Huw Thomas is the co-author of Tajikistan and the High Pamirs: A Companion and Guide (Odyssey Publications). In this article, he describes a search for relics of ancient Christianity near the banks of the Oxus in the heart of Central Asia.
It is especially poignant that with the turmoil in Syria and Iraq, there is the danger that the remnants of the earliest strands of Christianity in its original homelands will be lost. Christianity which has co-existed with Islam for centuries, is under unprecedented threat. It is increasingly viewed as a Western religion.
What is less well known is that Christian communities developed far to the east of the Roman Empire. One of the most significant of these communities was the ‘Nestorian Church’, officially known as the Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East, with its see in Baghdad. This church, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, once extended over a greater part of the world than did the Roman church, and until the sixteenth century had more adherents. In its heyday from the 10th to 14th centuries the Nestorian church had eight million adherents and stretched from the Mediterranean to China and India. Continue reading