Interfaith experts issue rallying call

The place of Christianity in the Middle East has been defended by a Jordanian prince and a Jewish expert in interfaith dialogue.

In an effort to counter the narrative of so-called Islamic State (ISIS) that Christianity is a Western import to the Muslim world, Prince Hassan of Jordan, who is founder and president of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, and Ed Kessler of the Woolf Institute, which studies relations between Christians, Muslims and Jews, penned a joint essay in which they lay out the roots of Christianity across the Middle East.

“Christianity has been part of the essential fabric of the Middle East for 2,000 years,” the authors insist. “Far from being a Western import as some now seem to suggest, it was born here and exported as a gift to the rest of the world. Christian communities have been intrinsic to the development of Arab culture and civilisation.” They add the warning that “to lose Christianity from its birthplace would be to destroy the richness of the tapestry of the Middle East and a hammer blow to our shared heritage”.

Accusing ISIS of peddling “an apocalyptic vision that harks back to a mythic Golden Age which is solely the creation of the warped minds of today’s jihadists”, Kessler and Prince Hassan stress that only by stepping up efforts to increase awareness and understanding between “the three great faiths of our region” can the poisonous ideology of ISIS be defeated.

“Helping to end this dangerous slide towards hatred is the main challenge for all of us involved in interfaith dialogue,” they argue.