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It would be wrong to identify Christianity with ecclesiastical power structures and bureaucratic institutions. Christians are those who throughout their personal lives – and everyone has his or her own life to live – are guided by Jesus Christ.

We might think of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who was
shot at the altar during a service; of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Protestant theologian and resistance fighter; of Martin Luther King, the American civil rights activist; or of Jerzy Popieluszko, the Polish priest. Common to them all is that:
They were committed Christians.
They stood up for their fellow men and women in a non-violent way.
And they were all eliminated with brute force.

But that also makes them like the one who was the model in their lives, suffering and struggles: Jesus of Nazareth.

That takes us right to the heart of things. What is the real essence of Christianity? The essence of Christianity is not, as some people think, some great theory, a world-view, or even an ecclesiastical system. It is quite simply Jesus Christ, his life and his teachings.

And basically, no organisation, no institution, no church can honestly call itself ‘Christian’ if it does not truly refer to him in word and deed.

From left: Russian monk, Moscow; Peter and Paul, Rome; Hagia Sophia, Istanbul..

Who was Jesus?

Christianity is named after Jesus Christ, a Jewish itinerant preacher, who lived in Palestine in the early part of the first century. During his brief public activity – perhaps only a few months, at most three years – Jesus proclaimed the coming kingdom of God with its promises and standards.

He gathered a group of disciples around him, came into conflict with the religious and political establishment, and was crucified around the age of thirty.

Christians believed and still believe that God raised him from the dead to eternal life and exalted him to be the Christ (God’s anointed), the “son of God”.

Jesus himself did not write down any sayings. His teachings and his life are handed down in the four Gospels (of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), which form, with twenty-three other writings, the New Testament.

There are around two billion Christians world-wide: Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and others.
From left: The shanty-town of La Chacra, San Salvador; St. Partick's Cathedral, New York; Martin Luther.

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