Christian exodus from Holy Land is an old story with new urgency

Pope Benedict XVI waves to journalists as he takes in the panoramic view from Mount Nebo In Madaba, Jordan, May 9.  (CNS/Greg Tarczynski)

Pope Benedict XVI waves to journalists as he takes in the panoramic view from Mount Nebo In Madaba, Jordan, May 9. (CNS/Greg Tarczynski)

During Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic trip to the Holy Land earlier this month, the pope time and again encouraged the small communities of Christians living there to remain faithful to their ancient beliefs and to their homeland. Both are serious pleas, but the latter especially so in these times. The flight of Christians from the Middle East has been a serious problem for decades. Christians, who have shared the Levant with Jews, Muslims and Druze for centuries, and were once the majority religious group in Lebanon, are now a dwindling minority in every region of the Middle East. The phenomenon was a considerable part of the CNS coverage of the trip.

The cover story of this month’s National Geographic is on the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land. Don Belt, the senior editor for foreign affairs, teamed up with photojournalist Ed Kashi to tell a bittersweet story in words and images on the “Forgotten Faithful” in the Levant. Their work illustrates the turbulent history of Christianity in these lands and the hope — and sometimes hopelessness — that fill the lives of the Christian families.

35-3-cover-315x450The Catholic Near East Welfare Association is a pontifical agency founded early in the last century to assist the Eastern Catholic churches and their works, especially in the Middle East. In this month’s issue of CNEWA’s One magazine, writer Daoud Kuttab and photographer Nader Daoud take a look at how one community of Christians, St. Pius X parish in Madaba, Jordan, works for peace among all peoples in their country.

Madaba is an ancient town outside of the Jordanian capital of Amman which Jewish and Christian tradition holds as the site where Moses was buried. In his trip Pope Benedict visited the town and blessed the cornerstone of a new Catholic university, the first in Jordan, being built by the Latin Patriarchate with the support of King Abdullah and the Jordanian government.

Even as Christians depart the Middle East in record numbers, the work of the church goes on.

3 Responses

  1. Given the hostility of many Middle East governments and societies toward Christians, and that this phenomenon has been going on for decades, it would take a lot more than some words from the Pope to convince me to stay if I was seriously thinking of leaving.

  2. What will happen when the Christians no longer live in the Holy Land? There are under 2,000 now.

    How can they possibly hang on?

  3. What will happen when the Christians no longer live in the Holy Land?”

    What happened after Lot left..?

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