Christians in the Middle East

Lord Hylton

On two successive evening this week I went to meetings in London about churches of Iran and Egypt.  These are the two states, with Turkey, that have the largest populations and are pivots of the region.

 At the Iranian meeting a young woman spoke who had been imprisonned for her faith. A moving letter was read  from a Christian who has already spent 23 years in prison.  He perseveres and is grateful for the support of others, who share his faith.  Please note that state-recognised churches, for example the Armenian Orthodox, are relatively free.  Unrecognised groups such as Evangelical and Pentecostal churches suffer persecution and discrimination as do other faiths such as the Bahai. 

The Egyptian event took the form of evening prayers for the Coptic Orthodox New Year (Nayrouz), in St Margaret’s Westminster with the presence of the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Foreign Officer Minster for the Middle East.  The Coptic Church dates its calendar from the great persecution under the Roman Emperor, Diocletian.  For centuries under Arab, Ottoman, and secular government s it has remained a non-violent, religious group.  Under a new Pope or patriarch, soon to be chosen, it looks forward to being accepted and respected part of the new post revolutionary Egypt. 

 For those interested in Christian unity,  I mention that the Coptic church uses the same Lord’s Prayer (our Father) as western churches.  The only difference in the creed is the omission (as in other orthodox churches) of the words “and from the Son” (Filioque) from the sentence about the Holy Spirit.  The Coptic church is therefore technically non-Chalcedonian having separated   soon after the Council of Chalcedon (490 CE).  Some theologians, however, say that the differences are more verbal than real.

 Please pray that full unity will be recovered and that all the churches in the Middles East and  north Africa will  continue to bear witness to the gospel.

6 comments for “Christians in the Middle East

  1. MilesJSD
    03/11/2012 at 6:29 pm

    There can never be “full unity”
    neither between religions nor between sects within a religion;
    (1) there is no inter-civilisational agreement on our human individual and collective Needs, and How they might peaceably best be met.
    (2) in the “beginning” there was only God (the Creator)
    therefore God having no other materials had to turn “Himself” (or Itself) into all the various components of the Universe or the “Created Cosmos”
    [which would be “pantheism”, and a heresy to Christians]…

    but before the word “God” entered human-language, the term used to indicate the Divine Power/Creator/Almighty-Life
    was “The Always” …
    so before we can dialogue (and dogmatise and theologise) in the verbal-world
    and plan and regulate materially (and right-economically/ecologically) in the ‘real’-world

    surely we need to reach agreement on firstly all our material Needs & Hows
    and secondly on the verbal needs & hows we employ to plan and to ‘pray-about’ these material-needs including our timeframe-needs and our ‘holistic-energies’-source or sources (of which ‘God’ and ‘the gospel’ might be members ?

    but remember that Christian dogma holds as essential-truth that “Jesus was there as a part of God, along with the Third-Person The Holy-Spirit, before anything else was made to came into being by God-The-Creator (“Father”)”
    [ I personally think such a patriarchally-anthropocentric metaphor to be a grandiose ‘Projection’, and a potentially very dangerous one ].

    Consider, that the verbal parts of Human Civilisation and Religion are made and dominantly applied (‘dictatorially’) by the Left-Brain to the Right-Brain (which is trying to “do” the best and right things);
    and that leading educationists are coming to see ‘measurable-behaviourism’ along with this left-brain dominance, to be causes of the under-education of the human imagination and creative-mind potentials;
    (which alone would now explain why there is so much ‘mindless’, ‘heartless’, and ‘evil’ persecution and blood-bath-ing between and within Religions and other ‘Civilised’ Human Organisations and Nation-States, I think).

    Consider also, that in the deeply-historical understanding and nurturance of the Seven Innate Sacramental Energies/Chakras/Sefirots, there has been a failure to describe in practical-terms what each such Centre and its Sacramental-Energy actually do for each of us, and require from each of us in order for it to work optimally i.e. habitually (‘addictively’, perhaps) neither over-charged nor under-charged;
    for which the Christian Pastoral Psychology movement proffered a finding “Grounding, Centyring, Boundarying, Bonding, Communicating, Facing, and Spacing” (sequentially upwards from the Root, and the Baptism earliest human-developmentallevels).

    Consider too, as Lord Hylton’s reference tells us, the Coptic dogma making the Holy Spirit to proceed from God-the-Creator
    (but not from the ‘Son’ ‘Who’ inferrably must ‘put in an application’ to His Father for permission to ‘send down’ and ‘pour out’ upon The People The Holy Spirit (a sin against which Holy Spirit may never be forgiven of any individual, whereas a sin against Christ, or against God-Himself, may be forgiven);

    and incidentally, consider the Quakers who reached a clarifying view that (“) Religion can only be obtained from the collective will of a longstanding pious human-community of ‘believers’ (“)
    whereas the “Spirituality” of any human individual is already
    (“)an ‘innate’ link made and kept-up by God direct between God-and-the individual (“)’.
    My lord, it seems painfully evident to me that only the United Nations is both in a position and has the Wherewithal
    to begin ‘unifying’ all human beings
    and that this needs to be done by first publishing and getting agreed our human needs & hows,
    and also by setting a ‘standard’ one-sufficient-human-living.

    Otherwise, it seems clear to me, ‘bad’-or-loose wordings ( including within Dogmas, Credos, Ritual-instructions, Rules and Practices and so on and so forth )
    are only going to continue to give rise to Misunderstandings and ‘Slippery-Slopes’
    down into Armed-Strife, Ethnic and Religious Persecution, and Bodily-Harms from a wide range of false-knowledges and false-beliefs.

  2. Rhodri Mawr
    03/11/2012 at 7:18 pm

    I had relatives with parents who were missionaries in Iran for many years, with no trouble at all. It is a bit daft not to support the local religions of a country with a history, and religious history dating back 5000 years, whilst the sacrificial Christianity, only has one of 2, and arguably the tool of war mongering as often as not.

    Egyptian Christians are described by educated Egyptian muslims, who must surely know, as the poorest, and most underprivileged of the Egyptian people doing menial work in Cairo, sweeping the streets, emptying the bins, and so on.

    There is no reason for them not to be able to worship precisely as they would like to do,according to all principlres of human faith, but to sacrifice themselves to convert others in countries with such powerful non Christian faiths is not really the answer. Live and let live.

    The Iranians are not stupid.

    • MilesJSD
      05/11/2012 at 11:25 am

      when the first intake at the then ‘new’ Royal Military Academy Sandhurst graduated June 1948,
      one of the last pieces of advice was

      “When you serve. especially abroad among foreign peoples, remember that the Way to a People’s Heart is through religion – – –

      THEIR religion !

      (Good Luck, and Godspeed, gentlemen”).

  3. Rhodri Mawr
    06/11/2012 at 7:00 pm

    I would also say that the practise of “Conflict Resolution” as done by the noble Lord presumes the superiority of catholic christianity, which no Muslim in his right mind would be prepared to accept.

    The only thing that “conflict resolution” does is to raise the moral of the one endeavouring to resolve and very little for anybody else, especially if there are two sides to it.

    Whilst I am ecumenical in my own beliefs/knowledge system, the last thing I would want to do is to convert anybody to my way of thinking, by raising the possibility of “resolving conflict” with a sense that I have anything whatsoever superior to offer.

  4. 16/11/2012 at 4:49 pm

    Lord Hylton,

    I may disagree with you about the freedom of recognized churches as regards appraoch to verifying such things. I also may differ with you as to what the standard ought to be. The Coptic Pope is one of the ancient and high patriarchs, patriarch of Alexandria and successor tot the throne of St. Mark whatever else he may be. Egypt is a jewel of Christendom however Muslim it may be. Persia is different.

    However, you sentiments, regard for this issue and efforts to inform are deeply appreciated by many I am sure. That is true regardless of any other differences. I certainly salute your efforts…



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