The Subversive Power of Grief

by Paul Sedra | published December 13, 2016 - 2:09pm

The state-run funeral for the victims of the Butrusiyya Church massacre was a carefully organized, managed and controlled affair. Mourners without officially printed invitations were turned away from the proceedings, ostensibly for security reasons. Watching the ceremony on television, one could scarcely escape the impression that the relatives of the martyrs were of only secondary importance compared with the tightly interwoven array of military, state and church officials who dominated the scene.

Onward, Christian Soldiers

by Jonathan Cook | published May 13, 2014

For the past 18 months the Israeli government has gradually raised the stakes in its campaign to pressure Palestinian Christians to serve in the Israeli military. In April, Israel upped the ante once again, announcing it would henceforth be issuing enlistment notices to Christians who have graduated from secondary school. This time, the Greek Orthodox patriarch responded, sacking a senior Nazareth priest, Jibril Nadaf, who had styled himself the spiritual leader of a small but vociferous group of Palestinian Christians who back the government campaign.

Antoon, Ya Maryam

by Isis Nusair
published in MER267

Sinan Antoon, Ya Maryam (Beirut/Baghdad: Dar al-Jamal, 2012).

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Becoming Armenian in Lebanon

by Joanne Randa Nucho
published in MER267

Each year in April, the municipality of Burj Hammoud, a densely populated residential and commercial city just east of Beirut, hosts a three-day festival called Badguer, the Armenian word for “image.” Free and open to the public, the event has variously been staged in an old concrete factory, a blocked-off street and other sites. In 2012, Badguer was held at La Maison Rose, a newly opened cultural center for Armenian artists and craftsmen. Like the annual celebration, La Maison Rose is part of a local effort to promote “our living Armenian cultural patrimony.”

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With Friends Like These

Coptic Activism in the Diaspora

by Michael Wahid Hanna
published in MER267

In June 2010, amidst escalating controversy over the construction of a mosque and Islamic community center near the former site of the World Trade Center, two Egyptians found themselves on the receiving end of xenophobic abuse as a crowd accosted them with calls to “go home.” Unbeknownst to the angry mob, the two Arabic-speaking men, Joseph Nasralla Abdelmasih and Karam El Masry, had come all the way from California to join the protest against what was dubbed the “Ground Zero mosque.” In fact, Abdelmasih and El Masry, who were eventually escorted away for their own safety by police officers, were involved with “The Way,” a Christian satellite television program established in 2010 that broadcasts in English and Arabic.

Copts Under Mursi

Defiance in the Face of Denial

by Mariz Tadros
published in MER267

Throughout his 2012 presidential campaign, Muhammad Mursi was keen to emphasize that he would be a president for all Egyptians, not just supporters of the Society of Muslim Brothers, and that he believed in equal citizenship for all, irrespective of religious affiliation. The majority of Egypt’s Coptic Christians were nonetheless suspicious of the Muslim Brother candidate, and in the first round many voted for one of the other main contenders, Ahmad Shafiq or Hamdin Sabbahi. Almost a year into Mursi’s presidency, it is clear that the Coptic minority -- roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s population -- did not overestimate either the threat to their rights or the strain on social cohesion that would attend a Mursi victory.

Iraqi Christians: A Primer

by Amanda Ufheil-Somers
published in MER267

Media coverage in the West can overstate the degree to which Christians are “disappearing” from the Middle East. But one place where such characterizations have merit is Iraq. In the years since the 2003 invasion led by the United States, at least half of Iraq’s Christians have fled the country to escape the violence of war, occupation and insurgency, as well as a campaign of intimidation, forced expulsion and sectarian cleansing carried out by militias and criminal gangs. Numerous others have been internally displaced.

Covering the Christians of the Holy Land

by Amahl Bishara
published in MER267

Every year around Christmas and Easter, a kind of meta-ritual takes place in which American journalists describe how these holidays are celebrated in the “Holy Land.” It is a long-running story, never stripped of politics. In 1923, for example, the New York Times published a classically Orientalist opposition of here and there, us and them. Easter in Jerusalem was a “frenzy of devotion,” “an annual release of the entire community, such as you and I in New York know nothing of. Somewhere in the centuries during which our ancestors were moving westward from the Middle East we have lost the gift of it and we have never recaptured it.” [1]

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER267

The problems of Christians in the Middle East are often not discussed forthrightly, either in the region or in writings about it. One reason is that, in many ways, the problems of Christians are everyone’s problems -- Israeli occupation hurts Christian and Muslim Palestinians alike, as does second-class citizenship for Palestinians inside the Green Line. In Egypt and Syria, Christians and Muslims alike have suffered the effects of authoritarian rule. The confessional system in Lebanon applies to everyone. And war and sanctions in Iraq respected no difference, religious or otherwise. Another reason for the reticence is the anti-Muslim hysteria that frequently attends the topic of Middle Eastern Christians in the Western media.

Halsell, Prophecy and Politics

by Mary Neznek
published in MER150

Grace Halsell, Prophecy and Politics: Militant Evangelists on the Road to Nuclear War (Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill, 1986).

While there is nothing particularly new about Christian fascination with the Biblical “holy land,” Grace Halsell provides an important contemporary portrayal of the means by which this has been molded to enhance the political legitimacy of modern Israel. She documents the growth of a “cult of Israel” among the ranks of “born-again” Christians in the United States.

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