As the year has continued the impact of the virus on the Middle East and North Africa has grown increasingly serious with almost 2.5million cases including Iran by the end of October and total deaths well in excess of 50,000. The impact on national economies and the wealth of individuals has been devastating. The region is already afflicted by the consequences of conflict in Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and unrest in Lebanon and Israel and the Palestinian territories. Millions of people are refugees or internally displaced, levels of adult literacy are low despite a good education being the greatest single priority for families. Two-thirds of the population are under 30. In this context it is good that in this issue we learn of the social ministry of Embrace the Middle East which has a wider brief than JMECA.
The pandemic has had its impact on Christians and churches. With churches closed in most countries Christians are not able to meet and so are isolated. In this issue Richard Sewell writes about the impact on the close in Jerusalem. Closure has also had an effect on church collections. Archbishop Mouneer, for example, wrote the other day that ‘many of the churches are now suffering from very low income (few collections). They are not able to support the salaries of all the staff.’ It has also had an impact on chaplaincies in the Gulf dependent on regular collections. As our Treasurer John Pringle reports in this issue the Directors of JMECA have been able to make available a Special Fund specifically to support dioceses with the impact of the virus.
Despite the pandemic, significant events in the life of the churches have taken place. We report on some of them. Bishop Hosam Naoum was consecrated Co-Adjutor Bishop in Jerusalem, with a view to succeeding Archbishop Suheil in 2021. With the development of dioceses in the Province of Alexandria and consequently new bishops to be appointed, a new generation of episcopal leaders will be taking the two provinces forward into the new decade. A report from the Provincial Administrator and Anglican Alliance Regional Facilitator for the Middle East, and numerous news items from the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf reflect vibrant church life in the region in spite of difficulties. News from Iran is limited but we do have news of the change of use of the former Bishop’s House.
The new Province of Alexandria was inaugurated by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of June and this issue provides extensive news and background about this major development and the formation of some new dioceses. So now JMECA is providing support for two provinces. The map on our back cover is marked by different colours so they can be clearly distinguished.