LifestyleVideo December, 17th 2011 by

Christmas in the Middle East

Christmas in the Middle East

This is the season of love and peace to be celebrated all over the world in memory of the birth of our lord Jesus Christ. How much do you know about the Christians and Christmas in the Middle East?

Unfortunately most of what we see in the media, concerning the Middle East, represents aggression and tragedies related to political feuds and the oil?

I was born a Melkite Greek Catholic Christian, in Amman – Jordan. I come from a Bedouin tribe that lived in the desert for thousands of years, called AlUzaizat. My family were Christians when the Muslims arrived in Jordan in 629 AD. The Melkite is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See in Rome, but at the same time, they have kept all the ethnic traditions of the area, in the style of their churches, as those of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Melkite traces their origin back to the Christians of Antioch, old Syria, to the 1st century AD.

Christianity has existed continuously throughout this region of the world since its conception. The famous Christians of Iraq and Great Syria (which included Jordan and Palestine named the Fertile Crescent) were the original inhabitants of this area for thousands of years. They are the Assyrians, Kaldinians, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics, Roman Catholics and the Latinos naming just a few.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Christians.  Aya Yorgi (being the church of St George), is the main Greek Orthodox Cathedral, located in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul was Constantinople, which was the capital of the Byzantine Empire, up to 1453 AD. All the different sects of the Catholics in all the Middle East are in communion with Rome.

In Egypt about 12% of the population are Christian Copts being the native Egyptians. Christianity was the main religion in Egypt in the 4th century. The Pope of the Coptic Oriental Orthodox Church resides in Alexandria, Egypt.  There are about 16 million members worldwide, including more than 12 million in Egypt. This church split from the main stream of the Christian church after the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD.

In Lebanon there is the Maronite sect of the Eastern Catholic Church that makes about 50% of the population. The President of Lebanon, in accordance to their constitution, must be an elected Christian. The Maronite Patriarchs of Antioch (which is part of modern Turkey, was once part of Syria, located close to Antakya today). The Patriarch is always named Peter after the first Bishop of Antioch, Saint Peter, who was the leader of the apostles. The original Christians in the Middle East are not converts but were Christians before the Crusades and even before Christianity became popular in Europe.

Christmas in Baghdad, Iraq

Christmas is publically celebrated all over the Middle East and not only in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The celebrations can be seen in the form of Christmas trees, Santas, Carols and of course a lot of shopping. You would enjoy listening to Christmas Carols while strolling in the shopping centres if in Amman, Beirut, Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, Dubai, Bahrain and Oman.

Muslims do not celebrate Christmas, although, the Immaculate Conception is a dogma in Islam. They believe that Jesus is a Messenger of God and had risen soul and body to heaven. A very large section of the Quran tells the full life of Jesus, believing in all his miracles, including the story of the Virgin Mary. The name Jesus is mentioned in the Quran 25 times and that is more than the name of Mohamed. The Muslims do believe that Jesus would return back to earth, on the Day of Judgment, to restore justice in defeating the Anti Christ.

The Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in these countries for thousands of years in harmony and as one people, shared the culture, history, food, and all aspects of their daily social lives.

Christmas is fun on a camel as shown in the photos below. Representing the three wise men on their camels en route to visit baby Jesus in the crib.

The wisemen from the East

Regretfully, at the moment, the Political instability in the Middle East is causing a lot of Christians to suffer and be ill treated in many parts of the area. This has been happening in Palestine, Egypt and in Iraq, since 2003 influenced by the new Islamic movements sweeping the area which are getting out of control. Many of the Christians have immigrated to the West and their percentage of the population in the Middle East has been diminished.

I wish you a joyful Christmas and a Happy New Year

Nael Marar. 

Nael George Marar

A cultured and a popular personality around Marbella and environs. He is a lover of the arts, and has had a distinguished professional career as an Electrical Engineer B.Sc, and Chartered Electrical Engineer M.I.E.E.

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