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The Cradle of Our Faith. The enduring witness of the Christians of the Middle East. …love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12. Introduction. …love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12. An Enduring Witness.

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TheCradle ofOur Faith

The enduring witness of the Christians of the Middle East

…love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12


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Introduction

…love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12


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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 geography.

  • Our continuing mission in the Middle East

    • The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a long-standing relationship with Middle Eastern Christians.

      • 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 care.


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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.


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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 Christianity.

At its roots …


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Christian Exodus 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.

  • 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 narrative.

  • 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.


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No Man’s Land 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.

  • 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 man’s 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.


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Backlash 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.

  • 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 XVI’s speech in September 2006 that offended Muslims. After the Pope’s 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.


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Conflict & Turmoil 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.

  • 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 world’s total Armenian population was massacred. As a result, there are substantial Armenian populations throughout much of the Middle East.


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End of Ottoman Rule 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.

  • 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 movements.

  • 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


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No Self Rule for Palestine 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.

  • 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.


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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 population.

A Jewish State


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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 citizens.

Recent Turmoil


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Syria 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.

…love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12


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Syria 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.


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Syria Statistics 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.

  • 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


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Christians Today 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.

  • 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.


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An Ancient Christianity 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.

  • 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 language.

  • Aramaic is still used in the liturgy of the Syrian, Chaldean, and Maronite Churches.


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A Diverse Christianity 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.

  • 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.


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A Richness of Liturgies 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.

  • 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.


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Arab Christians 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.

  • 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.


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Shaping Church History 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.

  • 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.


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Government Recognition 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.

  • 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 cards.


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The Apostle Paul & Syria 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.

  • The ancient wall that surrounds the Old City of Damascus was built during the Roman Era. The “Street Called Straight” (Acts 9:11) is the 2000-year-old Roman “Via Recta.”

  • St. Paul’s 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 Gentiles.

  • 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 themselves.


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We Pray Together… 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.

. . . 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.


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Lebanon 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.

…love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12


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Lebanon 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.


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Lebanon Statistics 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.

  • 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, 1.3%

  • GDP per capita:

    • $6,200


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The Creation of Lebanon 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.

  • 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.


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Christians no longer a majority 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.

  • 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.


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Power Sharing 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.

  • The relative size of its various religious communities is a deeply sensitive issue; Lebanon’s 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, Lebanon’s constitution prescribes a power-sharing formula under which the president is a Maronite Christian, the speaker of the Parliament is a Shi’a Muslim, and the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim.


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The Maronite Christians 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.

  • The Maronite community, named for a Syrian hermit named St. Maron, is Lebanon’s 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 Lebanon’s mountains. Their descendents live in mountain villages throughout the country today and Maronite monasteries continue to have a strong presence.


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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 Islam’s emergence and partly explains the unprecedented speed of Islam’s expansion.

The East West Split


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Refugees in Lebanon called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • 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.


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Israel-Lebanon War 2006 called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • 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.


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PC (USA) and Partners called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • 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.


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We Pray together . . . called Eastern and Western Christianity.

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


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Jordan called Eastern and Western Christianity.

…love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12


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Jordan called Eastern and Western Christianity.


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Jordan Statistics called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • 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


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The Old Testament in Jordan called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • 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 Edomites.

    • 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.


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More Old Testament called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • Twenty miles south of Madaba is Mukawir, ancient Machaerus, the fortress built by Herod the Great. Here Herod imprisoned John the Baptist and Salome danced.

  • The Old Testament records Moab’s 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 (15:2) gloomily prophesied, “…Moab shall howl over Nebo and over Medeba…” Lot sought refuge from the Lord’s fire and brimstone in Jordan, and Moses, Aaron, and John the Baptist all died there.


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Moses at Mount Nebo called Eastern and Western Christianity.

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 34:17)


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From the Roman Era to Islam called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • 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 residents.

  • 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), Madaba’s ruins lay untouched for centuries.


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The Crusaders called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • Petra, southern Jordan’s 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 Jordan.


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Ottoman Rule to the present called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • 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.


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Modern Jordan called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • 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 administration.


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Jordan’s Refugees called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • Since Israel’s founding in 1948, Jordan has taken in over 1.7 million Palestinian refugees. Today, Jordanians of Palestinian descent comprise over half the population. Jordan’s 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.


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Today’s Christians called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • 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.


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We Pray Together … called Eastern and Western Christianity.

…for Jordan’s people as they struggle to welcome many thousands of Muslim and Christian Iraqi war refugees.

…for Christian schools, hospitals, and other institutions that minister to the needs of all Jordanians.


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Break called Eastern and Western Christianity.

…love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12


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Iran called Eastern and Western Christianity.

…love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12


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Iran called Eastern and Western Christianity.


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Iran Statistics called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • 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:

    • Shi’a Muslim, 89%; Sunni Muslim, 9%; Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha’i, 2%

  • GDP per capita:

    • $8,300 (2005 est.)


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From Pentecost to Today called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • Parthians and Medes - ancient Persian tribes - are listed among the first Christian converts in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:9). 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.


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The Armenians called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • The majority of Iran’s Christians are ethnic Armenians who live throughout Iran’s 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 city.


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The Black Church called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • 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 July.


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The Assyrians called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • 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.


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PC(USA) in Iran called Eastern and Western Christianity.

  • 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 Iran.


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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 Baha’i and Sufi faiths.

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.

Living as a Minority


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Exodus 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.

  • 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 Iran’s population were Christians.

  • Statistically, a much larger percentage of non-Muslims than Muslims have emigrated out of Iran.


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We Pray Together … 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.

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


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Israel/Palestine 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.

…love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12


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Israel/Palestine 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.


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West Bank 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.

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 3.9%

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 settlers

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.)

Statistics for Israel/Palestine


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Israel/Palestine 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.

  • 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.


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Birthplace of Christianity 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.

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.


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Muslim Presence 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.

  • 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 since.


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Two Millenia of Christian Presence 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.

  • 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.


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The Christian Community 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.

  • 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 housing.

  • 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.


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Current Conditions 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.

  • 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.


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An Exodus of Christians 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.

  • 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.


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An Exodus of Christians 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.

  • 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 countries.

    • 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.


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Dire Needs 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.

  • 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 years.


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A Double Minority 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.

  • 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.


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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.

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 (ELCJH).

Presbyterian Presence


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PC(USA) 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.


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we pray together… 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.

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


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Iraq 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.

…love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12


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Iraq 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.


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Iraq Statistics 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.

  • Total area:

    • 270,985 sq. miles,

      • just over twice the size of Idaho

  • Population:

    • 27 million,

      • 1.5 million internally displaced persons (UN - 10/06)

  • Languages:

    • Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian

  • Religions:

    • Muslim, 97% (Shi’a, 60-65%, Sunni, 32-37%); Christian and other, 3%

  • GDP per capita:

    • $3,400 (2005 est.)


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Cradle of Civilization 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.

  • 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 God’s call, they traversed 750 miles to settle in Palestine near what is now the West Bank city of Hebron.


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The Nestorians / Assyrians 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.

  • 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.


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Assyrian Contributions 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.

  • 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 Iran.


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Syriac and Aramaic in Iraq 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.

  • 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.


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Suffering of Christians 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.

  • 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.


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Nestorians 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.

  • 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 liturgy.

  • The Nestorians, who penetrated China during the T’ang Dynasty with missionary activity beginning in 635AD, are credited with bringing the secrets of silk farming to Byzantium.


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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, Iraq’s ancient Christian minority is threatened as never before.

Modern Era


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PC(USA) in Iraq 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 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.


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Violence in Iraq 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.

  • 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. Iraq’s 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.


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We Pray Together … 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.

…for the building up of a government able to keep peace among Iraq’s religious and ethnic communities.

…that Christians in Iraq will be accepted by their Muslim neighbors and contribute to the rebuilding of the nation.


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Egypt 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.

…love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12


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Egypt 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.


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Egypt Statistics 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.

  • Total area:

    • 383,300 sq. miles,

      • slightly more than three times the size of New Mexico

  • 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.)


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Egypt in the New Testament 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.

“Get up,” the angel commanded, “Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.” Obedient to the angel’s warning, Joseph took Mary and the infant Jesus in the night and left for Egypt.

(Matthew 2:13-15)

  • The place that served as a haven for the Holy Family from Herod’s murderous jealousy is today home to between approximately 6 and 11 million Christians, the largest Christian community in the Middle East.


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A Continuous History 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 Gospel was brought to Egypt in the first century by the apostle Mark.

  • The Coptic Orthodox Church traces its continuous history back to Mark’s 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.


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The Coptic Church 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.

  • 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.


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The Role of Alexandria 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.

  • Egypt’s 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 influences.

  • In the early days of Christianity, Alexandria was a Greek city with the world’s largest Jewish population. It was in Alexandria, as well as Antioch and Constantinople, that Christian doctrine developed away from its strictly Jewish founding traditions.


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Living together with Islam 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.

  • 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.


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Christians in Society 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.

  • 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.


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The Birth of Monasticism 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 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 icons.


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PC(USA) in Egypt 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 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 church’s 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).


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We Pray together … 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.

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


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Closing Prayers 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.

…love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12


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Let us pray for all the people of the Middle East . . . 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.

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.


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Let us Pray … 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.

… 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.


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