Oriente Medio

Before it became a WCC region in its own right the Middle East came under a WCC Secretariat for Orthodox Churches and the Near East. This changed in the early 1970s and coincided more or less with the creation of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) in 1974. The designation 'Near' in the name was abandoned in favour of 'Middle' because of the colonial connotation of Near East reflecting the proximity of the region with Europe. The Middle East as WCC region includes the Arabic peninsula, Cyprus and the countries on the east coast of the Mediterranean, Iran in the north-east and Egypt in the south-west. The Middle East Council of Churches comprises in its membership churches in the Sudan, Tunesia and Algeria which are also members of the All Africa Conference of Churches and in the WCC come under Africa, whereas the churches in Egypt come under the Middle East while they are equally AACC members.  A particularity of the Middle East compared with the other WCC regions is that it includes the birth-place of Christianity, the Holy Land, and three of the five Patriarchates of the early church, Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria. The majority of the churches are Orthodox, of the two families (Eastern and Oriental). The Protestant and the Anglican churches are small (with the exception of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan) and are the fruit of missionary work from North America and Europe in the region in the 19th century. These churches have formed the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches. Another characteristic of the region is the existence of several Catholic Churches of the oriental rite, e.g. Maronite, Melkite, Chaldean etc. which together with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem joined the MECC in 1994. Together the Christian churches form a small minority in the overwhelmingly Muslim environment of the Middle East. One of their major concerns is the on-going migration of Christians who leave the region for economic and political reasons and settle in other parts of the world. Other priorities are the peaceful resolution of the conflicts in the region and good relationships with the Muslims.