Book: From Pluralism to Extinction? Perspectives and Challenges for Christians in the Middle East

Edited by Sotiris Roussos
Published: 16 July 2023 [Mediterranean Politics Series: 5]

Paperback: ISBN: 978-1-80135-224-6 Buy from Amazon | Buy on Talebe.com
Digital version: ISBN: 978-1-80135-225-3 Read on Google Play | Read on Kindle | Read on CEEOL | Read on Talebe.com

Christian communities are deeply rooted in the Middle East, starting their witness since the first centuries of Christianity. The last hundred years of Middle East Christianity’s history went through a series of profound crises. Displacement by war, genocide and occupation leading to loss, emigration and exile seem to be the main experience of Christianity in the modern Middle East. Against this background of displacement, Christians have sought to resettle and build anew when allowed. They have been able to make significant cultural, political and economic contribution to Middle Eastern societies. In the last thirty years they are again facing ominous threat of extinction. Entering the new millennium, they are confronted with major difficulties and transformations in world politics. From 2011 Christians particularly in Syria and Iraq, have been suffering death and destruction in the hands of extremist Islamist groups.

The volume is a fresh approach to the study of the Christian communities in the Middle East examining their relation to state, identity and politics. It questions main presuppositions and perceptions regarding Christianity in the Middle East, casts new light on the living Christian communities in the region and reflects on their future role.

Research for the book was funded by the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (H.F.R.I.) under the ‘First Call for H.F.R.I. Research Projects to support Faculty members and Researchers and the procurement of high-cost research equipment grant’ (Project Number: 1422).

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CME 2023 Special Report | Resilience in the Eye of the Storm: The Christian Communities in Lebanon

The field research was conducted between the 20th and 28th of February, 2023 in Lebanon. The Christianity in the Middle East (CME) team interviewed stakeholders from Lebanon's numerous and diverse Christian communities. Within the broader framework of CME’s project titled “Christianity and Religious Pluralism in the Modern Middle East: International Politics and Religion at the turn of the 20th and 21st century”, the particular research explored how the Lebanese Christian communities view themselves and interpret the challenges they face. Moreover, the aim of the research was to provide a better understanding of intra-Christian relations and their implications on the Lebanese political scene. Finally, the study sought to explore the difference between the religious and political leaderships’ perspectives regarding the future of the Christian communities in Lebanon.

The field research was funded by the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (H.F.R.I.) under the ‘First Call for H.F.R.I. Research Projects to support Faculty members and Researchers and the procurement of high-cost research equipment grant’ (Project Number: 1422).

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Event: International Workshop on Christianity in the Middle East | October 21, 2022

CME organised an international workshop in Athens (Hill 3-5, 10558) on Friday, October 21, 2022, to promote an academic discussion on Christianity and Religious Pluralism in the modern Middle East. Experts on international politics and religion addressed the various aspects of the current situation of Christians in the region.

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Christians in Syria and Iraq: From Co-optation to Militarisation Strategies

Author: Sotiris Roussos & Stavros Drakoularakos

Publication: Studies in World Christianity

DOI: 10.3366/swc.2022.0403

After the eruption of civil strife in Syria and Iraq, widespread violence and harassment, mainly by jihadist groups, came to substantiate fears for the extinction of the Christians. Various jihadist groups have perpetrated an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians. The paper will examine another alternative to co-optation, a survival strategy that has developed among the Christians in Iraq and Syria, that of armed resistance and the organisation of militias. This militarisation trend reveals serious inner-communal disagreements. Caught among regional antagonisms and suspicious of the ascendent Sunni, Shia and Kurdish political aspirations and nationalisms, the idea of self-determination and self-government in an autonomous zone around Nineveh seems the best alternative to state co-optation. The paper will also look into the evolving relationship of the Christian communities with the state, the Muslim majorities, the other non-Muslim communities and the international community in a system of overlapping authority and multiple loyalty in the region.

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The collapse of the Ottoman Empire and survival strategies of Christian communities in Greater Syria

Author: Sotiris Roussos

Publication: Contemporary Levant

DOI: 10.1080/20581831.2021.1881719

Published online: 24 February 2021

The millet system compartmentalised religious communities into different sociopolitical environments under the overarching Ottoman imperial realm. However, during the nineteenth century, state transformation and crisis and the global re-allocation of political and economic power led to the exacerbation of ethnoreligious conflicts. Facing the collapse of the Ottoman imperium and the threat of extinction, the Greek Orthodox, Assyrian, Chaldean and Syrian Orthodox communities developed five survival strategies. The first was co-optation by state authorities; the second, protection of the Great Powers; the third armed resistance and the creation of autonomous enclaves; the fourth was that of exodus; and the last was to integrate themselves into Arab nationalism, lowering the banner of religion and becoming strong advocates of an Arab national identity encompassing Muslims and Christians alike. This paper aims to present a comparative approach to these strategies in the period from the beginning of the twentieth century to the formation of the Mandates.

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Christianity in the Middle East (CME) | Report no.1

The aim of the CME report is to present and address the main features related to Christians living in the Middle East in regard to religious plularism and peaceful coexistence. The region of focus includes Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Moreover, emphasis is attributed to the relationship between the state and its institutions with the Christian communities, as well as in pinpoiting the factors and effects related to the Christian exodus from the Middle East. The documentation of the report reflects the research openly available on the CME website and serves as a database for the living conditions of the Christians in the Middle East. The CME reports are an ongoing endeavour, aiming at providing continuous updates on the state of religious pluralism for the Christians of the Middle East. The findings presented, therefore, are not exhaustive, but highlight main trends and continuities.

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Iraq's Christians mark Christmas with subdued celebrations in solidarity with Gaza

Publication Date: 25/12/2023

Source: The New Arab

Christians in Iraq took part in subdued Christmas celebrations this year in solidarity with tens of thousands of Palestinians killed in Israel's brutal war on Gaza and with scores of Iraqis who died in a tragic fire earlier this year.

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Syriac Christmas Message Stirs Debate in Turkish Parliament

Author: Mahmut Bozarslan, Ezel Sahinkaya

Publication Date: 22/12/2023

Source: VOA News

Turkey’s parliament erupted in controversy this week when the nation’s only Assyrian lawmaker delivered a Christmas message in his native Syriac language, offending other legislators who believe that only Turkish should be spoken in the national assembly.

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HTS looks to Idlib’s Christians and Druze to whitewash violations

Author: Walid Al Nofal, Bahaa Taha

Publication Date: 11/12/2023

Source: Syria Direct

The land, 60 dunums in al-Judayda, a Christian village in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, was everything to Julian’s family. From season to season, it sustained them, until Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the hardline opposition group that reigns in Idlib, confiscated it five years ago. In October, the family finally got it back.

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Aleppo’s Christians Face Ongoing Struggles from War and Displacement

Publication Date: 19/12/2023

Source: Persecution - International Christian Concern

Aleppo, the second-largest city in Syria, has witnessed profound transformations over the past 12 years, becoming a poignant symbol of the broader challenges faced by the nation and the entire Middle East region. Aleppo, in the past decade, has experienced the devastating consequences of war, mass displacement, economic crises, and societal breakdown.

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'No sign of Christmas in the birthplace of Jesus': As bombs rain on Gaza, Palestinian Christians say cancel celebrations

Author: Jessica Buxbaum

Publication Date: 22/12/2023

Source: The New Arab

Last week, Nahida and Samar Anton — a mother and daughter — were reportedly shot dead by an Israeli sniper while walking inside the Holy Family Church, Gaza’s only Catholic church.

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