Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Middle Eastern Christians: The Challenge of Identity

Map from the NY Times
In a piece buried on its website and probably also buried in the print edition, The New York Times published an article by Robert Worth entitled In Syrian Villages, the Language of Jesus Lives. The article focuses on a Syrian town, Malula. Historically, Malula was a Christian town and even now the population is still half Christian. What is unique about the Christians of Malula, along with the Syrian Christians of this part of country and beyond, is that they speak the same language that Jesus spoke, namely Aramiac.

However, this identity is waning. The good news is that conscious effort is being made to maintain this identity. Most important is the establishment of a school for the teaching of Aramaic. Nonetheless, "Yona Sabar, a professor of Semitic languages at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that today, Malula and its neighboring villages, Jabadeen and Bakhaa, represent “the last Mohicans” of Western Aramaic, which was the language Jesus presumably spoke in Palestine two millennia ago".

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