accepted by
    their Muslim neighbors and contribute to the
    rebuilding of the nation.

love one another as I have loved you. John 1512
Egypt Statistics
  • Total area
  • 383,300 sq. miles,
  • slightly more than three times the size of New
  • Population
  • 78,890,000 (July 2006 est.)
  • Language
  • Arabic
  • Religions
  • Muslim (mostly Sunni), 90 Coptic Christian, 9
    other Christian, 1
  • GDP per capita
  • 3,900 (2005 est.)

Egypt in the New Testament
  • Get up, the angel commanded, Take the child
    and his mother and escape to Egypt. Obedient to
    the angels warning, Joseph took Mary and the
    infant Jesus in the night and left for Egypt.
  • (Matthew 213-15)
  • The place that served as a haven for the Holy
    Family from Herods murderous jealousy is today
    home to between approximately 6 and 11 million
    Christians, the largest Christian community in
    the Middle East.

A Continuous History
  • The Gospel was brought to Egypt in the first
    century by the apostle Mark.
  • The Coptic Orthodox Church traces its continuous
    history back to Marks evangelizing work in
    Egypt. The Coptic Catholic Church, the Greek
    Orthodox Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church and
    the Syriac Orthodox Church have all had a
    presence in Egypt for centuries.

The Coptic Church
  • From the first century until medieval times,
    Egypt was a Christian country. By the fifth and
    sixth centuries, the majority of the population
    of Egypt was Christianized. Today, the Coptic
    Orthodox Church is the largest denomination in
    Egypt, with about 6 million believers.
  • The word Coptic is generally used to refer to any
    Egyptian Christian. The term comes from the Greek
    for Land of the Copts, Agyptos.

The Role of Alexandria
  • Egypts capital, Alexandria, was an important
    center of religion and philosophy in the late
    Classical period, situated at the crossroads of
    trade routes between Asia, Africa, and Europe. It
    was also one of the first melting-pot cities,
    in which Jews, pagans, and Christians lived
    together, blended traditions, and traded
  • In the early days of Christianity, Alexandria was
    a Greek city with the worlds largest Jewish
    population. It was in Alexandria, as well as
    Antioch and Constantinople, that Christian
    doctrine developed away from its strictly Jewish
    founding traditions.

Living together with Islam
  • Islam came to Egypt with the Arab invasion of 642
    AD. Contrary to some reports, there were no
    forced conversions in the seventh century and
    conversion of significant numbers to Islam did
    not begin until the ninth century.
  • Today, Christian-Muslim relations are generally
    good. Christian churches function with government
    permission and acceptance.

Christians in Society
  • As Egyptian society has become increasingly
    conservative, social contact between Muslims and
    Christians has decreased and misunderstandings
    have increased. Christians feel discrimination as
    a result of the delays typically encountered when
    churches request permission to build or remodel.
    Discrimination is also an issue with neglect of
    the Christian historical period in public school
    curricula, lack of Christian media images on
    television, and exclusion of Christians from
    certain high-level government positions.
  • Still, Egyptian Muslims alleged to be extremists
    are much more likely to be subject to human
    rights abuses than Egyptian Copts.

The Birth of Monasticism
  • The Christian monastic tradition is rooted in the
    mysticism of the Middle East. In the fourth
    century, the ascetic Anthony fled bustling
    Alexandria to find contemplation through
    isolation and tranquility in the desert, and the
    monastery was born.
  • Within a century of its founding in Egypt,
    monasticism took hold in Italy and France, and by
    the eighth century had reached Scotland.
  • Seen here, St. Catherine¹s Greek Orthodox
    Monastery, site of the Burning Bush in the Sinai,
    was founded by monks in the fourth century and is
    now home to priceless manuscripts, books, and

PC(USA) in Egypt
  • The Evangelical (Protestant) churches of Egypt
    date to the 1850s. Presbyterian mission work in
    Egypt began in 1854. The Evangelical
    (Presbyterian) Church of Egypt grew as part of
    the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) until Egypt
    gained complete independence from British rule
    almost a century later.
  • The churchs Synod of the Nile has a highly
    developed program of witness and mission,
    including eight presbyteries and about 300
    churches and worship centers. The PC(USA) has
    strong partnerships with the Synod of the Nile
    and other organizations such as the Coptic
    Evangelical Organization for Social Services
    (CEOSS), and the Evangelical Theological Seminary
    at Cairo (established in 1863).

We Pray together
  • for Coptic Christians and Muslims working to
    live together in harmony and mutual understanding
    for the good of the country.

Closing Prayers
love one another as I have loved you. John 1512
Let us pray for all the people of the Middle East
. . .
  • We pray together
  • that lasting solutions will be found to the
    problems of the Middle East.
  • that Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others will
    seek mutual understanding and work together to
    overcome extremism of all kinds.
  • We pray together
  • for elderly and ill Middle Eastern Christians as
    the capacity of their shrinking communities to
    care for them becomes increasingly fragile.
  • for the Jinishian Memorial Program, a foundation
    administered by the PC(USA) that supports the
    Armenian community in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon,
    Armenia, Turkey, and Jerusalem.
  • We pray together
  • that Christians will not feel compelled to
    emigrate, but remain rooted in the region.
  • that opportunities and ways be will be increased
    to share the gospel of Christ.

Let us Pray
  • As Presbyterians, as Americans, and as
    Christians, we remember the peoples of the Middle
    East in these painful and difficult times,
    whatever their religious affiliation.
  • We pray for all the people of the Middle
    East, and we especially lift up our brothers and
    sisters in Christ, the living stones of the
    Early Church, as they strive to maintain a
    presence throughout the Middle East. Let us stand
    witness to these vulnerable Christian communities
    and hold them in prayer.
  • In Jesus name, We Pray. Amen.