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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ancient church is oldest in world, say experts

By Tim Butcher in Jerusalem
Wednesday June 11 2008

Archaeologists claimed yesterday to have found the world's oldest church dating from shortly after Christ's crucifixion.

If tests confirm that it dates back to between AD 33 and AD 70, as the archaeologists claim, it would make it the earliest known place of Christian worship by around 200 years.

According to a report in the 'Jordan Times' newspaper, a very early underground church was found beneath the ancient Saint Georgeous Church, which itself dates back to AD 230, in Rihab, northern Jordan, near the Syrian border.

"We have uncovered what we believe to be the first church in the world, dating from AD 33 to 70,'' Abdul Qader al-Husan, the head of the Rihab Centre for Archaeological Studies, said.


"We have evidence to believe this church sheltered the early Christians -- the 70 disciples of Jesus Christ.''

A mosaic found in the church describes these Christians as "the 70 beloved by God and Divine''. Mr Husan said they were believed to have fled persecution in Jerusalem and founded churches in northern Jordan. He cited historical sources that suggest they both lived and practised religious rituals in the underground church.

A Jordanian worker cleans a mosaic floor near the broken tombstones of early Christian graves in the cemetery of Saint Georgeous church in the northern Jordanian town of Rihab on June 10, 2008 Credit: -/AFP/Getty Images

There is no clear holder of the title of oldest Christian church with various sites claiming the honour.

In 2005, Israeli archaeologists claimed to have found the earliest Christian church when they uncovered a floor mosaic dating from the first part of the third century. It was found inside the perimeter fence of a top-security prison in Megiddo or, to use its ancient name, Armageddon, where, according to the New Testament, the final battle between good and evil will be fought.

The bishop deputy of the Greek Orthodox archdiocese, Archimandrite Nektarious, described the Rihab discovery as an "important milestone for Christians all around the world''.

Researchers recovered pottery dating back to between the third and seventh centuries, which they say suggested that these first Christians and their followers lived in the area until late Roman rule. Inside the cave there are several stone seats which are believed to have been for the clergy and a circular shaped area, thought to be the apse. Rihab is home to 30 churches and Jesus and his mother are believed to have passed through the area, Mr Husan said. (©Daily Telegraph, London).

- Tim Butcher in Jerusalem

Sourse: Independent.ie

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Prophet Muhammad’s promise to Christians

By Dr. Muqtedar Khan

Muslims and Christians together constitute over fifty percent of the world and if they lived in peace, we will be half way to world peace. One small step that we can take towards fostering Muslim-Christian harmony is to tell and retell positive stories and abstain from mutual demonization.

In this article I propose to remind both Muslims and Christians about a promise that Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) made to Christians. The knowledge of this promise can have enormous impact on Muslim conduct towards Christians. Muslims generally respect the precedent of their Prophet and try to practice it in their lives.

St. Catherine’s Monastery is located at the foot of Mt. Sinai and is the world’s oldest monastery.

In 628 AD, a delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery came to Prophet Muhammed and requested his protection. He responded by granting them a charter of rights, which I reproduce below in its entirety. St. Catherine’s Monastery is located at the foot of Mt. Sinai and is the world’s oldest monastery. It possesses a huge collection of Christian manuscripts, second only to the Vatican, and is a world heritage site. It also boasts the oldest collection of Christian icons. It is a treasure house of Christian history that has remained safe for 1400 years under Muslim protection.

The Promise to St. Catherine:
"This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by God! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses.

Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.

No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world)."

The first and the final sentence of the charter are critical. They make the promise eternal and universal. Muhammed asserts that Muslims are with Christians near and far straight away rejecting any future attempts to limit the promise to St. Catherine alone. By ordering Muslims to obey it until the Day of Judgment the charter again undermines any future attempts to revoke the privileges. These rights are inalienable. Muhammed declared Christians, all of them, as his allies and he equated ill treatment of Christians with violating God’s covenant.

A remarkable aspect of the charter is that it imposes no conditions on Christians for enjoying its privileges. It is enough that they are Christians. They are not required to alter their beliefs, they do not have to make any payments and they do not have any obligations. This is a charter of rights without any duties!

The document is not a modern human rights treaty but even though it was penned in 628 A.D., it clearly protects the right to property, freedom of religion, freedom of work, and security of the person.

I know most readers, must be thinking so what? Well the answer is simple. Those who seek to foster discord among Muslims and Christians focus on issues that divide and emphasize areas of conflict. But when resources such as Muhammad’s promise to Christians are invoked and highlighted it builds bridges. It inspires Muslims to rise above communal intolerance and engenders good will in Christians who might be nursing fear of Islam or Muslims.

When I look at Islamic sources, I find in them unprecedented examples of religious tolerance and inclusiveness. They make me want to become a better person. I think the capacity to seek good and do good inheres in all of us. When we subdue this predisposition towards the good, we deny our fundamental humanity. In this holiday season, I hope all of us can find time to look for something positive and worthy of appreciation in the values, cultures and histories of other peoples.

-- Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware and a fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

Source: Muslims.Net