Middle East Christians: Searching for a ‘Christian Country’

The Middle East’s Christian communities frequently make headlines as they emigrate rapidly from from ancient homelands to Europe and the Americas. The Centre for the Study of World Christianity and the Christian-Muslim Studies Network co-sponsored a discussion that explored the fate of those whose emigration led them to the United Kingdom.

Dr Fiona McCallum, a lecturer in International Relations at the University of St. Andrews, presented findings from the Humanities in the European Research Area project, ‘Defining and Identifying Middle Eastern Christian Communities in Europe’. Dr Fiona McCallum in New College

Dr McCallum’s work found an audience of particular interest at the Centre for World Christianity at New College, where two PhD students have launched research in the fledgling field of Arab Christianity. Continue reading

Women and the World Church: Second Panel

The Centre for World Christianity co-hosted a one-day conference on ‘Women in the World Church’ to explore the historical and contemporary role of women in global Christianity on 16 September 2017. The title address came from guest scholar Professor Kwok Pui-Lan, an Asian feminist theologian, who focused her remarks on both the women who helped to build the growing Christian communities in the Global South and those of the women missionaries who served them.

As one of a panel of respondents from the field of Arab Christianity, I focused my remarks on a portion of Professor Kwok’s thesis:

The study of the agency of local Christian women must take into consideration the wider social, historical, and political environment in which these women lived.

As I consider the field of the world’s Christianity in which I aim to specialize – contemporary Christianity of the Arab world and of Jordan in particular – I would consider the effects of such environments on local Christian women as well. They have not always affected them, or myself, as I first expected. Continue reading

Images of Islam

by Deanna Ferree Womack (originally posted here)

Images of Islam abound these days, and many of them are troubling. Those who speak loudly and most forcefully define Islam in the narrowest of terms, making one image – the militant extremist – into a type for all Muslims. I find striking similarities between recent American public discourses and Protestant missionaries’ portrayals of Muslims in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From a comparative historical perspective, it is clear that the oft-repeated tropes about Islam as a violent and oppressive religion have been transmitted uncritically from one generation to the next. This dismissal of an entire faith tradition and its 1.6 billion adherents around the globe stems from a long pattern of Western representations of “the other” that 1) describe a collectivity rather than recognizing individual identities and 2) presume to speak authoritatively without taking the subjects’ own perspectives into account. The problem did not originate with the modern missionary movement, but American missionaries were among the Orientalist thinkers who adopted this mode of discourse on the Muslim populations they encountered in the Middle East. Continue reading