28 February 2012
In Syria, a group of men in the Christian village of Al Meshtayeh socialize over a board game. (photo: Sean Sprague)
As the conflict in Syria intensifies, Pope Benedict XVI has called on all involved to begin a process of dialogue, recently describing the situation there as “increasingly worrisome.”
Last week, a Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, the Holy See’s delegate to the Arab League, attended an international summit in Tunisia seeking to resolve the crisis.
Last year, writer Sean Sprague reported on Syria’s Christian Valley in the pages of ONE magazine:
Syria is a cradle of Christianity. The word Christian was first coined in the ancient Syrian city of Antioch — which has been a part of Turkey since the borders were redrawn in 1939. The apostles Peter and Paul settled there, nurturing a church that eventually emerged as the center of Christian thought in the eastern Mediterranean. Antiochene theologians, from both the Greek– and Syriac–speaking communities, played leading roles in the Christological controversies that eventually divided the early church, differences that are now understood as cultural and linguistic.
Even as masses of Arab Muslim troops invaded and conquered the Middle East in the seventh century, eventually receiving the majority of its population into Islam, Syrian Christians persevered, living peaceably with their Muslim neighbors.
Today, Christians make up about a tenth of Syria’s 22 million people. Half of these two million souls belong to the Orthodox Church of the Patriarchate of Antioch, the preeminent Christian institution in the country. As many as 500,000 people belong to the Syriac Orthodox Church, and another 125,000 belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church. Catholics number around 400,000 people and belong primarily to the Armenian and Melkite Greek Catholic churches.
The vast majority of the population of Wadi al Nasarah are Christian, 98 percent of whom belong to the Orthodox Church. The rest attend Melkite or Roman Catholic churches.
For this and more, read the January 2011 issue of ONE.
Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Middle East Syriac Orthodox Church Antiochene church