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Title: Christenen in het Midden-Oosten
Subtitle: Enkele beschouwingen
Author(s): TEULE, Herman
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Theologie
Volume: 60    Issue: 2   Date: 2020   
Pages: 158-173
DOI: 10.2143/TVT.60.2.3287676

Abstract :
This study investigates how three important lines of development throughout the history of the Christians of the Middle East are important to understand their present-day situation. A first issue is the rich diversity of Middle Eastern Christianity. Despite the fact that after a long history of inner-Christian polemics, forms of genuine ecumenical thinking (in the sense of the full acceptance of the legitimacy of other dogmatic formulas than those professed by the own community) emerged in the 12th and 13th centuries, the old demons of rivalry reappeared in the period of the creation of the so-called Uniate or Eastern/oriental-Catholic churches, a tension which has not disappeared today, for example in Iraq. A second issue is the relationship with the Islamic world. This article first points to the rich culture of encounter and the originality of some Christian approaches in the First Abbasid Period and secondly how in the subsequent centuries (the so-called Syriac Renaissance), the reception of an ‘Islamicate’ culture created a common ground between Christians and Muslims, leading even to a certain recognition of authentic religiosity in the work of a Muslim thinker like al-Ghazali. Despite a later period of estrangement due to external political and colonial factors, both periods can function as sources of inspiration for the present Christian-Muslim relations, which should not be limited to a mere convivialité. The third issue is that of identity. Common ground also implies a shared Arab culture. To what extent do Christians in the Middle East identify themselves as Arabs? The acceptance by Christians of the Arabic language and the creation of a rich Christian Arabic literature show that Arabic is not the exclusive appanage of the Islamic world, despite some voices echoing the contrary. According to the ground-breaking study The Church of the Arabs by the French-Lebanese Melkite priest Jean Corbon, assuming an Arab identity is the only means for Christians to reach out to the Islamic and Arab society in which they live. What is however the relationship with the specific non-Arab ethnic and linguistic identities of the Christian communities? In the past these were the expression of rich forms of spirituality and theology, but today they often advocate certain political nationalistic or minority claims, which can be interpreted as a refusal of a shared commitment to building a new society.

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