Christians in the Middle East: Map and Facts (1)
A Dwindling Presence (2)
From the day of Pentecost, Christianity quickly spread from Jerusalem throughout the Middle East. Since then, the Christian community has maintained an unbroken presence and witness in the region. However, watershed events, including the Muslim conquests of the eighth century C.E., the Crusades, the Ottoman conquest, World War I, the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust and rise of Zionism, World War II and the creation of Israel, the Six-Day War, civil wars in Lebanon, and struggles over control of oil fields have resulted in death, persecution, hardship, migration and/or exodus of many Christians over the past 2,000 years. There is widespread concern now about the declining numbers of Christians remaining in the Middle East, particularly in Israel/Palestine(3) and Iraq.
An estimated 13 million Christians still live in the Middle East, but in recent years, they have been emigrating in increasing numbers.
1. The Middle East is defined as Egypt, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories (the West Bank and Gaza) and Syria. The Gulf States are not part of this report. Most Christians in the Middle East are descendants of the earliest Christians. They primarily are members of Orthdox Churches and the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church, including Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Syrian, and Coptic Orthodox, Maronite, Melkite, Chaldean, and Assyrian. A small but growing minority are Protestant.
2. Some material adapted from Breaking Down the Walls: Report of the Middle East Study Committee to the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Used with permission.
3. Israel/Palestine includes the Palestinian Territories—Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The area called the Holy Land includes Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
For more information on emigration demographics, read the full text of this article in the September/ October 2010 issue of Horizons.
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Illustration of map of the Middle East by Annette Cable.
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