Christian Minorities in the Middle East
The Middle East region without Christians is a concrete possibility since Christian communities have began to move. They are ancient populations born and developed in the area, but now Christians are migrants, fleeing their native countries to look for safety and well- being abroad. Nowadays just 12 millions of Christians are supposed to live in the Middle East. Those who remain live their daily lives among revolutions, sectarianism and violent persecutions. From Cairo to Tehran, from Beirut to Baghdad until Jerusalem, Christians preserved a strong attachment to their roots and spiritual values. This strength helps them to deal with the reality of being a susceptible minority.
Linda Dorigo. Egypt, the village of Deir Abu Hennis, July 2012. The Nile River is the main source of the village livelihood, both for fishing and for the irrigation of fields.
Linda Dorigo. Jerusalem, Mount of Olives, December 2012. In East Jerusalem, the Israeli government is planning to build new colonies that would cut any link between the Arab part of the city and the West Bank.
Linda Dorigo. West Bank, Beit Jala, January 2013. Beit Jala is located between Gilo and Har Gilo, two Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Tel Aviv government will construct an extension of the wall to join the two settlements, destroying Palestinian olive trees. Every Friday, the Christian community of Beit Jalla celebrates a Mass under the trees to protest against the project.
Linda Dorigo. Lebanon, the Monastery of San Crispino and Justina, September 2011. The majority of the priests working in the Middle East are educated in Lebanon. The seminarians come from all around the world and are hosted in the monastery for the period necessary for their noviciate.
Linda Dorigo. Maktass, Jordan. April 2013. A small, ancient Christian community is still living in the south of Jordan. Maktass is the largest town and its church collects the children of the surrounding villages for the first communion
Linda Dorigo. Egypt, Aswan, July 2012. In Aswan sectarian tensions have exploded in all their ferocity in recent months, that have seen Egypt divided between Muslim Brotherhood and their opponents. Christian families in Aswan prefer not to leave the house for fear of violence and hide their identity.
Linda Dorigo. Egypt, Deir Abu Hennis, July 2012. After forty days of fasting for the apostles, after Easter, the Coptic Christians gather to celebrate and a lot of guys take the opportunity to get tattooed religious symbols.
Linda Dorigo. Egypt, near Mallawi, July 2012. The monks of the monastery of Saint Veni have been repeatedly attacked by gangs of Muslim fundamentalists from nearby villages. The monastery, situated in the middle of the desert, remains a place of pilgrimage and sightseeing.
Linda Dorigo. Iran, Tabriz, July 2011. The Armenian community of Tabriz gathers in the parish. Besides the church, there is a kindergarten, a small children’s playground and a courtyard. The church is surrounded by walls and was threatened several times by the Turkish population of the city.
Linda Dorigo. Egypt, Deir Abu Hennis, July 2012. The majority of Christians of the village is Orthodox. There is also a small Catholic church and the relations between the two communities are great. During festivities such as weddings or baptisms representatives of each go to pay a homage to others.
Linda Dorigo. Iraq, Baghdad, November 2012. A Christian family victim of violence by Islamic fundamentalists. The child was hit by a bullet while he was playing in the backyard. The only Christian house in an entirely Muslim district.
Linda Dorigo. Tehran, Iran. July 2011. The celebration of an Armenian marriage. The Armenian community in the capital gathers in ‘”Ararat”, a complex with a gym, stadium, swimming pool, church and a large park used for ceremonies. In this space the consumption of alcohol is tolerated
Linda Dorigo. Iraq, Kurdistan, Karia Rounta, October 2012. Iraqi Kurdistan is home to hundreds of thousands of Christians fled from persecution and violence in Iraq. Many families return to their villages of origin, left during the war between Iran and Iraq. The picture shows a ritual of blessing the new married couple house with lamb’s blood.
Linda Dorigo. Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulchre, January 2013. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is visited by a steady stream of pilgrims and tourists. The Sepulchre is the fourteenth stage of Via Crucis, that Franciscan friars held through the streets of the city every Friday.
Linda Dorigo. Iran, Pataver, August 2011. Olga is originally from the Assyrian Christian village of Pataver, in the northwest of Iran. Every year in August, the Christians expatriates as Olga – who lives in France – return to their places of origin in order to spend the holidays with the family members. In the photo is Olga and her grandson in the front of the cemetery.
Linda Dorigo. Salmas, Iran. August 2011. On 14th August, the day of Santa Maria, the Assyrians of Salmas and Pataver celebrate Mass in a small church, converted from a barn, that can be reached only after a few hundred meters of gravel road in the woods.
Linda Dorigo. Jerusalem, December 2012. In the Ethiopian church near Damascus Gate, the guardian shows an ancient version of the Bible. In the Christian community of Jerusalem between Damascus Gate and Jaffa Gate, the Catholic, Orthodox, Egyptians and Ethiopians are divided between small spaces and winding paths.
Linda Dorigo. Iraq, Qaraqosh, November 2012. The town of Qaraqosh is part of the disputed border areas between the government of Baghdad and Kurdish government of Erbil. The large Christian community of Qaraqosh, mostly originally from the nearby Mosul, organizes its own protection from possible terrorist attacks with private militias endorsed by the Kurdish government.
Linda Dorigo. Egypt, Deir Abu Hennis, July 2012. After fasting, the inhabitants of the village of Deir Abu Hennis, are allowed to eat again meat and milk derivatives. At dawn, the butcher with two helpers kills one of his cows and sells the meat in the street.
Linda Dorigo. West Bank, Bethlehem, December 2012. On Christmas night, Ethiopians dance in the square in front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. They are prevented from entering the church. In the Holy Land, Christmas is celebrated four times: by Catholics on December the 25th, on January the 6th by Orthodox, by Greek Orthodox on January the 13th, then on January the 21th by the Armenians.
Linda Dorigo. Iraq, Baghdad, November 2012. On Phalestine Street, the church of Santa Maria is manned by a permanent checkpoint after an assassination attempt in 2010 in which 2 people died. Inside father Solomon brought from Italy a statue of Padre Pio.
Linda Dorigo. Iran, Tabriz, July 2011. The church of Santa Maria has been closed since 2009. Officially Tehran government has promised to restore it, but, since the Christian community is very small, the renovation is stopped.
Linda Dorigo. Iraq, Kurdistan, Einishke, October 2012. Einishke, like other Kurdish villages, is a place of return for many Christians who have emigrated abroad. The family in the picture lives in Germany, but thanks to the financial support of the government of Erbil, is renovating the old house to come back to live.
Linda Dorigo. Iraq, Baghdad, November 2012. The ancient road of the city centre with a mosque and Koranic school during the Ottoman Empire. Today Baghdad government is restoring the buildings but the old governor’s palace is still in ruins.
Linda Dorigo (1983) is an Italian photographer, journalist and documentarist currently based in Beirut, Lebanon. She studied journalism in Trieste, Italy, and her work has appeared on national and international publications such as Marie Claire, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and L’Espresso among others.