"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, November 9, 2018

Christianity in Iraq in the 15th Century

If nothing else has come out of the disaster which Iraq has been for fifteen years now since the neo-imperial American invasion, perhaps one might find some glimmer of good in the slightly increased (relatively speaking) awareness by American Christians of the age-old Christian presence in that country and surrounding region. Much of that Christian population has, of course, been destroyed since the war of 2003; much of it has fled. In his very useful new book Ecumenism of Blood, about which more another time, Hugh Somerville Knapman notes that in 2003 there were "1.4 million Christians" in Iraq, but by 2016 that number was "reduced to 275,000."

That much-reduced population has long roots, and a book set for release at the end of December will focus on one period of that population's history: Thomas A. Carlson, Christianity in Fifteenth-Century Iraq (Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization, 2018), 322pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:
Christians in fifteenth-century Iraq and al-Jazīra were socially and culturally home in the Middle East, practicing their distinctive religion despite political instability. This insightful book challenges the normative Eurocentrism of scholarship on Christianity and the Islamic exceptionalism of much Middle Eastern history to reveal the often unexpected ways in which inter-religious interactions were peaceful or violent in this region. The multifaceted communal self-concept of the 'Church of the East' (so-called 'Nestorians') reveals cultural integration, with certain distinctive features. The process of patriarchal succession clearly borrowed ideas from surrounding Christian and Muslim groups, while public rituals and communal history reveal specifically Christian responses to concerns shared with Muslim neighbors. Drawing on sources from various languages, including Arabic, Armenian, Persian, and Syriac, this book opens new possibilities for understanding the rich, diverse, and fascinating society and culture that existed in Iraq during this time.

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