Arabic-speaking Christians

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Arabic-speaking Christians
مسيحيون عرب
Total population


Regions with significant populations
7,600,000 - 15,000,000[1]

2,000,000 [2]
1,600,000 [3]
The Bible

The majority of Arabic-speaking Christians (Arabic,مسيحيون عرب) live in the Southwest Asia and North Africa where significant religious minorities exist in a number of countries. People who speak Arabic as their first language may not necessarily identify as ethnic Arabs, but no statistics exist that show how many or which Arabic-speaking Christians that identify as ethnic Arabs, making it hard to distinguish between the two. The largest number of Arabic-speaking Christians, in real numbers, are to be found in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Israel (as well as the Palestinian territories) and Jordan. Emigrant Arab communities throughout the Americas, especially among the Arab populations of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and the United States, are overwhelmingly Christian. In Brazil alone, Arabs number over 12 million and are mostly Lebanese Christians. Furthermore, the Maltese people, who are predominantly Christians, speak Maltese, a language derived from Arabic.Contents
1 Identity
2 History
3 Arabic-speaking Christians today
3.1 Lebanon
3.2 Syria
3.3 Eritrea
3.4 Jordan
3.5 Palestinian territories
3.6 North Africa
4 Doctrine
5 See also
6 References
7 External links

Not all Arabic-speaking Christians in Southwest Asia and North Africa consider themselves to be ethnic Arabs. They may, however, admit the word Arab differently, depending on which aspect of their identity they wish to emphasize (political, linguistic, ethnic, or genealogical). Some Lebanese (mainly Maronite) sects emphasize Lebanon's link to the ancient Phoenicians, Arameans or Mardaites. However, other Maronites are ethnic Arabs such as the Banu Al-Mashrouki clan of Kahlan. And the widely known noble Ghassanids that ruled the Levant in the Roman/Byzantine era.
Some of the most influential (secular) Arab nationalists were Levantine Greek Orthodox Christians like Michel Aflaq, founder of the Baath Party, George Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Constantin Zureiq.

Historically, a number of minority Christian sects that were persecuted as heretical under Byzantine rule (such as Miaphysites) actually began to enjoy more religious freedom under initial Arab Muslim occupation than they had under Byzantine (Eastern Orthodox Christian) rule.


John of Damascus an Arab monk and presbyter, 7th century

The first Christian ruler in history was an Syriac called Abgar VIII of Edessa, who converted ca. 200 AD[10]. Throughout many eras of history, Arabic-speaking Christians have co-existed fairly peacefully with followers of the other religions of the Arab world (principally Islam and Judaism). Even after the rapid expansion of Islam from the 7th century AD onwards through the Islamic conquests (or Ghazwa), many Christians chose not to convert to Islam and instead maintain their pre-existing beliefs. As "People of the Book", Christians in the region are accorded certain rights by theoretical Islamic law (Shari'ah) to practice their religion free from interference or persecution; that was, however, strictly conditioned with first paying a special amount of money (tribute) obliged from non-Muslims called 'Jizyah' (pronounced Jiz-ya), in form of either cash or goods, usually a wealth of animals, in exchange for their safety and freedom of worship. The tax was not levied on slaves, women, children, monks, the old, the sick,[11][12] hermits, or the poor.[13]

Christian martyr Saint Abo, the patron saint of Tbilisi

Arabic-speaking Christians predate Arabic-speaking Muslims, as there were many Arab tribes which adhered to Christianity since the first century, including the Nabateans and the Ghassanids (who were of Qahtani origin and spoke Yemeni-Arabic as well as Greek), who protected the south-eastern frontiers of the Roman and Byzantine Empires in north Arabia. The tribes of Tayy, Abd Al-Qais, and Taghlib were also known to have included a large number of Christians prior to Islam. The southern Arabian city of Najran was also a center of Arabic-speaking Christianity, and were made famous by virtue of their persecution by the king of neighboring Yemen, himself an enthusiastic convert to Judaism. The leader of the Arabs of Najran during the period of persection, Al-Harith, was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church as St. Aretas.

Arabic-speaking Christians have made significant contributions to Arab civilization and still do. Some of Arab literature's finest poets were Arabic-speaking Christians, and some Arabic-speaking Christians were physicians, writers, government officials, men of letters, and held equally important cultural and scientific roles as their Muslim counterparts.

Arabic-speaking Christians today


Lebanon was initially created by France for the Christians of the region, which were the dominant religion thought to be around 80% of the total population, thus making Lebanon the only Arab nation to be dominated by Christians and not Muslims. Lebanon contains the largest number of Christians in proportion to its total population. It is known that they made up around 55% of Lebanon's population before the Lebanese Civil War, but their percentage may be as low as 40% now (2,200,000). They belong largely to the Maronite Church, with a sizable minority belonging to the Greek Orthodox, Melkite Greek Catholic, among others. There is, however, uncertainty about the exact numbers because an official census has not been taken in Lebanon since 1932.

Lebanon's president must always be a Maronite Catholic Christian.


In Syria, Christians formed just under 15% of the population (about 1.2 million people) under the 1960 census, but no newer census has been taken. Current estimates put them at about 10% of the population (2,100,000), due to lower rates of birth and higher rates of emigration than their Muslim compatriots.


In Eritrea, Christians make up about 50% (about 2 million people). Eritrean Christians are about 95% Orthodox Christians or practice the Orthodox Christianity religion. Eritrean Christians were some of the first Christians ever.


In Jordan, Christians constitute about 7% of the population (about 400,000 people), though the percentage dropped sharply from 18% in the early beginning of the twentieth century. This drop is largely due to influx of Muslim Arabs from Hijaz after the First World War, the low birth rates in comparison with Muslims and the large numbers of Palestians (85-90% Muslim)who fled to Jordan after 1948. Nearly 70 - 75% of Jordanian Christians belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, while the rest adhere to Catholicism with a small minority adhering to Protestantism. Christians are well integrated in the Jordanian society and have a high level of freedom. Nearly all Christians belong to the middle or upper classes. Moreover, Christians enjoy more economic and social opportunity in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan than elsewhere in Southwest Asia. Although they constitute less then ten per cent of the total population, they have disproportionately large representation in the Jordanian parliament (10% of the Parliament) and hold important government portfolios, ambassadorial appointments abroad, and positions of high military rank.

Jordanian Christians are allowed by the public and private sectors to leave their work to attend Divine Liturgy or Mass on Sundays. All Christian religious ceremonies are publicly celebrated in Jordan. Christians have established good relations with the royal family and the various Jordanian government officials and they have their own ecclesiastic courts for matters of personal status.

Palestinian territories

About 90,000 Palestinian Christians live in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip,[14] with about 190,000 Arab Christians living in Israel and an estimated 400,000 Palestinian Christians living in the Palestinian diaspora. Both the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, George Habash, and the founder if its offshoot, the DFLP, Nayif Hawatmeh, were Christians, as is prominent Palestinian activist and former Palestinian Authority minister Hanan Chile 350000

North Africa

There are tiny communities of Roman Catholics in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Most of the members in North Africa, however, are foreign missionaries or immigrant workers, while only a minority among them are converted Arabs (or their descendants) or descendants of converted Berbers, often brought to Christian (Catholic) belief during the modern era or under French colonialism. Charles de Foucauld was renowned for his missions in North Africa among Muslims, including African Arabs.

Many millions of Arabic-speaking Christians also live in a diaspora elsewhere in the world. These include such countries as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia,Venezuela, Cuba, Dominican Republic and the United States. The majority of self-identifying Arab Americans are Eastern Rite Catholic or Orthodox, according to the Arab American Institute. On the other hand, most American Muslims are black or of South Asian (Indian or Pakistani) origin. There are also many Arabic-speaking Christians in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom and France (due to its historical connections with Lebanon).

The Maltese language is a descendant of Maghrebi Arabic dialects from North Africa; if it is counted, then the Maltese Roman Catholics are also Arabic-speaking.


Like Arab Muslims and Arab Jews, Arabic-speaking Christians refer to God as Allah, since this is the word in Arabic for "God". The use of the term Allah in Arabic-speaking Christian churches predates Islam by several centuries. In more recent times (especially since the mid 1800s), some Arabs from the Levant region have been converted from these native, traditional churches to more recent Protestant ones, most notably Baptist and Methodist churches. This is mostly due to an influx of Western, predominantly American Evangelical, missionaries.

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