Who Are the Christians in the Middle East?

Who Are the Christians in the Middle East?

Who Are the Christians in the Middle East?

Who Are the Christians in the Middle East?


The Middle East continues to dominate international news and global politics. From the perspective of religion, however, many Americans think of that area only in terms of Muslims and Israeli Jews and are unaware of the extensive Christian communities that still exist there. "Who Are the Christians in the Middle East? "chronicles the history and current state of Christianity in this highly volatile region of the world.

Written by a married couple who has lived and worked a long time in the Middle East, this book is must reading for anyone who wishes to be au courant on the Christian dimension of the Middle East. The Baileys describe each Christian denomination now active in the region and provide country-by-country reports on the present situation of the church. They also discuss the history of the relationship between church and state in the Middle East, pointing out the challenges to the future of Middle Eastern Christians.

In addition to these larger discussions, the book features introductory chapters on the Middle East and Christianity written by David A. Kerr, a professor of Christianity in the non-Western world, and Riad Jarjour, general secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches. Also included are an informative timeline and short vignettes on people and places of special historical significance to the church in the Middle East.

Based on personal experience, official church documents, and extensive interviews, "Who Are the Christians in the Middle East? "looks at the conflicted Middle East region from a perspective that has received scant attention in the mainstream media.


In 1969, Everett Parker, the director of the United Church of Christ Office of Communication, concluded that the Middle East would soon be the most newsworthy place in the world. He organized a trip for journalists of Catholic and Protestant journals and magazines to several countries in the region, to meet church and government officials, media experts, and the leaders of various special interest groups. We went on that trip; it opened our eyes to the churches and politics of Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel/Palestine, and Turkey. (At the time, the Red Crescent society — the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross — considered it unsafe for us to visit Syria.) On that journey, the walled Old City of Jerusalem worked its way into our hearts, and we vowed to go back.

It wasn't until 1982 that the opportunity arose again. In the midst of Israel's invasion of Lebanon, we traveled to the Middle East. Unlike the first time, our relatives were dubious and worried about our safety, and we had to assure them we would not go to Beirut by boat from Cyprus — the only practical way at the time. We again visited Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, and Israel-Palestine, and that time we also went to Syria. The trip resulted in continuing friendships as well as in stories and pictures of people who were involved in interfaith relations. Our work was published as a special issue of A.D. magazine called “The Bible Lands Today.” The Old City of Jerusalem again claimed our hearts.

Then in 1990, Betty enjoyed a sabbatical leave at Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem. Mart was able to join her for ten days. By then she considered the Old City a second home; she knew the narrow streets and she forged friendships with clergy in the churches, shop-

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