“MARY, THE MOTHER OF JESUS MOSQUE” …INSIGHT INTO ARAB CHRISTIANS

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Phew! It’s been some days off my blog. I got so busy…
Okay, I’ve got this recent concerns for Arab Christians and am going to be sharing them with you!
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For so many people, to say “Arab” is the same as saying “Muslim” but is that true? Or we not just educated on the situations in Arab? Although Christianity has been greatly suppressed in the time past in the Middle East, the seeds that was planted from the 1st century seems to be growing fast! With recent happenings, Christianity is regaining ground and religious tolerance is growing gradually as some Arab nations are gradually becoming more democratic and open. In United Arab Emirates, there is a Mosque named “Mariam, Umm Eisa”, the Arabic name of “Mary, the Mother of Jesus”. It is located in Al Mushrif, a central neighborhood in the city of Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. This Mosque is meant to make a national statement that says “UAE is safe and open to coexistence of Christians and Muslims.”
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Just recently, some hours ago, Pope Francis celebrated mass before an 135,000 of the UAE’s nearly one million migrant Catholics… There is a huge growing of Christianity in UAE with the government showing more and more moves of religious tolerance! There is a growing presence of several Christian denominations in the area including Anglican Churches, several other protestant and “Pentecostal churches” making up the very fabrics of the UAE.
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Note that in December, 25th of 2018 the Iraqi Cabinet approved a law to mark Christmas Day, December 25, as an official holiday across the country “on the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ,” according to a statement released by the Iraqi government. The Cabinet voted on an amendment to the national holidays law in the country that Christmas Day is a holiday for all Iraqis, and not only for the Christian community, as it had been for decades. This tells that the Arabian part of the world is becoming more receptive to Christianity, the tides are changing and God is being glorified… The beautiful name of Jesus is exalted… No matter how!
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Let’s look a little bit deep into the Arabian world before the Islamic conquest. Before the seventh century, there has been a significant influence of Christianity in the Arabian world! In fact, most parts of Northern Africa were influenced with Christianity too! It should be noted that Nabateans and the Ghassanids among other Arab tribes has adhered to Christianity starting from the first century. The Middle East including Northern Africa has been one of the grounds were the early church took off from with consideration that the first Church gathering started from Jerusalem.
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A careful study of the New Testament shows how the Arab nations got converted to Christianity. We see in the Acts of the Apostle where Peter preached in Jerusalem to so many people who gathered when the Holy Spirit had been poured out! Remember that people present said “yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages!… Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” (Act 2:8-12 NLT) This shows clearly that Arab believers in Christ Jesus are one of the earliest Christians in history.
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In Galatians 1:15-17, Paul mentioned his missionary journey to Arabia after his own conversion. In one of the early Christian writings, Eusebius also wrote about a Bishop named Beryllus of Bostra, the site where a synod was held and two councils of Arabia. While we know that there has been Arabian Christians from the first century but there is enormous historic materials that proves there has been Arabian Christians from the 3rd century onwards. Even the wife of Muhammad’s cousin Khadija bint Khuwaylid was reportedly a Christian.
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So many elites believes that Arab Christians made serious contributions to the civilization of that part of the world since the 7th century to this moment. They had significant number of top poets, writers, government officials and people of literature! The most educated and bourgeois classes in Arab nation were Christians and as a result they had impacts in politics, business and culture of the Arab world. Thanks to the Arab Christians, they actually brought great deal of civilization that is being enjoyed today to the Arabian world.
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The modern Syrian intellectual Constantin Zureig was a Christian! In Palestenine and even Isreali politics, many Arabian Christians were involved! Khalil al-Sakakini, a well known Jerusalemite was an Arab Christian and George Antonius who authored The Arab Awakening was a Christian too!
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Wikipedia says “During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, a number of Arab Greek Orthodox communities were affected, including al-Bassa, Ramla, Lod, Safed, Kafr Bir’im, Iqrit, Tarbikha, Eilabun. In addition around 20,000 Christians fled Haifa, 20,000 fled West Jerusalem, 700 fled Acre and 10,000 fled Jaffa… With the events of the Arab Winter, the Syrian Arab Christian community was heavily hit in line with other Christian communities of Syria, being a victimized by the war and specifically targeted as minority by the Jihadist forces. Many Christians, including Arab Christians, were displaced or fled Syria on the course of the Syrian Civil War.”
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There are dominance of Arab Christians who are as well citizens of Israel, they are no Jews but Arabians and 80% of the entire Arabian population in Israel to date are Christians with majority of them belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church and few others belonging to Greek Catholic and Latin churches and several other denominations. There are also Arabians who are Anglicans with cathedral in the disputed territory of East Jerusalem! In Israeli parliament there has been a dominant Arab Christians representing Arab Democratic-Nationalist Party of Balad since 1999 to present. If you are looking for the most educated groups in Israel, Christian Arabs citizens of Israel are sure bet and they have been described as “the most successful in education system of which they have the highest rates of educational attainment in Israel. Arab Christians have also been the vanguard when considering eligibility for higher education in which they are more educated than the Jewish, Muslims and even Druze! While Arab Christians are only 2.1% of the total Israeli population, they have been 17.0% of the country’s entire university students and 14.4% of its college students. Just like the Jewish populations and unlike the Muslim Arab populations, the Arab Christians in Israel have the lowest incidence of poverty and very low percentage of unemployment and in this regard of unemployment, they are even better than the Jews. Because of their interest in science, Arab Christians in Israel are usually into science related professions and other white collar jobs.
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Arab Christians have faced so much persecution especially with the dominance of Islam which of course spread with Jihad, a “join us or we kill you” affair! In many Arabian nations, you could practice Christianity if you were originally a Christian but you cannot convert from Islam to Christianity which is punishable, sometimes by death! In places like Saudi Arabia, you aren’t allowed to practice Christianity at all not because this is the opinion of all Arabians because the government is scared that Christianity would thrive and even affect their power! Maybe we should admit that so many Muslim leaders understands that the gospel is liberating and they are always harboring insecurities, knowing that the moment people are allowed to convert, many would prefer to stick to the liberating Christianity than the shackles of Islam! Unfortunately, persecution of indigenous Arabian Christians, people who had held on to the faith for more than 2000 years happens to be an under-covered news and no one knows what is happening! Millions and millions of Arabian Christians keep migrating to tolerant places just to practice their faith! Maybe, we can learn from Arabian Christians what it means to keep standing for Jesus even in the midst of persecutions.
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“Massacres are taking place for no reason and without any justification against Christians, It is only because they are Christians.” – Amin Gemayel (former President of Lebanon)
Around November 2013, more than 30 corpse of Christian civilians got uncovered in Sadad as a result of Islamic militant activities. International communities are doing very little about this. In 2003, due to attacks on Arab Christians in Iraq, the 1.5 million population of Christians reduced to 200,000! Same can be said in the very birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem! 80% of the population used to be Christians but it has reduced to 20% because some are killed, some are made to leave their homes! But no matter what, hope is greatly rising for the place that was the birthplace of Christianity!
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So many Christians outside Arab and at least Asia may not have been well educated on what the Arab world looks like and the media isn’t helping matters! We are always made to see the very bad Arab, a place thorn by war and violence and so many Christians outside Asia usually think Arabians are naturally evil people, the use of the word “Allah” has also been heavily criticized by other Christians making Arabian Christians look as though they are being rejected. The word “Allah” has been in usage several centuries before the advent of Islam and to them it means “God” and not “God of Islam”. In a more recent study, we have noticed that some Arabian Christians are becoming less native and less adhering to traditional Churches and are becoming open to more vibrant evangelical Churches.
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Many people have judged Arabians based on assumptions and like I noted, it is not fair that we Christians don’t even know so much about other brothers who are Arabians, we look down on them thinking “they are all terrorists!” Arabians in general are not terrorists, terrorists are terrorists! How is it that many people especially in the western world and parts of Africa know nothing about Arabs? How is it that for a long time we have assumed Arabs are just Arabs without even knowing that there are diversities and they all don’t do the same thing? Isn’t this part of the birthplace of Christianity? According to a report by Oeuvre d’Orient Catholic association, 10 to 13 million Christians reside in the Arab regions which includes a very high percentage of Arabians. Knowing these things have changed my entire view on the Arab people, my heart is so much more receptive of them and I feel bad seeing people blackmail them and paint them bad! I believe a very close tie should be established in these regions. The true story of Arab needs to be told and we have our Arabians brothers all over the world, with whom we share same faith!
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Let’s pray and keep praying for the Arabian world!
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I am George O.N
I am the Man-In-God
#GracefulGeorge