Review: The Vanishing: The Twilight of Christianity in the Middle East

This book caught my eye when there was a piece about it in my alumni magazine. Its author, Janine di Giovanni was a war reporter for nearly 30 years. She is currently Senior Fellow and Lecturer at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. She is the author of nine previous books, and has won more than a dozen prizes, including a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Janine di Giovanni

This book focuses on four countries/ regions of the Middle East: Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Gaza. In each case, Ms di Giovanni has spent time in the area as a correspondent, and in each geography she provides a historic account – not only from a religious perspective – but also from political, economic and social points of view. What follows then is her personal experience of individual Christian people and their faith during her visits. These individual stories and her responses to them make this book much more than an interesting piece of research. It is also alive with human emotion.

The point of the book is that Christianity is becoming a rarity in the region of its birth. Many Christians have left the Middle East because their personal safety or wellbeing is under threat, and many have been killed by religious hatred.

Ms di Giovanni, herself a devout Catholic, does not apportion blame for this evolution – most of which has occurred in the last century. She simply reports the reactions to the actions of others, without naming other faiths as the initiators. Nor does she suggest remedies. She lets the facts speak for themselves.

The book is well-written, the dozens of individual stories are engaging as well as sad. But this is not a sad book. It is wise and very readable.

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