Academics in Scotland have created a new research network that aims to help draw attention to many of the diverse studies taking place on the subject of Christians in the Middle East.
Scholars from a variety of backgrounds are involved, representing a wide range of interests: contemporary and historical perspectives, missionaries and local Christians, church structures and connections to other faith communities, political and social engagement, and more.
Although the initiators of this project are based in Scotland, the membership is international, with academics in Europe, North America, Australia, and, of course, the Middle East involved. An initial conference event took place at the University of Stirling in February, and more events are planned.
"Apart from providing valuable links to academics working in related fields, we also hope that the Network will make it easier to rectify some of the distorted images of the Middle East in the mainstream media", explained Dr Michael Marten, a historian and political scientist at the University of Stirling’s School of Languages, Cultures and Religions, and one of the founders of the Network.
He continued: "Christians in the region trace their history to the time of Jesus, and enabling academics to share more information about their history and current circumstances will also help to improve the understanding of wider issues in the contemporary Middle East."
Fiona McCallum, a researcher in the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews, commented: "There has been a growing interest in the role of Christians in the Middle East, both within academia and also the wider international public. By providing a first point of contact, the Network will play an important part in furthering and disseminating research on this significant subject."
Christine Lindner at the University of Edinburgh’s Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies is involved as list and website editor.
She pointed out that the initiative will be extremely useful for emerging academics: "The Network is particularly helpful for younger scholars, to not only hear about the work conducted by their colleagues, but to discuss and uncover untapped resources, while exchanging news of upcoming conferences, workshops and publications."
The Christians in the Middle East website, with details of how to subscribe to the Network list, is at www.cme.stir.ac.uk