Can Middle Eastern Christians Lead the Way in Combating Anti-Semitism?

February 12, 2020 | Bawai Soro
About the author:

Born and raised to a Christian family in Iraq, Bawai Soro eventually settled in Canada and pursued a career as a priest; since 2017, he has served as a bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Canada. Soro believes strongly in the importance of the theological links between Judaism and Christianity, and sees Abraham—born in the ancient city of Ur—as an “Iraqi-Mesopotamian” who is the spiritual progenitor of both religions. In an interview with Amanda Achtman, he discusses his hopes that his fellow Middle Eastern Christians will put aside their traditional anti-Semitism:

Abraham, the forefather of the Jewish people, came from Mesopotamia, which meant that somehow Mesopotamia was a “home” for [Jews] as well. After numerous exiles, which resulted in the Jews’ . . . establishing a home in Mesopotamia for more than a millennium, they enjoyed life in large numbers within large territory under circumstances [often] much better than [those experienced by] their fellow Jews in Palestine or elsewhere.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the [average] Iraqi Christian shares the same understanding of history and theological nuances. Two reasons come to mind: lack of religious [education] and living for a long time in a culture that is characterized by tendencies to anti-Semitism. . . . And so, the duty of the church is to explain the history of Christianity and to teach its theology [more properly].

I myself was raised in Iraq in the 1950s and 60s to be a person critical and fearful of the state of Israel. Such political doctrine was instilled in the minds of schoolboys and girls since childhood. Plus, the anti-Jewish material in church literature and liturgical texts made the case for loving Judaism and the Jewish people, if not impossible, then surely very difficult.

I think it is very possible, [however], that Middle Eastern Christian clergy and laity will help combat anti-Semitism and cultivate a greater reverence for the Jewish sources of Christianity in their respective traditions as well as for the Jewish people in modern communities everywhere.

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