Chrétiens d'Orient / Christen aus dem Osten

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PARIS – For its 30th anniversary, the Institute of the Arab World in Paris, in partnership with l’Oeuvre d’Orient, issued an invitation to the historical exhibition “Christians of the East. Two thousand years of history” from September 26, 2017 to January 14, 2018. It is the first general exhibition in Europe on this theme.

After Christianity’s birth in Jerusalem, it spread throughout the Middle East. For 2,000 years, Christians have been real players in the political, cultural, social and religious development of the region.

Through different periods that are among the themes exhibited, the installation of Christianity state religion, the founding councils, the Muslim conquest, the rise of Catholic and Protestant missions, the contribution of Christians to the Nahda (Arab renaissance), the revival of the 20th and 21st centuries – the history of the Christians of the East and their contribution in the development of society are extensively revealed.

To present today’s reality, part of the exhibition is also dedicated to the activity and vitality of the Christian communities in the Arab world, which continues despite the various current conflicts – Israeli-Palestinian, Syrian, etc.

The Churches of the Middle East are directly involved in the outcome of this exhibition. Many have agreed to make available various items and documents such as archaeological artifacts, icons, liturgical pieces, objects of everyday life, archives, manuscripts, photographs, films and audio materials. Prominent among these are the Gospels of Rabula, a famous Syriac illuminated manuscript from the 6th century, and the first known Christian drawings from Doura-Europos in Syria, dating from the 3rd century. A journey that highlights the great diversity of Christianity with its Coptic, Greek, Assyrian-Chaldean, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite, Latin and Protestant churches.

The exhibition was inaugurated at the Institute of the Arab World on Monday, September 25, 2017 by Mr. Michel Aoun, President of Lebanon, who is visiting Paris for three days, and by Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic.

This cultural event, which highlights the Christian religion in the Middle East, takes place after several exhibitions organized since the beginning of the second millennium: the first in 2000 focused on “Coptic art in Egypt”, the second in 2003 on “Arabic Icons, emerging Christian art” and finally, in 2014, an exhibition was devoted to the “Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca “, which offered a good a focus on Islam. The success of the latter made it possible to consider the creation of a testimony, carried by this new historical exhibition on religious diversity in the Arab world.

This exposure is favorable for “Christian Arabs [who] do not want to be considered a minority, a residue,” says Father Jean-Jacques Pérennes, Dominican and director of the Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem, they want to be full citizens of their country”.

Vivien Laguette

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