Nov 24 2012

Fiona McCallum, Christian Religious Leadership in the Middle East.

 Fiona McCallum, Christian Religious Leadership in the Middle East. The political  role of the Patriarch. With a Foreword by John Anderson and Raymond Hinnebusch, Lewiston 2010; ISBN 978-0-7734-3794-3; VI+298 pp.

This publication is a revised version of a PhD-Thesis presented in 2006 at the University of St. Andrew in Scotland. It deals with the political dimension of the two important patriarchates in the Middle East and the development of the political power of the two contemporary Patriarchs: Pope Shenuda III (coptic-orthodox) and the Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir (maronite). At the beginning there are four theoretical models which attempt to explain the relation between the a specific shaping of a state and the political power of religious institutions. The author identifies 8 variables to analyse the contemporary political dimension of the given patriarchate and its recent development. These variables are centred around the relation of the community and the patriarch, only one variable concerns the political situation of the country. The identification of the variables indicates that the research concerns specifically the political power over their respective community.

This kind of approach to modern reality of the Christian communities in the Middle East is still rare in Western modern research. But it can help much to better understand the political situation of these small communities.

The nest pages (41-98) gives a summary of what is known about the history and the modern development. Starting in Chapter 4 (123) the kernel of the thesis is worked out. It is a detailed analysis of the political role of the two patriarchs and how it changed during history. The author is presenting many aspects and incidents concerning the modern history. She analysis also the important aspect between lay people and the patriarch and hierarchy. Some of these groups are challenging the political role of the patriarch.

In the conclusion the thesis presented in the first chapter are verified on the basis of the realized analysis.

The approach and the methods are good however the thesis has some mistakes and grave defects. A wrong citation, misspelling of names, or mistake like the identification of didaskalia as a catechetical school are found the publication. However the biggest defect is the total ignorance of literature which is not in English. The author does not use any Arab source. In Egypt she had the advantage that quite a number are translated into English by the Arab-West-Report. She mentions some French books in the bibliography, however from the citation on gain the impression that they are secondary citations. Concerning Lebanon she relays on one of the less important but English paper: The daily Star. For this subject it is imperative to consult L’Orient-Le jour, An-Nahar and As-Safir. Ignoring German, Spanish, and Italian publications would been pardonable. But ignoring the Arabic and for Lebanon French sources – journals as well as scientific literature – reduces considerably the quality of the work.

Harald Suermann

(A longer review of the work will be published in Oriens Christianus 94, 2010, 275-279)

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