“I am an Arab by birth, a Greek by primary education, an American by residence, a Russian at heart, and a Slav in soul.” -Saint Raphael of Brooklyn
Surviving countless persecutions and conquerors who wished to eliminate their sacred Orthodox tradition and trample their civilization, the Arab Christians are an inspirational model to all right-believing Orthodox Christians. Along with the rest of the church, the Arab Christians are a living portrait of the beauty of the fruits of martyrdom as they have kept the light of Orthodoxy burning with in their civilization after countless attempts to extinguish it by dark heretical swords. The history of this community and is most distinguished.
One of the earliest Arab Christian communities, Najran (in Yemen, now in present-day Saudi Arabia) was formed during the 4th century A.D. when the tribal leader, Abdullah bin al-Thamir and the Najraniyya were converted by Phemion, a pious Christian bricklayer. Christianity flourished in this desert oasis and soon ran into severe tribal conflict with the ancient Yemenite Jewish community which had been there since the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. Known for their close relationships with Orthodox Roman Byzantium and Christian Axum (Ethiopia), the staunchly Anti-Christian Yemenite Jewish warlord and King of Himyar, Yusuf As’ar Dhu Nawas (Dunaan in South Arabian and Ge’ez), viewed them as heretical Byzantine, Axumite puppets who stood in the way of his goals of a Davidic Israelite kingdom and Jewish proselytization within Arabia.
So, in 524, Dhu Nawas invaded Najran and martyred 20,000 of the Christian inhabitants. After hearing a survivor, Dus Dhu Tha’laban al-Saba, recount the massacre, Byzantine Roman Emperor Saint Justinian I in furry, ordered Ethiopian Axumite Emperor Saint Kaleb Elesbaan to annex Himyar (Yemen) and kill Dhu Nawas in in 525. The martyrs of Najran and their leader, Mar al-Haarith (Saint Arethas) are commemorated by the Orthodox Church on October 24th. Emperor Saint Justinian also sent the evangelist Saint Gregentios the Wonderworker to establish the Bishopric of Himyaritia (Yemen) and oversee the revival of Orthodox Christianity in the Himyar (Yemen), then under the rule of Christian Axum (Ethiopia) after the death of the tyrant Dunaan (called Masruq the Crucifier by Arab Christians). Before and after the massacre, many of the Najraniyya migrated to Bilad ash-Sham (the Levant). Today, there exists a tribe of them in Palestine at Beit Lahm (BethLehem) and Jordan. They have the family name Najajreh and continue to predominantly adhere to the Chalcedonian Rum Orthodox Church.
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