The purpose of this article is therefore not to re-evoke the glories of the past, pausing melancholically to weep over its ruins (al-bukā’ ‘alā l-atlāl), as our poets of the pre-Islamic period were wont to do. The aim is, rather, to look back briefly at the composite Middle Eastern Christian identity, that fruit of successive cultural deposits, in order to be able to judge, in a proper perspective, what plan for the future may feasibly be nurtured. And since it is impossible to condense a bimillenary history into a few pages,1 I will concentrate on two fundamental junctures, seeking to draw from them some valid lessons for our tormented present in the final part of this article.
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1For a wider-ranging treatment, the reader is referred to Samir Khalil Samir, Rôle culturel des chrétiens dans le monde arabe, (Cedrac, Beirut, 2005), of which this article constitutes both a summary and an update. The book is also available in Italian, translated by Paola Pizzi (Ruolo culturale dei cristiani nel mondo arabo, Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, Rome, 2007) and in Arabic: Dawr al-masīhīyyīn al-thaqāfī fī l-‘ālam al-‘arabī, (Dār al-Mashriq, Beirut, 2004).
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