Christianity in Syria

CHRISTIANITY IN SYRIA


Christians in Syria make up about 10% of the population.
The country's largest Christian denomination is an Eastern Orthodox Church of Antioch (officially known as the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East), closely followed by a Uniate Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and then by an Oriental Syriac Orthodox Church, and Maronites.
The city of Aleppo is believed to have the largest number of Christians in Syria.
The President of Syria has to be a Muslim, as a result of popular demand at the time the constitution was written.
However, Syria does not profess a state religion, and does not officially favor any religion over another.

Damascus was one of the first regions to receive Christianity during the ministry of St Peter. There were more Christians in Damascus than anywhere else.
After the military expansion of the Umayyad empire into Syria and Anatolia, the teachings of Islam came into practice and many became Muslims.
Nowadays, Damascus still contains a sizeable proportion of Christians, with churches all over the city, but particularly in the district of Bab Touma.
Masses are held every Sunday and civil servants are given Sunday mornings off to allow them to attend church, even though Sunday is a working day in Syria.
Schools in Christian-dominated districts have Saturday and Sunday as the weekend, while the official Syrian weekend falls on Friday and Saturday.
In May 2011, International Christian Concern indicated that Christians in Syria were more afraid of the anti-government protesters than of the government itself, because under the Syrian Assad government there has been tolerance towards religious minorities.

Integration

Christians (as well as the few remaining Jews in the country) engage in every aspect of Syrian life.
Following in the traditions of Paul, who practiced his preaching and ministry in the marketplace, Syrian Christians are participants in the economy, the academic, scientific, engineering, arts, and intellectual life, the entertainment scene, and the political arena of Syria.
Many Syrian Christians are public sector and private sector managers and directors, while some are local administrators, members of Parliament, and ministers in the government.
A number of Syrian Christians are also officers in the armed forces of Syria.
They have preferred to mix in with Muslims rather than form all-Christian units and brigades, and fought alongside their Muslim compatriots against Israeli forces in the various Arab-Israeli conflicts of the 20th century.
In addition to their daily work, Syrian Christians also participate in volunteer activities in the less developed areas of Syria.
As a result, Syrian Christians are generally viewed by other Syrians as an asset to the larger community.
Syrian Christians have their own courts that deal with civil cases like marriage, divorce and inheritance based on Bible teachings.
By agreement with other communities, Syrian Christian churches do not proselytise to Muslims and do not accept converts from Islam.



Christians and Muslims

In Syria, there are several social differences between Christians and Muslims.
Throughout the history, Syrian Christians were more highly urbanized than Muslims; many live either in or around Aleppo, Hamah, or Latakia, and there were relatively fewer of them in the lower income groups.
Proportionately more Christians than Muslims are educated beyond the primary level, and there are relatively more of them in white-collar and professional occupations.

Christians spread throughout Syria and they are a majority in some provinces; important areas are :

Aleppo, where the largest Armenian population resides.
Damascus contains a sizable Christian community.
Homs, which has the second largest Christian population known, especially in the nearby Valley of Christians, a popular tourism site close to the Crac des Chevaliers;
Saidnaya
Tartous
Latakia
Suwayda and Al-Hasakah, which has a large ethnic Assyrian/Syriac population.

Maronite Christians

الموارنة‎ - the Maronites - are a Pre-Arab Semitic Christian ethnoreligious group in the Levant.
They derive their name from the Syriac saint Mar Maron whose followers moved to Mount Lebanon from northern Syria establishing the Maronite Church.
The Maronite were able to maintain an independent status in Mount Lebanon and its coastline after the Arab Islamic conquest, maintaining their religion and language until the 13th century.
The Ottoman Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate and later the Republic of Lebanon were created under the auspice of European powers with the Maronites as their main ethnic component.
A number of Maronite historians claim that the Maronites were the descendants of the Canaanites or Phoenicians, or also the Marada, residents in parts of Greater Syria, who kept their identity under both Byzantine and Arab authorities.
The reason for their adoption of the name is disputed and historians disagree whether it refers to Mar Maron, a 4th century Syriac Christian saint, or to John Maron, the first bishop of Lebanon.
Syrian Maronites total 51,000, belonging to the archdioceses of Aleppo and Damascus and the Diocese of Latakia.


The followers of the Maronite Church form a part of the Syriac Christians and belong to the West Syriac Rite.
The Maronite Syriac Church of Antioch traces its foundation to Maron, an early 5th-century Syriac monk venerated as a saint.
Before the conquest by Arabian Muslims reached Lebanon, the Lebanese people, including those who would become Muslim and the majority who would remain Christian, spoke a dialect of Aramaic called Syriac.
Syriac remains the liturgical language of the Maronite Church.


The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch

 Πατριαρχεῖον Ἀντιοχείας - بطريركية أنطاكية وسائر المشرق للروم الأرثوذكس‎ - (the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch), also known as the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East and the Antiochian Orthodox Church (Greek:, Patriarcheîon Antiocheías; Arabic: بطريركية أنطاكية وسائر المشرق للروم الأرثوذكس‎, Baṭrīarkīyyat Anṭākiya wa-sā'ir al-mašriq li'l-Rūm al-Ūrthūduks), is an autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church within the wider communion of Orthodox Christianity.
Headed by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, it considers itself the successor to the Christian community founded in Antioch by the Apostles Peter and Paul.
It is one of several churches that lays claim to be the canonical incumbent of the ancient see of St. Peter and St. Paul in Antioch.
The Oriental Orthodox Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch makes the same claim, as do the Syrian Catholic Church, the Maronite Church, and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, all of them Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See.
These three, however, mutually recognize each other as holding authentic patriarchates, being part of the same Catholic communion.
The Roman Catholic Church also appointed titular Latin Rite patriarchs for many centuries, until the office was left vacant in 1953 and abolished in 1964 and all claims renounced.
The seat of the patriarchate was formerly Antioch, in what is now Turkey, however, in the 14th century, it was moved to the "Street called Straight" in Damascus, modern-day Syria, in response to the Ottoman invasion of Antioch.

Its traditional territory includes Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and parts of Turkey.
Its territory formerly included the Church of Cyprus until it became autocephalous in 431.
Both the Orthodox Churches of Cyprus and Antioch are members of the Middle East Council of Churches.
The head of the Orthodox Church of Antioch is called a Patriarch.
The current Patriarch is Ignatius IV (see left). Membership statistics are not available, but may be as high as 1,100,000 in Syria.

The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch is one of the ancient churches of the world. According to the New Testament "The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." (Acts 11:26).
St. Peter and St. Paul the Apostle are considered as the cofounders of the the Patriarchate of Antioch, the former being its first bishop. When Peter left Antioch, Evodios and Ignatius took over the charge of the Patriarchate. Both Evodios and Ignatius died as martyrs under Roman Persecution.
Members of the community in Southern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Northern Israel still call themselves Rûm which literally means "Eastern Roman" or Byzantine in Turkish, Persian and Arabic.
The term "Rum" is used in preference to "Ionani" which means Greek or "Ionian"
Some Grecian "ancient synagogal" priestly rites and hymns have survived partially to the present, notably in the distinct church services of the Melkite and Greek Orthodox communities of the Hatay Province of Southern Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.



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