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Christians in the Contemporary Middle East Conference

DECEMBER 5-6, 2016



For more than 2,000 years, Christian communities and other religious minorities have thrived as an important piece of a vibrant Middle East mosaic. These communities share the same rich history and a large part of the cultural heritage of the Muslim majority population.

As the 28th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva noted in its March 13, 2015, Joint Statement: “The situation of Christians in the Middle East, a land on which they are living for centuries and have the right to remain, raises deep concerns. There are more and more reasons to fear seriously for the future of the Christian communities that have more than two thousand years of existence in this region, where Christianity has its full place, and began its long history.”

These communities have faced economic and political insecurity and sectarian violence—giving rise to religious radicalism and militant groups that threaten the very existence of religious minorities, especially those steeped in Christian heritage and tradition. Although religious extremism threatens all Middle Eastern religious and ethnic minorities, Christians, in particular, represent a significant group whose status is a barometer of whether the coexistence of religious and ethnic diversity will be possible in the Middle East.

On December 5-6, 2016, international scholars, government officials, and NGO representatives convened at Villanova University to discuss a thoughtful framing of the Christian cultural and intellectual life in the Islamic Middle as a shared history of pluralistic and cosmopolitan spaces, and to engage in thoughtful strategies and solutions for the continued existence of Christian and other religious minorities in the region.

As an Augustinian Catholic institution of higher education, Villanova University is committed to raising awareness and seeking solutions that will protect and preserve the human and civil rights of all religious minorities in the Middle East.  

Letters of Greeting, Keynote Address and Conference Resources


The goals of this conference are to examine:

  1. The reasons for the decline in pluralistic and cosmopolitan spaces in the Middle East, and the consequences for Christians and other minorities;
  2. The historic role of Christian intellectuals and their contributions to Arab politics and promoting religious freedom;
  3. Prospects for securing the equality of citizens, given current interpretations of Islamic law that tend to create separation and marginalization, even among Muslim citizens not of the majority sect;
  4. Strategies that could be implemented to combat the persecution of minority and religious communities and enable them to stay in their home countries;
  5. The geopolitical and regional tensions that have threatened the presence of Christians and other vulnerable communities in the Middle East, and
  6. the impact of the Shia-Sunni conflict on the status of ethnic and religious minorities in the region.  

Sponsored by:
Villanova University

Co-Sponsored by:
The American University for Science and Technology, Beirut, Lebanon
Bethlehem University, Bethlehem, State of Palestine
Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)
Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Villanova University
Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, Villanova University
Office of Mission and Ministry, Villanova University
Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Villanova University

We gratefully acknowledge Antoine Frem and Masoud (Mike) Altirs for their support of of this conference.