Christians in the Middle East

Moderator: Valentina Colombo

Guest speakers:

On June 6th, 2012, John Cabot University hosted a presentation and book-signing of Antonio Picasso’s essay “Il Mondo Oriente Cristiano” (Cooper, 2010) on the beautiful Secchia Terrace. The themes addressed in the book offered an excuse to discuss the wider and current issues of the Arab Spring and the religious conflicts in the Middle East.

The author underlined the considerable presence of Christians in the Middle East, and their fairly moderate role in shaping a country’s politics and attitudes towards religious liberty and tolerance. He also added that after 9/11 the world has been looking at the Middle East with different eyes; it has suddenly become the negative center of international attention. According to the writer, it is difficult to fully understand the Middle East because of its heterogeneity, since it is the home of different religions and it is intrinsically divided by deep, contrasting ideologies.

Father Laurent Basanese continued the discussion and emphasized how the mixing of religious and political factors constitutes an additional element of intricacy; “The Middle East”, he said, “is both attracting and extenuating, and it is often viewed as a troublemaker”.

Moderator and Guarini Institute Advisor Valentina Colombo agreed on the fact that the situation is indeed difficult for both Christians and Muslims, since nowadays they are victims of discriminations in the East and in the West respectively. She inquired whether a new, updated edition of the book is planned, and the author replied that even though there is the prospective of a second edition, he does not want to explore all the current issues related to the Middle East world because the contents of the new text would be out of date in a few months since it is not feasible to investigate the future effects of ongoing events.

An interesting and animated Q&A session followed and the event was eventually concluded by a light reception.