[Note: Via Meadia will publish occasional reading recommendations by Team Mead associates brave enough to let WRM know they still have enough spare time for personal reading. CFR veteran and Bard research associate Peter Mellgard currently leads the researchers and interns who collaborate with WRM on the blog.]By Peter MellgardI recently finished reading From The Holy Mountain, by British journalist and traveler William Dalrymple. The book is an adventure through Middle Eastern history, on the trail of two 6th century monks John Moschos and Sophronius the Sophist. Dalrymple tracks Moschos and Sophronius, as well as other prominent, wacky and pious Christians, from Istanbul through Syria to Lebanon, Palestine, the West Bank, and Egypt. It is an amazing journey through a forgotten age of Christian prosperity in the Middle East. It is also an era that is coming to an end.In Turkey, Christians have all but vanished. When Dalrymple is on the road (in the middle of the ’90s) he meanders from one monastery to the next, welcomed by a few frail monks and fewer novices. Caught between Kurdish separatists on one side and the Turkish government on the other, Turkey’s Christians found no friends in high places, no new recruits, and no help from abroad. In Istanbul and across the rest of the country, Christian monasteries and holy places were left to crumble.Dalrymple discovers a similar situation in Syria, Lebanon — where Maronite Christians have fallen from power since the end of the civil war, Israel — where the Jewish government has been unenthusiastic about preserving Christian historical sites, and Egypt — where the Copts face never ending discrimination and persecution.Besides taking the reader on a wild journey through eastern Christianity, Dalrymple does an admirable job drawing connections between early Christianity and Islam. Westerners tend to forget that Christianity is an Eastern religion. But the definition between Eastern religions are far more blurred than we remember. Even today, though certainly not at the level found during Moschos’ time, many Christians, Jews and Muslims pray at the same shrines and monasteries, to the same saints, asking for the same things: protection, children, forgiveness, or prosperity.Many in the modern Middle East would do well to remember the history of their religion, to recognize the similar origins, rites, practices, art, and thought that pervade each faith. Tolerance would, perhaps, follow such reflection.