Webinar sheds light on European cultural diplomacy during Ottoman tenure
(MENAFN – Jordan Times) AMMAN – A webinar hosted by the Council of the British Research in the Levant last Wednesday discussed European cultural diplomacy in Syria and Palestine during the Ottoman and British / French Mandate periods and its impact on Arab Christians.
“ Our intention was to tell the story of Palestine and Syria in transition from the Ottoman period to the mandate period, ” Karene Sanchez Summerer, associate professor at Leiden University, said during the webinar titled “ Eastern Christianity in Syria and Palestine and in Europe Cultural Diplomacy [1860-1948]: A connected story ”.
The researchers wanted to show that this cultural approach included ownership, domination and cooperation in Palestine and Syria, Summerer said, adding that local archives were under-represented due to an access problem.
The idea behind the CrossRoads project – which aims to review the relationship between the European cultural agenda and the process of local identity formation of Christian Arab communities in Palestine – was to offer a key to the events and history locals, Summerer said, noting that “ we needed to understand the exchange of influence between different communities. ”
“It aims to shed light on the patterns of interaction and influence, between Arab Christians and other social groups in Palestine and European actors,” Summerer said.
Speaking about Russia’s involvement in Christian centers in the Holy Land, Lora Gerd of the St. Petersburg Institute of History said that the Russian Empire had become active in the 1830s.
Palestinian society created a network of schools where around 10,000 children studied until the outbreak of World War I, Gerd said.
In the 19th century, the holy land became a center of competition between the great European powers and an important object of the so-called oriental question [the issue of political and economic crisis within the Ottoman Empire from the late 18th century to early 20th century]Gerd explained.
The first attempt to gather systematic information about the Orthodox Church in the Middle East was made in the early 1840s, when the scholar Archimandrite Porphyrii Uspenskii was delegated from the Russian Empire to the Holy Land, according to Gerd.
In 1847 Uspenskii was sent to Jerusalem as head of the first Russian ecclesiastical mission and his participation in the reorganization of the Holy Cross School. The start of an Arabic typography can be seen as the main result of cultural diplomacy from this period, Gerd pointed out.
Assistant Professor Konstantinos Papastathis from the Department of Political Science at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki highlighted the history of the Greek community in Jerusalem at the end of the Ottoman era and the formative years of the British Mandate.
“ In my article, I focus on the establishment of the Greek Colony, with the so-called Greek Club at its center, as well as the role of Greek cultural diplomacy in its development, ” Papastathis said, adding that ‘he had tried to highlight the relationship between the Greek state, the Orthodox Patriarchate and the establishment and development of the Greek Diaspora in Jerusalem.
The Orthodox community under the Patriarch of Jerusalem did not involve a national grouping but a congregation because the majority of Orthodox Christians were ethnic Arabs closely associated with the Palestinian national cause and exercising a strong link with the Arab-Muslim community, explained Papastathis, adding that the common religious identity did not work as a part of group cohesion.
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