Since our winter issue conflicts in the Middle East seem to have grown worse. There is talk of an arc of crisis from Libya though Sudan to Somalia, north to Yemen and on to Iraq and Syria. And caught within that arc are Christians of different traditions and backgrounds. Amidst them the small Anglican/Episcopal Church seeks to maintain its presence and its engagement with the majority communities – often in very difficult circumstances. In Aden, for example, during the recent fighting the Church and Clinic had to close while Archdeacon Bill Schwartz (whose new book on Christian Muslim relations is reviewed in this issue, pages 16-17) maintained daily phone contact with the staff who remained.
But the development of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) is sending shock waves through the region. Historic Christian communities and other minorities in Northern Iraq have been forced to flee from their homes and take refuge in Kurdistan, while their churches and monasteries have been despoiled. William Taylor’s report on his visit with Bishop Geoffrey Rowell on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury provides a graphic account of the situation of these Assyrian Christians. Many are fleeing from Syria and Iraq and in Egypt the diocese under Archbishop Mouneer is providing refuge for them – but the displacement of so many is a growing and sadly a long-term tragedy.
Alongside this emergency ministry the regular work of the institutions through which dioceses engage with the wider community continues – and we particularly feature the golden jubilee of the Princess Basma Centre on the Mount of Olives for children with special needs – just one of the thirty-three institutions in the Diocese of Jerusalem.
JMECA was established to support the Episcopal Church in the Middle East while aware of the wider Christian and regional contexts, through sharing information, prayer and financial gifts. Information and news for prayer is provided through Bible Lands supplemented by our website www.jmeca.org.uk. Financial support is through our annual grants to the institutions and the four dioceses which this year have been substantially increased by the far greater than anticipated response of more than £100,000 to the appeal for Gaza’s Al-Ahli Hospital. It proved timely that Shirley had a part-time assistant to help handle the donations. As Shirley writes we and the hospital are immensely grateful to all who gave so generously.