Church

The ‘Almost Unremarked’ Tragedy of Christians Persecuted in the Middle East

For 15 years Canon Andrew White has led Iraq’s only Anglican church, in an increasingly menacing period for Christians across the Middle East.

 
 Read on here.

  

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Church

Patriarch of Antioch Thanks Russian Church for Defending Christians in Middle East

On the Russian Orthodox Church website:

His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Great Antioch and All the East sent a message to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, in which he expressed his gratitude for the efforts that the Russian Orthodox Church makes to defend Christians in the Middle East.

In his letter, His Beatitude Patriarch John X mentioned the celebration marking the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism Russia, which was held in Moscow, Kiev and Minsk with the participation of the Primates and representatives of all Local Orthodox Churches, saying in particular, “I was… so happy to see the brothers gathering about the holy Divine Altar and praising the Author of Life, Our Lord Jesus Christ who blessed Russia and the Russian People and granted this great nation all his heavenly blessings to be a true and sincere witness of Christendom. The baptism of Russia is not only an historical event, but it is also a concrete and lived reality that all people and nations can “come and see” (John 1:46) and praise the Lord Jesus Christ.”

According to His Beatitude, “with deep feeling of respect and appreciation” he read the Statement by Heads and Representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches Assembled for the Celebration of the 1025th Anniversary of the Baptism of Russia. The main theme of the joint statement is the situation of Christians in the Middle East.

“I consider it my duty to raise an Antiochian thankful voice to support and share every word of the released statement,” Patriarch John’s letter reads. “Truly, Christians are persecuted and damaged in the Middle East, in the land of Jesus Christ. The salvation of Syria and of all the Middle East comes, as mentioned, through the logic of dialogue and peaceful political settlement. Extremism, fundamentalism and blind radicalism are the most great dangers which threaten not only the Christian presence, but the existence of the States and the peace of all the nations.”

His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Great Antioch and All the East expressed his wish to pay a brotherly visit to the Russian Orthodox Church and said in conclusion of his letter, “May Lord, Jesus Christ, the King of Peace give us His Divine Peace, grant you, the Russian Synod and the Russian People His heavenly blessings and bless the efforts of all the orthodox world to settle the peace in the Middle East and in all the world redeemed by the precious blood of our Savior.”

 

Bible Archaeology

Archaeology after the Arab Spring

The transformative political events in the Middle East over the past two years have had, among many other unexpected outcomes, profound effects on the direction of research in Near Eastern archaeology.  War and civil unrest act as both a carrot and a stick, forcing the cessation of fieldwork in some areas, while promoting new investigations in places that might otherwise have gone unexplored. The geopolitics of the post-Arab Spring world are changing where we are able work, and by consequence they will shape the research questions we investigate, as well as the regions where future generations of scholars will likely specialize.  But the present moment of realignment is far from unique—our discipline has been shaped from the beginning by the tumultuous political history of the Middle East…

Worth a read over at The ASOR Blog.

 

Church

Militant Islam the Greatest Threat to Middle Eastern Christianity

A British think tank has released a lengthy report claiming that militant Islam is the greatest existential threat to Middle Eastern Christianity, bringing Christian communities in the region “close to extinction.”

The London-based Civitas, also known as the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, published the report in December. “Christianity is in serious danger of being wiped out in its biblical heartlands because of Islamic oppression,” reads a statement from the group issued Sunday.

“But Western politicians and media largely ignore the widespread persecution of Christians in the Middle East and the wider world because they are afraid they will be accused of racism.”

Titled “Christianophobia” and written by reporter and Religion Editor for The Times Literary Supplement Rupert Shortt, the report details the persecution of Christians in Burma, China, Egypt, India, Iraq, Nigeria, and Pakistan…

Read on here.

While noting the large-scale persecution of Christians in societies that are  Communist, Buddhist, or Hindu, Shortt stressed the growing impact of intolerance  in Islamic countries.

“In the large area between Morocco and Pakistan, for example, there is  scarcely a country in which church life operates without restrictions. Syria has  been one of the exceptions until now,” wrote Shortt.

“The prognosis for the rest of the Middle East is hardly encouraging: there  is now a serious risk that Christianity will disappear from its biblical  heartlands…

 

Church

Israel: Rockets Rain Down on Israel. Tensions Rise in the Middle East

Virtue Online:

Last night I was watching CNN and Jenny (5) said, “What are those? Rockets?” It was footage of the fighting between Hamas and the IDF. I answered (without thinking about it), “Yeah, they’re firing rockets at Israel,” and then quickly added, “But not here.”

So soldiers are being mobilized and it looks like foot soldiers will be going into Gaza.

In truly worrying news, a rocket from Gaza recently reached the suburbs of Tel Aviv, which is the hub of the entire country. That little coastal strip from Tel Aviv up through Haifa is where most of the population of this little country lives. (Israel is about the size of New Jersey, incidentally.) If the guys in Gaza get better missiles from Iran (which is where they are coming from) then you will start to see serious casualties on the Israeli side, and the government will not permit that.

In the past Egypt could more or less be counted on to make smuggling arms into Gaza hard. No more…

Meanwhile, the fighting in Syria is spilling over into the always-unstable country of Lebanon. And fighting among the various parties (and there are several, not just two) in Syria recently made the Israeli army fire the first warning shots in decades in the Golan cease-fire area. It appears that the Syrians had not intended to cross the cease-fire line, fortunately.

Our neighbors in Jordan, which has the reputation of being a stable country, have recently eliminated fuel subsidies, which has caused massive protests over there. A line has been crossed, in fact, in that some people are openly calling for the abdication of King Abdullah. If he does not abdicate, force will have to be used to suppress dissenting voices. If he does abdicate the monarchy will be abolished, or a sibling of his will become monarch. Either way, Jordan will go the way of Egypt and become much more Islamist-leaning in its politics and foreign relations.

In my e-mail inbox this morning I had a message from the US Embassy-consulates are closed today and the embassy hours have been reduced. Also, diplomats may not travel through the West Bank because of the instability in both Israel and Jordan. Jordan, meanwhile, is trying to figure out what to do with tens of thousands of refugees from Syria. Jordan does not even have enough food or water for its own population.

We have been living in the Middle East now for many years, and I’m quite used to the occasional instability or violence. But it was always isolated to this or that area. The instability is too widespread now. I’m not an alarmist, but I don’t see how any of this ends up happily. That having been said, I do not feel our family is in any imminent danger, I am glad to say.

Would you please pray for peace in the region? Pray that the local churches would be part of the solution and not just close their eyes and ears to these difficulties? And pray for us, that in the midst of all of this we would be people of light and hope and witnesses to the grace of our Creator and the love of our Redeemer.