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The Resurgence of the Gospel, Part Three: The Challenge of the Muslim Curtain

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the Christian Quarter of the walled Old City of Jerusalem.
Image: Jorge Lascar / Wikimedia Commons

In recent news, the Chaldaean Catholics killed in Iraq by ISIS troops are of the Nestorian Christian Church in fellowship with Rome. Nestorian Christians who are not in the Uniate structure are also facing harassment and persecution by ISIS. Many have fled over the years to the U.S.A.

Until the early 1800’s, the only contact with the Nestorians from Europe and the Americas came from the Vatican in Rome. The Christians of the West, Catholic and Protestant, were unaware of the existence of the Church of the East. Then came a discovery by Claude James Rich, Resident of the British East India Company in Baghdad, visited the site of the city of Nineveh in 1820. His two-volume report, Narrative of a Residence in Koordistan and on the Site of Nineveh, published in London in 1836, made the news in both Great Britain and the United States. In the same year of the discovery, Rev. Joselff came to Kurdistan and returned to England with a copy of the Syriac New Testament. The British and Foreign Bible Society published it and distributed copies of among Nestorian Christians in 1827.

Not long afterwards, the American Presbyterian Mission arrived in 1830, then in 1834, and in 1835. It were the Presbyterians and the Anglican Church out of England who accomplished the most among the Eastern churches and especially the Nestorians in Kurdistan between 1842 and 1844 and at Van on the Turkish side of Persia between 1902 and 1912. Then came World War I, which brought disruptions to the whole area with Turkey on one side, Russia, on another, and Persia and Iraq, on two others. The Nestorians still are around us in Chicago, Illinois; in Modesto, California; in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and up and down the Malabar Coast where the Mar Thoma Nestorian Church is exceptionally strong. This writer personally knows of the Mar Thoma Christians in Oklahoma City as a member of the congregation there was a student of mine.

Image: Manos Gkikas

I can write as I do because of a long relationship with Christians from India, be they Mar Thoma, Assembly of God, Catholic, or of other Christian affiliation.

The point of all this discussion is that the Nestorians formerly filled an area whose landmass exceeds the space between Europe and North America and have survived persecution after persecution.

 

 

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Coming in the Spring 2019 issue: “The Reconversion of Europe”

How did Europeans react to the challenge of the Turkic-Moslem curtain and what did it mean to the global mission of Christianity?

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Category: Church History, Winter 2019

About the Author: Woodrow E. Walton, D.Min. (Oral Roberts University School of Theology and Missions), B.A. (Texas Christian University), B.D. [M.Div.] (Duke Divinity School), M.A. (University of Oklahoma), is a retired Seminary Dean and Professor of biblical, theological and historical studies. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, he and his wife live in Fort Worth, Texas. Walton retains membership with the Evangelical Theological Society, American Association of Christian Counselors, American Society of Church History, American Academy of Political Science, and The International Society of Frontier Missiology.

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