Christian–Muslim Relations in Syria
Historic and Contemporary Religious Dynamics in a Changing Context
Offering an authoritative study of the plural religious landscape in modern Syria and of the diverse Christian and Muslim communities that have cohabited the country for centuries, this volume considers a wide range of cultural, religious and political issues that have impacted the interreligious dynamic, putting them in their local and wider context.
Combining fieldwork undertaken within government-held areas during the Syrian conflict with critical historical and Christian theological reflection, this research makes a significant contribution to understanding Syria’s diverse religious landscape and the multi-layered expressions of Christian-Muslim relations. It discusses the concept of sectarianism and how communal dynamics are crucial to understanding Syrian society. The complex wider issues that underlie the relationship are examined, including the roles of culture and religious leadership; and it questions whether the analytical concept of sectarianism is adequate to describe the complex communal frameworks in the Middle Eastern context. Finally, the study examines the contributions of contemporary Eastern Christian leaders to interreligious discourse, concluding that the theology and spirituality of Eastern Christianity, inhabiting the same cultural environment as Islam, is uniquely placed to play a major role in interreligious dialogue and in peace-making.
The book offers an original contribution to knowledge and understanding of the changing Christian-Muslim dynamic in Syria and the region. It should be a key resource to students, scholars and readers interested in religion, current affairs and the Middle East.
Table of Contents
1. Christianity in Syria – the ecclesiastical mosaic.
2. Islam in Syria – The Muslim mosaic.
3. Cultural contexts that influence Christian-Muslim relations.
4. Christian-Muslim relations in Syria.
5. Eastern Christian approaches to Christian-Muslim engagement in Syria.
Andrew W. H. Ashdown is an Anglican priest and holds a PhD from Winchester University. He has been ordained for 30 years and has held responsibility for Church links in West and East Africa and South Asia. For over thirty years, he has been visiting and leading groups to the Middle East and has been involved in interreligious initiatives in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and in Britain. In recent years, his research has focussed on the religious context in Syria and this has included multiple visits to Syria in the midst of the war as a guest of faith leaders in the country.
"Engaging with the complex politico-religious landscape of Syria, Christian-Muslim Relations in Syria is the culmination of many years spent working with both laity and clergy of various Christian denominations as well as senior Muslim figures. The author’s discussion of the seminal contributions made by Eastern Christian clergy in fostering constructive dialogue with both the government and their Muslim counterparts reveals exceptional and fresh perspectives on community relations. For anyone wanting to acquire an in-depth, authoritative understanding of the Muslim-Christian dynamic in Syria today, this book is a must." — Dr. Erica C D Hunter, SOAS University of London.
"Through in-depth studies and contacts with religious leaders and different Christian and Muslim stakeholders, Andrew Ashdown offers a unique, significant and realistic analysis of the religious, political and social landscapes in Syria. This work is useful for scholars and ordinary readers alike and I highly recommend it for wide readership in the Arab world and beyond." — Samer Laham, Regional Director of Diaconia Department and Ecumenical Relief Service at the Middle East Council of Churches.
"Christian-Muslim Relations in Syria: Historic and Contemporary Religious Dynamics in a Changing Context makes a distinct contribution to understanding the complex dynamics of relations between Christians and Muslims, church-state relations, the place of religious leadership and the theology in times of upheaval and profound change. Based upon extensive field-work and research over the last decade this work provides insights into how actors understand their situation and the role of religious identity in the context of. political conflict in Syria and across the region. Andrew Ashdown also offers an uncommon account of Eastern Christian ecclesial, religious and political thought and engagement from the perspective of relations between Islam and Christian in modern times." — Dr. Anthony O'Mahony, University of Oxford.
"Andrew Ashdown has rendered a valuable and important service in making heard these non-governmental voices from within Syria: these are voices which rarely reach the West, but are nonetheless ones to which serious attention needs to be paid." — Professor Sebastian Brock, University of Oxford.