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Why the number of Christians living in the Middle East is in decline but Christianity itself is not

His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, who has served as General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom since 1999, was a featured speaker at the 3rd Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom, “Persecution of Christians in the Holy Lands and the Middle East: Consequences and Solutions,” in Washington, D.C. in December 2017.

“Why the number of Christians living in the Middle East is in decline but Christianity itself is not,” by Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Solidarity, November 6, 2022:

Whenever we hear about the Middle East, and in particular about the Holy Land, the first notion is one of conflict and war, but the reality is that the Holy Land has been the place of enriching history, culture and custom for millennia; the birthplace of Christianity and the place in which Christ lived and served. 

While the numbers of Christians in the Holy Land continue to fall, it is imperative to understand that the influence of the Christian community remains strong, and its presence remains vibrant. One only needs to attend the numerous religious festivals, especially those occurring during Easter, to see the strength and effectiveness of the Christian community and the tens of thousands who flock from around the world to take part in what is seen as the ultimate expression of hope in the light that comes from the tomb of Christ. 

While Christians endeavour to live a normal life in the Holy Land, it is undeniable that there are many challenges that befall them, and yet day after day they rise to these challenges and their presence becomes one that instils confidence in the eyes of many around the world.

Even with the backdrop of globalisation it is simple and sometimes desirable to compartmentalise Christianity into East and West, amongst other things, and so the Christians of the Middle East, and those of the Holy Land become in our own minds distant and different.

They either become a novelty or an unwelcomed complexity in an already complex and polarised world.

The reality is however that the Body of Christ is the Body of Christ, and that the Church is the Church globally with its diverse manifestations in different parts of the world. When we look at the struggles and accomplishments of Christians in the Holy Land, they are indeed our struggles and our accomplishments, the issues for which we pray and in which we can take pride. 

As Christians living in the West, as opposed to Western Christians, we must be inspired by, and take heart from the example of sisters and brothers in the Holy Land, who have a vibrant presence that projects and instils joy and hope despite their daily challenges. 

There is, in the West, a perception that there is a “decline of Christianity” in the Middle East. The reality is however that the decline is not in Christianity, but in the number of Christians living there.

Christianity remains lived and celebrated, and for Christians, the oneness of Faith and heritage unites us around the globe….

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