Sustainability of Christian Communities

Church of John the Baptist, Bethany Beyond the Jordan

Christianity’s 2000-year-old presence in the Middle East is very much in jeopardy. The last century has witnessed a frightening decline in the Christian population of the Middle East. In 1900, the 15.8 million Christians of the Ottoman Empire represented between 10 and 15 percent of the population of what is today Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Israel/Palestine and Egypt. As of 2015, Christians comprise less than 5 percent of the population within that same region. 

The causes of decline have been both social and political. On one hand, Christian families tend to have far fewer children (1.7 children per woman) than Muslim families (2.9 children per woman). In addition, the Christian population of the Middle East is significantly older (median age 29 years) than the Muslim population (median age 23 years old). But political instability has played a significant role as well. The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, Syrian Civil War, War in Iraq, and unrest in Egypt have driven a steady stream of Christian emigration to Europe and North America.  

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is very concerned about the rise of extremism that targets Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East. CMEP is committed to the building of inclusive societies based on citizenship rights where persons of all religions can live together in harmony and peace, and calls on the US government to support political solutions that can secure such a reality.

Take Action 

Tell Congress: The Administration Must Stand Up for the Christian Community in Jerusalem and the Holy Land
In February, the Israeli Knesset first considered legislation that would allow for state expropriation of Church lands. After a meeting with Minister Hanegbi in mid September, Church leaders in Jerusalem were stunned to see the legislation once again under consideration in the Knesset. While Prime Minister Netanyahu delayed the planned vote, it will once again be placed in the Legislative Committee of the Knesset on Sunday, November 4. The legislation remains a significant threat to the Status Quo and the sustainability of the Christian community in the Holy Land.” Take Action 

CMEP Resources

Choosing Hope: Christian Leaders Speak About Realities this Advent (2017)
“Watch Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Founder and President of Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem, Rev. Najla Kassab, President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches and ordained minister in the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, and Fr. Dr. Michel Jalakh, Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) and President at the Antonine University in Lebanon, in conversation with CMEP’s Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, discussing the current realities faced by Christians living in the Holy Land.”  Watch Here

CMEP Public Statements 

Joint Letter to Secretary Pompeo Regarding Bill of Church Lands (2018)
The extent to which the Jerusalem Patriarchs and Heads of Churches consider this legislation to be an existential threat cannot be overstated. When the bill was first introduced this past February (concurrently with a proposed municipal tax on church property) the Heads of Churches protested by ​closing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in a historic act of solidarity. In response, eighteen religious leaders in the U.S., representing a diverse spectrum of Christianity, wrote to ​President Trump ​expressing the need to protect the vulnerable Christian community in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Mr. Secretary, all efforts must be made so that a similar crisis may be avoided.” Read More  

Eighteen Religious Leaders Call on Trump Administration to Stand with Christian Community in Jerusalem and the Holy Land (2018)
“President Trump, we ask that you make use of your good relations with the government of Israel to impress upon them the importance of an immediate reversal of both of these threats to the Status Quo. These actions will affirm the United States’ commitment to religious freedom and will ensure that Christianity in Jerusalem remains a vibrant force for peace and reconciliation in the future.” Read More 

The Future of the Church in the Holy Land is in Peril (2018)
“CMEP calls upon President Trump and his administration to immediately intervene with the appropriate Israeli authorities to ensure the Jerusalem municipality reverses its decision regarding the collection of illegitimate taxes and to ensure that the “Bill of Church Lands” legislation is permanently withdrawn. Without such action, the Christian community in Jerusalem might soon suffer irreparable damage and eventually cease to exist. These actions of the Israeli government are an existential threat to the future of the Christian church in the Holy Land.” Read More 

Advent Statement by US Christian Leaders in Solidarity with Jerusalem Heads of Churches (2017)
“As leaders of Christian churches and organizations in the United States, we hold that the Status Quo is key to maintaining peaceful relations among religious communities, ensuring their access to Jerusalem’s sacred places.” Read More 

CMEP Condemns Abductions of Syrian Bishops (2013)
“The kidnapping of Syriac Metropolitan Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim  and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop Paul Yazigi took place in the village of Kfar Dael in northern Syria. Their driver, Fatha’Allah Kabboud, a Syriac Orthodox Deacon, was killed in the kidnapping. Both Metropolitans are known for their humanitarian work on behalf of Orthodox Christian Charities and for preaching tolerance. This shameless assault on clergy crosses a new line in the deteriorating situation in Syria, with its rich history of interreligious culture. Read More 

Letter to Secretary Clinton about Access to Holy Sites (2011)
“While we hope that you continue to work for implementation of key components of the U.S.-negotiated 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access throughout the year, we ask that you give immediate attention to urging Israeli authorities to approve requests for access permits submitted by church officials during this Easter season.” Read More

CMEP Letter to Secretary Clinton Regarding Attacks on Iraqi Christians (2010) 
“Recognizing that religious division in Iraq has increased with the U.S. presence, we urge that U.S. policies seek in every way possible to reinforce the strong history of peaceful religious coexistence in Iraq. As U.S. forces withdraw, the United States has a moral responsibility to help Iraq rebuild in a way that upholds the lives, dignity and security of all its citizens.”  Read More 

Middle East Christian Traditions

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Christianity by Country

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