The 2014 Costas Consultation on March 28 focused on Christians in the Middle East, and attracted many students, faculty, and interested lay people from diverse traditions associated with the Boston Theological Institute (BTI) of ten theological institutions in the greater Boston area. The consultation included a panel of student papers, the viewing and discussion of a film about Christians in Iraq, “Displaced in their Homeland,” and two key speakers. Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou, Harvard University researcher, and former Vice-Chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, gave a lecture identifying and challenging five key myths about Christians in the Middle East (the myths of pluralism in the Ottoman Empire, the Middle East as the “Muslim World,” Christians as foreign invaders, Ecumenical Solidarity, and Israel as a protector state for Christians) that when taken together, perpetuate the oppression and persecution of Christian communities in the region. The keynote address was giving by Bishop Elias Toumeh, Antiochian Orthodox Bishop of Pyrgou. Bishop Toumeh gave a heartfelt address on the struggle of Christians in Syria, and the importance of sacrificial leadership; the Bishop also looked at the positive opportunities that Christians have to minister in a time of conflict, such as serving as hostage negotiators. You may read a fuller account of the Bishop Toumeh’s address in an article by the The Pilot, “Syrian Bishop Finds in Solidarity Boston.”
Many CGCM associates participated in the event; student Daryl Ireland was a key coordinator of the Consultation. Another student, Gina Zurlo, presented one of the student papers centered on a demographic perspective of Christianity in the Middle East. Gina has shared her presentation with us here (costas middle east). The Consultation was an important opportunity, not only to educate the community about ancient Christians in the region and their plight for survival and religious freedom, but also to hear from people living in areas of conflict, and the forging of ecumenical support across nations and traditions.