The Middle East has a complete record of human history. Many societies, kingdoms, civilizations and settlers passed through this region. This region was, and is still a point of human interaction from ancient times until the present day. The location and overall climatic conditions enable such interactions of importance to occur. It is therefore considered, the point where all the corners of the world can be accessed. The region witnesses cultural exchanges every year since ancient times. Castles, ruins and palaces remains are visible across the whole of the Middle East region. The remains show richness of the region historically (Brother Austin David Carroll, 2012).
This means that people had some passion being around the Middle East and thus when some empires collapsed then these remains can tell many tales about them. The history confirms a lot about different civilizations struggling a lot for control and power and churches too fall into the same category. The history considers the Middle East as the land of monotheistic faiths such as Judaism, Islam and Christianity. With these three groups, the region stands to host many religious characters with each of them trying to gain enough power to influence several events and bring necessary order. The belief in God saying has its origin from the Middle East and spreads across the whole world. Biblical events occurred in this region and therefore many people still practice common rituals and other practices as was in the ancient moments.
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Of importance is that Christianity grew in the Middle East and then spread to other parts of the world. This region was once a place where God decided to join human beings and showcase that people can live purely in their lives and reach the kingdom of heaven. It is a place where transfigurations occurred. It is the land many think that God himself sanctified it. The ancient Christians ruins continue to leave this region with many riches compared to other places across the world. In fact, studies reveal that the region has many sacred Christian sites than any place on earth. The land witnessed many important theological disputes between several Christians of the world. The monastic and ascetical ways of living developed from the Middle East before spreading to the world.
Christianity is a subject and topic, which does not go well across many countries in the Middle East. However, the media and scholars give attention to Christianity in the Middle East only when there is sectarian conflict. Egypt and Iraq are the major countries where sectarian conflict is prevalent. Such conflicts are indeed present within the region and many Christians have to live with it in their lives. The daily news articles and web domains may not portray mach of what Christians undergo in the Middle East. The world in most cases focus on other matters for example terrorism leaving out other important issues of social life.
Christianity has a historic tradition just like the other forms of ways of life for many other social groups outside the Middle East. Many studies note that Christianity has its origins in the area, which is currently the Middle East. Many nations including Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine still remain homes to many Christians communities whom their faiths dates back to earliest centuries. Currently within these territories, Christians constitute a small percentage of the total population. However, their numbers do not matter a lot because they still play a significant role in cultural, economic, political, and religious life of many people residing within the Middle East. The global English language has helped in bringing a common knowledge across the world.
The past century pose a full force of crises to the Christians including genocide and mass deportation of many people. These disruptive crises reach a climax when Ottoman Empire failed and there was a lot of dismemberment from the entire empire. The US led invasion together with the occupation of Iraq did not go well the Christians in the region. The formation of Israel state and other subsequent conflicts such as Arab-Israel conflicts, Iran-Iraq war, the Lebanese Civil war and the Gulf war of 1991 are major events that redefined the existence of Christians within the Middle East. These vicissitudes has exacerbated the declining numbers of the total Christians within the Middle East. Other causes of decline are because of reasons such as economic and religious hardships, emigration, and low birth rates among many families across the region. However, such trends continue even up to the present day.
Accurate demographic data about Middle East Christians and Churches is difficult to find out because very many states do not keep sufficient statistics on religious affiliations. The atlas of global Christianity of 2009 puts the population of Christians at around six percent down from a figure of twenty five percent in 1910. Reliable sources and estimates reports that more than half of indigenous Christians from the Middle east now live outside the region namely Europe, America, and Australia. It is a challenge to keep one religion for a long time when other religions exists most of which their understanding are available. Middle East Christians however, have gone through many challenges by ensuring that they keep their Christian culture. Christians living in the region, and who knew about American and European forms of Christianity have never kept their original forms of religious cultures (Henry Martyn Seminar and Colin Chapman, 2011).
Common taxonomies organize churches into five major groups namely, The church of the East, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, the Protestant and the Roman Catholic church. Oriental orthodox, the church of the east and Eastern orthodox constitute majority of Christians within the Middle East region. During the first crusade, the Roman Catholic cemented its existence in the region. The Protestants have their origins to the nineteenth century a period where there were many missionary activities. However, during still during the 19th century the Roman Catholic communities received a big boost in terms of numbers within the region.
Various church traditions and other customs have three classification including liturgical, theological and institutional differences. Theological differences heavily give these traditions key distinctions from their varied responses towards Christological pronouncements of the councils of Chalcedon and Ephesus. The groups which accepted Chalcedonian definitions include the Eastern Orthodox, Protestants and the Roman Catholic; however, the oriental orthodox and the church of the east reject this definition citing that it is heretical and supporting miaphysite and diaphysite positions in life. Several officials recently attempted to reconcile various churches with an aim to re-establish official relationships. Many churches consider ecumenism important especially during the post world war II (Pacini Andrea, 1998).
Many other differences stem from liturgical rites and languages. Languages include Syriac, Armenian, Coptic and Arabic. Some groups like the Syrian Catholic Church and Maronite church are in the same communion with Rome. However, others are autocephalous. Another complexity comes from church policies that are not in communion with others. For example, Coptic Orthodox church situated in Egypt does not correspond to current boundaries of the nations.
Christianity in the middle struggled against many heresies and other strange teachings, which existed in the ancient times. Many sects developed just to capture and keep some population bowing to their demands and commands. Due to this, the Christian churches decided to formulate correct teachings and doctrines of Christian nature. The churches designed the teachings in common languages that many people understood. Educated people during the time were used to pass on this message of Christianity in order to avert intrusion from the sects that were prevalent across the Middle East. However, uniform expressions of teachings did not occur because of very many cultures, languages and liturgical practices. With such a divine economy, it was therefore difficult to achieve all the set objectives for the period. Dogmatic reasons existed besides others including political, social and national reasons that played a big role in dividing the church.
Christianity and Islam in the Middle East have become a concern to many all over the world. From recent studies, each of them is weakening the existence of the other preferably in various individual national boundaries. The relationship between Christians and Muslims dates back to early ages when Islam was founded. However, eastern Christians lived more with Muslims in the region for many centuries. Often these two groups lived through unstable conditions though they had some rare occasions of harmony. For them life was difficult and it is for some nations within this region. On how they lived and why there was stability, several studies must be done closely to establish the real events of fights and their gains and losses besides their overall objectives (Metropolitan John, 2010).
There should be a clear understanding of the images that Muslims developed about their Christians counterparts. In the first image, Muslims refer to Christians as “Nasara” because of their Quran, which does use the word Christian. However, many Christians can accept this word because it means followers of Jesus of Nazareth but it belonged to a few of them in history. Due to this reason, Christians tend to reject this name because it referred to some Jews who did not honor divinity of Christ. The second image comes from Quran and it refers to Christians as the people of the book. Through this image, Muslims view Christians as people who have distorted their scriptures and therefore cannot be one of those monotheistic faiths on earth. Muslims therefore consider Christians unfit people who are not compatible with the Quran.
The third image considers Christians as “dhimmi” people meaning those who have protection and peace in the house of Islam. In the ancient times, Islam rulers forced many Christians to pay some taxes called “Jizya” so that they could remain and continue holding on to their faith. This happened because Christians refused to be converted to Islam religion. Christians had very limited freedoms in the region since Islam culture grew stronger every new day. The fourth image talks about Christians being named “Rum”. Muslims are people who still confuse politics and faith of the church. They consider many Christians to belong to other areas of the world a condition that puts many Arab Christians in an awkward position. All these images already made Christian and Muslim relationship uneasy in most cases.
Finally, Christians in the Middle East can improve their being if they improve coexistence with the Muslims. These two groups must separate politics from their faith and recognize that they are on the same land. The Christians from the Middle East region have a lot of information in terms of what exists in the Quran and even all the rituals and practices. Due to this, they are people who can bring about peaceful coexistence because they can improve dialogue with the Muslims easily. Christianity in this region is very diverse; this means many more developments that are new can come up in favor of Christian teachings.