The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East

The church district of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem covers Israel, Palestine (West Bank and Gaza Strip), Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Although the church is very small, it has many institutions such as hospitals, schools, kindergartens and guest-houses. Among the institutions sponsored by the church are the Theodor Schneller School (TSS) in Jordan (Amman) and the Arab Episcopal Church in Irbid where blind children are taught together with sighted children. Both institutions are projects supported by the EMS. In addition there are close contacts to the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt.

Simply due to its geographical location, the church is massively affected by all the political developments in the Middle East. One of the origins of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem is the Syrian Orphanage.

Christianity in Israel and Palestine

In Israel, 81 percent of the population are Jewish, 15 percent are Muslim, two percent are Christian, 1.7 percent are Druze or belong to other small groups. The population in on the West Bank and Gaza is 98 percent Muslim and around three percent Christian.

Today, many Arab Christians are emigrating. As a result the churches are all the more dependent on support and partnership from other churches. A focal point of church work is interreligious dialogue with Muslims and Jews.

Christians in Palestine live in West Jordan, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Like their Muslim neighbours, Arab Christians are Palestinians who mostly feel they belong to the Palestinian national movement. Christian Palestinians belong to five denominations: Greek Orthodox Christians make up about half. The other half consists of Catholic, Greek Catholic, ancient Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Christians.

Christianity in Jordan

The official religion in Jordan is Islam. However Christian minorities enjoy religious freedom and rights. It is possible to speak of limited freedom of religion. Official region statistics show that, of a total population of about 4.3 million Jordanians, 93 percent are Sunni Muslims. Then there are smaller groups of other Muslim religious communities. Christians make up about four to five percent of the population.

Officially, there are around 186,000 Christians from various denominations. About 70,000 of them belong to the Greek-Orthodox church and 30,000 to the Roman-Catholic church. In addition there are 20,000 Melkits, who are Orthodox Christians uniated with Rome. The Armenian Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox churches are also represented in the country. The smallest religious community is the Protestant community, which is itself split up into a multitude of denominations. Besides 2,000 Anglicans who form the largest group, there are Lutherans, Baptists, Nazarenes, Pentecostals and members of the "Evangelical Free Church". The churches are granted the freedom of preaching to their own members but they are not allowed to convert Muslims. The protection of minorities is firmly embodied in the law.