OHCT Summer Lecture: Wolfson College 2nd July 2017

‘Christianity in the Middle East: Reasons for Hope and Despair’

Gerard Russell is a former British and United Nations diplomat who spent fourteen years representing Britain in the Middle East.

In 2014 he published Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms, a chronicle of the vanishing religious minorities in the Middle East, including the Yazidis, Zoroastrians, Samaritans and Copts. These religious groups represent the last vestiges of the magnificent civilizations of ancient history in Persia, Babylon, and Egypt.

Now, with the Middle East in turmoil, they face the challenge of survival in the face of persecution.

An audience of about ninety members of OHCT heard Gerard Russell speak movingly about their plight, drawing on his extensive travels in the region.

As many of their young people flee to the West and to America to seek safety and a new life, these ancient religions face the terrible possibility of extinction. Although Gerard Russell gave us more reasons for despair than hope, he did point to the vitality of some expatriate communities abroad, and told us that the tiny Samaritan community, reduced from over one million to just 802 (!) in the entire world, is slowly growing and facing the future with hope.  

It was a sobering but fascinating lecture.

Afterwards drinks and canapes were enjoyed in the evening sunshine.  Our thanks to the President for allowing us to use the college as the venue for our Summer Lecture.