of Our Faith
The enduring witness
of the Christians
of the Middle East
…love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
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
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Living Stones
The Christians who live in the Middle East
today are the “living stones” of the Early
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
At its roots …
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Christian Exodus
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
No Man’s Land
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
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
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Conflict & Turmoil
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
End of Ottoman Rule
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
Egypt in 1922 (nominal) and 1954 (full)
Iraq in 1932
Syria in 1940
Lebanon in 1943
Jordan in 1946
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
No Self Rule for Palestine
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
A Jewish State
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Recent Turmoil
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
…love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Syria Statistics
Total area:
 71,183 sq. miles
slightly larger than North Dakota
 18,881,000
 Arabic, Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian,
French, some English
 Sunni Muslim, 74%; Alawite, Druze, other Muslim sects,
16%; various Christian groups, 10%; plus tiny
indigenous Jewish communities
GDP per capita:
 $3,900
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Christians Today
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
An Ancient Christianity
The ancient Arameans of the Old Testament, who
inhabited the country from about the first
millennium BC, are the ancestors of the presentday 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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
A Diverse Christianity
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
A Richness of Liturgies
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Arab Christians
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Shaping Church History
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Government Recognition
Christian holidays are official state
holidays and members of the
clergy are excused from military
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The Apostle Paul & 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
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
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
We Pray Together…
. . . 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
…love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Lebanon Statistics
Total area:
6,448 sq. miles,
0.7 times larger than Connecticut
 3,874,050
 Arabic, French, English, Armenian
 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:
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The Creation of Lebanon
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Christians no longer a majority
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
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Power Sharing
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 powersharing 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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The Maronite Christians
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The East West Split
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
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Refugees in Lebanon
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
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Israel-Lebanon War 2006
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
PC (USA) and Partners
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
We Pray together . . .
. . . for a government that represents
Lebanese of all confessions and a
determination among all Lebanese to
work for the good of the country.
…love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Jordan Statistics
Total area:
 57,226 sq. miles,
slightly smaller than Indiana
 5.9 million
 Arabic; English widely understood
 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
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The Old Testament in Jordan
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
More Old Testament
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Moses at Mount Nebo
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
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
From the Roman Era to Islam
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
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 Christianthemed 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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The Crusaders
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Ottoman Rule to the present
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Modern Jordan
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Jordan’s Refugees
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Today’s Christians
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
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
We Pray Together …
…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.
…love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Iran Statistics
Total area:
 1 million sq. miles,
slightly larger than Alaska
 67 million (July 2006 est)
 Persian and its dialects, 58%; Turkic and its dialects, 26%;
Kurdish, 9%; Lori 2%; Baluchi, 2%; Turkmen, 2%; other, 1%
 Shi’a Muslim, 89%; Sunni Muslim, 9%; Zoroastrian, Jewish,
Christian, and Baha’i, 2%
GDP per capita:
 $8,300 (2005 est.)
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
From Pentecost to Today
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
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The Armenians
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
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The Black Church
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The Assyrians
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
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
PC(USA) in Iran
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 Persianspeaking community. Their printing
presses produced religious material
in various languages.
Some Christians moved to
Protestantism. Churches using the
Persian language still thrive within
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Living as a Minority
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
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
We Pray Together …
… for minority religious groups facing
discrimination, that they may have
freedom of religious expression, equal
employment opportunities, and
acceptance and tolerance in society.
…love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Statistics for Israel/Palestine
West Bank
Total area:
Total area:
12, 877 sq mi
slightly smaller than New Jersey
Population: 7 million
incl. about 450,000 in the
Occupied Territories
Hebrew, Arabic, English
slightly smaller than Delaware
Jewish, 76.4%; Muslim, 16%;
Arab Christian, 1.7%; other
Christian, 0.4%; Druze 1.6%;
unspecified 3.9%
Muslim, 75% (mostly Sunni);
Jewish, 17% (settlers); Christian
and other, 8%
GDP per capita:
Arabic, Hebrew (Jewish settlers
and many Arabs), English
2.46 million, incl. 700,000
refugees displaced from Israel),
not including about 400,000
Jewish settlers
GDP per capita:
3,596 sq. mi.,
$1,100 (2003 est.)
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Birthplace of Christianity
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
…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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Muslim Presence
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Two Millenia of Christian Presence
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
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The Christian Community
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Current Conditions
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
An Exodus of Christians
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
An Exodus of Christians
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Dire Needs
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
A Double Minority
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Presbyterian Presence
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).
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
we pray together…
. . . for churches and other organizations
working to meet human needs, to build
understanding and respect between Jews
and Arabs, and seeking a just peace.
…love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Iraq Statistics
Total area:
 270,985 sq. miles,
just over twice the size of Idaho
 27 million,
1.5 million internally displaced persons (UN - 10/06)
 Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian
 Muslim, 97% (Shi’a, 60-65%, Sunni, 32-37%); Christian and
other, 3%
GDP per capita:
 $3,400 (2005 est.)
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Cradle of Civilization
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
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The Nestorians / Assyrians
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Assyrian Contributions
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Syriac and Aramaic in Iraq
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
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Suffering of Christians
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Modern Era
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
PC(USA) in Iraq
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 muchneeded relief and development work in
Iraq through the Middle East Council of
Churches, as well as through direct
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Violence in Iraq
Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, there
were approximately one million Christians living in Iraqroughly 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
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
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
We Pray Together …
…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.
…love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Egypt Statistics
Total area:
 383,300 sq. miles,
slightly more than three times the size of New Mexico
 78,890,000 (July 2006 est.)
 Arabic
 Muslim (mostly Sunni), 90%; Coptic Christian, 9%; other
Christian, 1%
GDP per capita:
 $3,900 (2005 est.)
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Egypt in the New Testament
“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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
A Continuous History
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
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The Coptic Church
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The Role of Alexandria
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
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Living together with Islam
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Christians in Society
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
The Birth of Monasticism
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.
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
PC(USA) in Egypt
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).
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
We Pray together …
…for Coptic Christians and Muslims
working to live together in harmony and
mutual understanding for the good of the
Closing Prayers
…love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Let us pray for all the people of the Middle East . . .
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
…love one another as I have loved you
John 15:12
Let us Pray …
… 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
In Jesus’ name, We Pray. Amen.

The Cradle of Our Faith -