Book Reviews January, February and March 2022

The Vanishing: The Twilight of Christianity in the Middle East
Janine di Giovanni
ISBN 978-1526625830
Bloomsbury 2021
Hardback 272pp £20.00
Pastoral Review bookshop £18.00

I read this book while travelling along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, through places associated with some of the earliest Christian communities – Tarsus, Pamphylia, the monastery of St Thecla in Silifke – and as ever, traces of Christianity, ancient or modern, could be hard to find. Most of the Christian presence in that part of the world has long vanished, and there is little ground for hope that it will ever return.

The Vanishing: The Twilight of Christianity in the Middle East adds a much wider context to this experience. Janine di Giovanni, a foreign correspondent and Senior Fellow and Professor at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, has travelled extensively in most of the world’s war zones and reported on several major recent conflicts. What she describes beautifully and movingly here is the state of Christianity in the Middle East. It is the story of faith communities and individuals in the part of the world that was once the cradle of Christianity and for centuries home to extensive and vibrant Christian communities that, although they were minorities within the modern nation states of Iraq, Egypt and Syria, had a place in society. She describes how this has gradually changed. Christian communities are declining, to the point that there may before long be no Christian presence at all in parts of the Middle East: ‘In Egypt, Christian Copts face legal and societal discrimination. In Gaza, which in the fourth century was entirely Christian, fewer than one thousand Christians remain.’

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