Community Breakfast Spring 2015
February 5, 2015
Vanderbilt Divinity School Reading Room
David A. Michelson
Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity, Vanderbilt Divinity School
Who are the Christians of Syria and Iraq?
This past summer rapidly escalating violence in Iraq and Syria focused the world’s attention on the religious minorities caught in the tragedy. Syria and Iraq have long been home to a number of ancient religious groups such as Yezidis, Mandeans, Shabaks, and Syriac or Assyrian Christians. In this Community Breakfast, Professor David Michelson will discuss the current and historical Christian communities of Iraq and Syria with a focus on the churches in the Syriac tradition. There is much to be gained from a better knowledge of the rich history and theology of these groups. Their centuries-long presence in the Middle East offers us a different picture of the cultures of Iraq and Syria, one that is not monolithically Arab or Islamic. Syriac Christians have traditionally served as cultural bridges bearing witness to the long-standing links--rather than “clashes”--between Middle Eastern and Western cultures. For Western Christians, including Protestants and Catholics, Syriac Christianity represents a vast but little-known part of their own religious heritage. Accordingly, the current events which threaten the end of Middle Eastern Christianity are a loss not only for the Middle East but for Christians everywhere and for the world’s cultural heritage as a whole. Preserving and exploring the history of Syriac Christianity is one step in reversing that threat.