Heritage and Identity. Exploring the Middle East within World Christianity
Edited by Elizabeth S. Marteijn and Lucy Schouten
It is only fitting that Studies in World Christianity dedicates a special issue to the geographical region that is the cradle of Christianity: the Middle East. This region, spread across North Africa and West Asia, was the site of some of the most significant events in early church history. Jesus Christ was born in a village that is now the bustling Palestinian city of Bethlehem, and the holy Middle Eastern city of Jerusalem was the scene of his death, resurrection, ascension and, shortly thereafter, of the earliest missionary movement, when Jesus’ disciples ventured into the world to spread the Christian message. The apostle Paul received his vision of Jesus Christ on the way to Damascus – what is now the capital of Syria, and his voyages brought him to other places in the contemporary Middle East, mostly in what is now Turkey. The second-century prolific Church Father Tertullian wrote his apologetic and dogmatic literature from the ancient city of Carthage, which is now a neighbourhood in the Tunisian capital city of Tunis, and fourth-century Church Father Athanasius operated from what is now the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria. The birth of another famous fourth-century theologian and philosopher, Augustine of Hippo, happened in the ancient city of Thagaste in what is now modern Algeria. The missionary travels and theological teachings of these Middle Eastern figures, as well as others, were fundamental for the development of Christianity across different times and different places. The foundation of Christianity as a world religion lay, thus, in the Middle East.
Centre Co-director Dr Emma Wild-Wood has been collaborating with researchers in DR Congo to understand how faith communities there have been impacted by COVID-19. Here is some material developed for secondary schools (in English and in French) to show how religious studies can help global health studies.
This is a recording of our seminar of October 5, 2021, which commemorated the life and legacy of the Centre’s founder, Professor Andrew F. Walls (1928–2021). Panelists included Margaret Acton, Dr Barbara Bompani, Professor James L. Cox, and Professor Jehu J. Hanciles, who reflected on Professor Walls’s many contributions in African Studies, Religious Studies, and, of course, World Christianity and Mission Studies.
If you are unable to access the video above from YouTube, you can also try watching it from the University of Edinburgh’s Media Hopper service.
Andrew Finlay Walls, OBE (1928–2021), Honorary Professor of World Christianity, was a pioneering historian of Christian missions and their reception, and in many ways the architect of the field of study now known as world Christianity. Trained as a patristic scholar at the University of Oxford, he went to Sierra Leone in 1957 to teach at Fourah Bay College. There and at the new University of Nsukka in Nigeria (1962–66) he studied the growing churches of Africa and their history.
At the University of Aberdeen where he taught between 1966 and 1986, he became a scholar of international renown, establishing the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World (now known as the Centre for the Study of World Christianity), and supervising many research students who became leaders in both church and academy. The Centre was established as a library and archival resource, documenting the history of missions and the growth of non-western Christianity: the students followed, attracted by the sources.