Christians in the Arab world: Farm Street talk

Jesus' teachings were influenced by the culture of Arabia
Jesus' teachings were influenced by the culture of Arabia

The Anglican Vicar of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates will be speaking about Christianity in the contemporary Arab world this Thursday at Farm Street Church. In addition to addressing the current situation for Christians in the region, Canon Andy Thompson will be asking what lessons Christians can learn from the Arab world. He has considered these in his recently published book 'Jesus of Arabia.'

Canon Andy has been the Chaplain in Abu Dhabi since 2010 and has lived most of his life in the Middle East. He is currently undertaking a lecture tour, courtesy of the United Arab Emirates government. His latest book follows his previous publication, 'Christianity in the UAE'.

“As westerners, we created Jesus in our own image,” he says, “but the historical Jesus was a child of the Middle East and we need to go back to the historical Jesus to have a deeper and more profound understanding of who he was and how his teachings were understood and achieved at that time.”

The Culture of the Arabian Gulf

Canon Andy was originally going to call his new book the Gospel of the Gulf — the Khaleeji Gospel: “But this was felt to be too ambiguous.” He says the eventual title was picked by a local sheikh: “It was the one he liked best. It really caught his eye.”Canon Andy Thompson

It is important for us to remember, says Canon Andy, that Jesus was “a Palestinian Jew”, who lived and worked in a culture that would still be familiar across Arabia today. His book, which is subtitled, ‘Understanding the teachings of Christ through the culture of the Arabian Gulf’, considers what he calls “four distinctive markets of Arab culture in the Gulf”. These include family, faith, language and the role of women. “All these things are very similar to the culture that Jesus grew up in 2,000 years ago.”

In addressing Christianity in the Arabian Gulf in his talk at Farm Street Church Hall on Thursday, Canon Andy will draw heavily on what he discovered in writing his recent book. “Jesus of Arabia?” he says. “For me as an Englishman, I automatically think of Lawrence of Arabia, the romanticism of the desert. But also, it is a reminder as an Englishman that this is Jesus’ part of the world.

Canon Andy Thompson’s talk entitled 'Christianity in The Arabian Gulf' will take place this Thursday 5 November at 6.30pm in Farm Street Church Hall, 114 Mount Street, London W1K 3AH. All will be welcome. For more details contact Fr Dominic Robinson SJ on dominicrobinson@rcdow.org.uk

Main photo: Bettmann / Corbis. Right: Canon Andy Thompson (Silvia Razgova / The National)