Understrykning Christianity in Kurdistan today

Gulan are organising an event at the Royal Geographical Society (Thursday 31 October) that sheds light on the culture, history and day-to-day life of an overlooked minority, Christians in Kurdistan.

Kurdistan is home to many ancient churches, including the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Syrian Catholic Church. It is a region rich in religious and cultural history. Its diversity today is a reflection of over 2000 years of changing empires, commerce and the exchange of ideas from East to West.

Isolated from Byzantine and Roman Christianity under the Sassanid Empire, Assyrian Christians developed and safeguarded a unique and ancient tradition. How important are the Christians of Kurdistan for the Middle East today? What role have they played in the past?

The UK-registered charity Gulan has invited two speakers to give exclusive insight into the history and day-to-day life of Christians in Kurdistan.

Held at the Royal Geographical Society, the evening will include the first public exhibition of Anthony Kersting’s photographs of Christians in Kurdistan in the 1940s, from the Courtauld Institute of Art. Complementing these, are images from the archive of the Dominican Community in Erbil, which show the local dress and customs of Christians in the region.

There will be a display of costumes from the Museum of Syriac Heritage, Ankaw, and calligraphy by Bihnam Al Agzeer, depicting verses from the Bible and the Qur’an. There will also be a performance of Syriac music.

The Speakers are: Najeeb Michaeel, a Christian of the Chaldean church from Mosul who joined the Dominican Order in France in the 1980s. Returning to Mosul as an ordained priest, he founded the Digital Center of Eastern Manuscripts. He has a particular interest in the study and preservation of ancient manuscripts. Novelist, publisher and translator Dr Saadi Al Malih studied philology in Moscow. He then moved to Canada and founded Al-Miraat, a weekly Arabic newspaper. Now based in Ankaw, he acts as General Director of Syriac Culture and Art in the Ministry of Culture and Youth of the Kurdistan Regional government.

Gulan is a UK-registered charity which aims to highlight and celebrate the diversity of Kurdistan. Gulan began by hosting the Runaki Festivals in London, which presented the work of Kurdish artists, poets, dancers and filmmakers.

In 2012, Gulan hosted an event on the Jews of Kurdistan at the Royal Geographical Society, as part of a series of events exploring the diversity of faith in Kurdistan.

In June 2013, the NGO supported the acclaimed artist Jamal Penjweny, sponsoring part of his stay in Venice, when his work was exhibited at the National Pavilion of Iraq at the 55th Venice Biennale.

Eleanor Robson, chair of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, has described the Gulan team as “dynamic and imaginative”.

Gulan has no political or religious agenda, and does not accept funds from sources wishing to advance a particular political of religious aim through their gift.

* The event takes place on Thursday 31 October 2013 at the Royal Geographical Society, London SW7 2AR. Tickets £10, to book please visit: www.gulan.org.uk/news

* For more information about Gulan please visit: www.gulan.org.uk On Twitter: @GulanUK On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gulan/169399549807214?fref=ts