Yvonne Haddad on Issues concerning Arab-American Christians, Muslims

Article excerpt

Dr. Yvonne Haddad, professor of history of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, spoke Feb. 27 at Saints Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Potomac, MD. She discussed the history of the American Christian and Muslim communities from the Middle East and the consequences of the migration of Middle Eastern peoples to the United States that started in the 187Os and continues to the present day.

Arab Christian and Muslim migrants tended to congregate around their individual churches or mosques to form ethnic enclaves in order to compensate for the loss of extended families in their homelands, Haddad explained. Most of those who came to the U.S. during the early stages of the immigration of Arab Christians were either Orthodox or Maronite Christians. After several generations, Haddad noted, American Arabs become thoroughly Americanized and the ethnic and social differences tended to disappear.

Even though there is very little communication between Christian and Muslim groups in the United States, Haddad noted, the Middle Eastern Council of Churches is composed of both Christian and Muslim clergy and lay people who work together to maintain dialogue and develop harmony between the two religious groups.

Despite being Christians with a history going back to the earliest foundations of the Christian faith, many Middle Eastern Christians had difficulty being accepted by their American co-religionists, Haddad stated. For example, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States did not recognize Maronite Christian Arabs as Catholics until the 1960s, even though the pope in Rome recognized the Maronite denomination as a Middle Eastern denomination of the Roman Catholic Church. And it was only in 1966 that the pope recognized the Greek Catholic Melkite Church in the United States as a separate entity distinguished from the Melkite Church in the Middle East.

In Dr. Haddad's opinion, many of the subdivisions into different denominations which characterized the early history of Christianity in the Middle East probably were more the result of the geography and politics at the time than of differences over the nature of Jesus Christ, as is generally assumed. …