Our Eastern Door

The Syriac World: In Search of a Forgotten Christianity
by Françoise Briquel-Chatonnet and Muriel Debié
trans. by Jeffrey Haines

At the end of the eighth century, Christians living under Islamic rule were in crisis. New waves of persecution under Caliph al-Mahdi threatened their lives. Many fled, either west to the Byzantine empire or into northern Turkey. Rather than flee, Timothy I, Katholicos of the Church of the East, decided to move the patriarchal residence to the young city of Baghdad. Only a few decades later, Caliph al-Mamun would open a school at Baghdad, the famous “House of Wisdom,” from which sprang many of the great figures of Islamic philosophy. In the midst of persecution, political suspicion, and the destruction of churches, there would seem no chance that any Christian community could flourish. And yet, under the leadership of Timothy I, the Church of the East experienced an incredible time of missionary expansion, theological vigor, and cultural strength.

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Charles Carman is a Ph.D. candidate at the Catholic University of America. His writings have appeared in The American Conservative, Books & Culture, and Fare Forward.

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