Middle East calling
By Calum Burke
I studied at Ridley between 2018 and 2021. I’m thankful to have studied at Ridley, and for the ways it has refined my calling.
Before coming to Ridley, I knew God was calling me to work in inter-religious contexts, especially among Muslims. This vocation was further developed at the end of my first year when I was given the opportunity to undertake a placement at St George’s Baghdad.
During my time in Iraq, I found myself and my sense of vocation deeply changed, and I felt God was calling me to a long-term relationship with the Middle East. This led to my bishop and training incumbent releasing some of my time to travel to the region. This has given me some fantastic opportunities and experiences, including a recent retreat in Cairo with Christian and Muslim leaders from around the world.
How many Christians will there be left in the Middle East in the years to come?
Despite the positives, my trips have also shown me the increasing pressure Christians in the Middle East face. An Iraqi church leader recently told me, “When there is so much death and suffering, you have to become numb to survive”. This narrative is common; when political instability happens, Christians often face more pressure. This has led to some asking the question, how many Christians will there be left in the Middle East in the years to come?
Iraq is an example of why this question is being asked. Since the 2003 Coalition invasion, the Christian community has shrunk from 1.5 million to under 200,000. As Christians in the West, we must remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, who often express their feeling of abandonment. If my time in the region has taught me anything, it’s that we in the West have so much to learn from the Church in the Middle East, the lands that gave us the entity of our biblical story. I pray as Jesus taught us, that we have ears to hear.