Although there is some dispute over the exact ethnicity of those who first converted to Christianity in the 1st and 2nd centuries after the death of Jesus, early Arab tribes from the east were among those who settled in Palestine, converted to Christianity and then brought the religion back with them all the way as far as Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Since the time of Jesus, Arab Christian communities have existed in Palestine, North Africa and in the Arabian Peninsula.
If you want further proof that Arabs were converting to Christianity since the beginning of the religion itself, look no further than the Bible. In the Book of Acts in the New Testament, Saint Peter preaches to Jerusalem saying, “…both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabian—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God”.
Many are under the misconception that all Arabs are Muslim, and therefore, Arab Christians must have converted to Christianity from Islam, or something along those lines. This is completely false, and as the religion of Islam came after the religion of Christianity, it is actually the other way around in that Arabs were originally Christians who then partially converted to Islam.
Christian Arabs are as diverse as the cultures of Arab people themselves and are proud of the many different Christian communities that are spread across the Middle East. From the Coptics in Egypt to the Orthodox in Palestine, from the Catholics in Iraq to the Maronites in Syria, Christianity in the Middle East is dynamic and colourful.
With around 15 million Coptic Christians, 5,000 Maronite Christians and around 350,000 non-denominational Christians, Egypt holds the largest population of Christians in the Middle East. Many of these Christian communities go as far back as traceable Egyptian history and are proud of their true Egyptian spirit and contribution to one of the most historic Arab countries in the world.
Arab Christians in Jordan boast having some of the most ancient Christian communities in the entire world, with evidence of churches and Christian settlements from as early as the 1st century. With the majority of Jordanian Christians belonging to the Greek Orthodox denomination, they only make up around 4% of the entire population of Jordan but still manage to remain a powerful force of culture and religion in the country.
Israel has one of the largest Christian populations in the Middle East, and while some of them are non-Arabs, almost 80% of the entire population of Christians within Israel are in fact Arab! This makes an enormous portion of Christians within Israel of Arab descent, with most of Palestinian origin.
While many focus on the Islamic civilization of the Arab world that contributed greatly to humanity’s arts, sciences and literature, Arab Christians should not be forgotten. Playing a huge role in both ancient and modern literature, politics, philosophy and art, Arab Christians have and will continue to play an important role in Arab civilization as a whole.