Barnabas Fund - International Headquarters River Street, Pewsey, Wilthire. Phone: +44 1672 565030 Latitude: 51 deg 23 min 18 sec N Longitude: 1 deg 45 min 48 sec W .
The meaning of the cross for non-Western...

Email:

The meaning of the cross for non-Western Christians

To

Email address:
Separate multiple addresses with a comma (,). Maximum of 10

From

Your name:
Your email address:
Security test:
Please enter the numbers that appear here in the box below.
refresh captcha
CAPTCHA Image
Security code:

Details provided here will never be used in any other context

The meaning of the cross for non-Western Christians

In the light of the recently publicised case of the British Airways employee who was suspended for refusing to remove or cover the cross she wears on a chain around her neck, this communique looks at the meaning of the cross for Christian communities in the Muslim world.

In the West women often wear a cross simply as a fashionable jewelry item, but for Christians in the Middle East, who have endured fourteen centuries of Islamic pressure, the cross has deep symbolic meaning of identification with their faith, church and community.

While for Muslims the cross is a hated symbol of the "false" religion which the Muslim armies targeted in the first Islamic onslaught and which later responded militarily in the Crusades under this sign, for the long-suffering Christians of the ancient churches in the Middle East the cross has come to signify their identity as a Christian community. For these Christians the cross symbolises the long centuries of persecution and martyrdom, and their loyalty to their Church in the face of Muslim persecution. The cross has come to symbolise the essence of their Christianity and to be the outward identifying mark that distinguishes them from the generally hostile majority.

Muslim hatred for the cross is evident in the hadith (traditions) that foretell the Muslim belief that, in the End Times, Jesus will reappear as a Muslim and will break all crosses. In history for example, Caliph al-Mansur (754-775) forbade the public display of the cross and destroyed the crosses on top of many churches. Forbidding the public display of crosses continues to be the case in modern day Saudi Arabia. Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim (996-1021) forced Christians to wear a five-pound cross around their necks as a sign of humiliation.

Coptic Christians in Egypt see their cross as the greatest glory of their church and as a symbol of their long martyrdom. They tattoo it in pride and defiance on the inside of their right wrist as an indelible mark of their identification with their church and community, although they know that this visible mark might bring them scorn and discrimination in their Muslim-majority society. An Egyptian Christian woman explained it like this:

"Many of us have these [crosses on their wrist]. We feel certain that severe persecution is coming to Egypt, and we are not sure we will be able to stand up to it. We have chosen to have ourselves indelibly marked as followers of Christ so that we can never renounce Him, not even in our weakest moments."

Physical attacks on Christians in Egypt sometimes focus on the tattooed cross on their wrist. For example, in April 2004 a 17-year-old Coptic girl was kidnapped by an extremist Islamic group. (The abduction and forced conversion of young Coptic women is a serious problem in Egypt.) For 27 hours she was drugged, raped and scissors were used to try to remove the tattoo from her wrist.

Whilst it is true that for Protestant Christians the physical symbol of the cross is not an essential matter of faith, for many Christians in the non-Western world it remains a potent symbol of Christ's death and resurrection, the heart of their faith. By wearing it they identify with him, and with his shame and suffering.

Help us: Share this article

Email:

The meaning of the cross for non-Western Christians

To

Email address:
Separate multiple addresses with a comma (,). Maximum of 10

From

Your name:
Your email address:
Security test:
Please enter the numbers that appear here in the box below.
refresh captcha
CAPTCHA Image
Security code:

Details provided here will never be used in any other context

christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

Other articles

No related articles found

Follow Barnabas

or

receive news & appeal emails as they are published

From Twitter

From Twitter_icon

    Daily prayer

    Daily prayer_icon
    • Cry out to the Lord for Alexis Prem Kumar, a 47-year-old Christian minister from India who was abducted in Afghanistan on 2 June. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but three Taliban militants have been arrested in connection with it. Alexis had worked for an NGO in Afghanistan since 2011, helping returning refugees. He was leaving a school near Herat for Afghan children who have recently returned from Iran or Pakistan when he was seized. Give thanks for Alexis’ willingness to serve the Lord in what remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christians, and pray for his safe return. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 19 hours ago

    • The case of an Egyptian Christian man arrested following complaints by Muslim neighbours that he had been using his home as a church without a permit highlights the need of the Christian community for more places of worship. The 55-year-old man from Minya in Upper Egypt, where Christians are particularly vulnerable to persecution, was arrested once before, in 2011, for the same offence. Every church building in Egypt requires a permit, but these are notoriously difficult to obtain. Pray that the authorities will show leniency to the Christian man and that a provision in the new constitution addressing the issue of church buildings will be enacted. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Kidnapping for ransom has been a persistent problem for the Christian community in Egypt amid the political upheaval and instability following the “Arab Spring” revolution of 2011. On 14 June, Wadie Ramses, a well-known surgeon, was seized in El-Arish. The assailants opened fire on his vehicle and took him away wounded. They later demanded a ransom of ten million Egyptian Pounds (£800,000; US$1.4 million) for his release. Two days later, Christian merchant Gemal Shenouda was captured near his home in the same city. It is thought that Islamic militants with links to al-Qaeda, who have been behind escalating violence in the Sinai region, are responsible for the kidnappings. Pray for the safe return of our two Christian brothers and that they and their families will know the Lord’s peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • On 18 June, Bishoy Armia Boulous (31) was sentenced to five years in prison and given a fi ne of 500 Egyptian Pounds (US£70; £40) for “disturbing the peace by broadcasting false information” in connection with reports he produced relating to anti-Christian violence in Minya for a Christian TV channel. His lawyer believes that Bishoy has been targeted because of his conversion from Islam. The Christian gained notoriety in Egypt in 2007 as the first person to try to change his religion on his ID card, a case that is still unresolved owing to the political tumult in the country over the last three years. Pray that the Lord will be Bishoy’s strength and shield (Psalm 28:7), and that he will soon be released. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Saudi Arabia remains unique in the extent to which it restricts the public expression of any religion other than Islam.” In its annual report for 2014, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom highlighted the extraordinary restrictions faced by Christians and other non-Muslims in one of the most rigid and hardline Islamic states in the world. No churches exist in Saudi Arabia because of an Islamic tradition that Muhammad said there should be only one religion in the Arabian peninsula. Pray for peace and perseverance for the small number of Saudi converts and the many expatriate Christians practising their faith in this repressive context, and ask that the authorities will yield to international pressure to introduce greater religious freedom. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Sep 2014 00:00

    © Barnabas Fund 1997 - 2014 All rights reserved.
    Barnabas Fund & Barnabas Aid are registered trade marks