"Socotra: The Mysterious Island of the Assyrian Church of the East"

By Stephen Andrew Missick

Stephen Missick kindly sent me his paper called "Socotra: The Mysterious Island of the Assyrian Church of the East" from which I have taken some extracts.

1. "Socotra is an island off of the coast of east Africa that is governed by Yemen. For centuries all the inhabitants of the islands of Socotra belonged the Ancient Assyrian Church of the East, which was known as the Nestorian Church. The Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of the East was a missionary church that founded Christian communities in Mongolia, China, and India while Western Europe was sleeping through its ‘Dark Ages.

2. The Assyrian Church of the East thrived for centuries in these lands yet most of its churches were eradicated by Islamic warriors, leaving only the churches of India and a community in the original Assyrian homeland of the region of modern Iraq and Iran. One of the longest lasting churches established by Assyrian missionaries, that eventually also fell victim to the Moslem Jihad, was the Nestorian Church of the Island of Socotra which endured for over a thousand years." [Go to the Top]

3. "Saint Thomas is held by tradition to be the founder of the churches in Assyria, Chaldea, Babylonia, India and Socotra. On his way to India Thomas was shipwrecked on the isle of Socotra and he used the wreckage of the ship to build a church."

4. "The Periplyus of the Erythraean Sea is an ancient Greek mariners manual from around the year 60 AD. This book shows that Greek sailors knew the island and it is thus entirely possible that Thomas could have made his journey there. The missionary endeavour of St. Thomas to Socotra and India is believed to have taken place in 52 AD."

5. "The famous Venetian traveller Marco Polo (1254-1324) accuses the Socotrans of having the supernatural ability to control the weather and to cause shipwrecks. He wrote of Socotra saying:

"The inhabitants [of Socotra] are baptized Christians and have an archbishop…I should explain that the archbishop of Socotra has nothing to do with the Pope at Rome, but is subject to an archbishop who lives at Baghdad [meaning the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East]. The archbishop of Baghdad sends out the archbishop of this island; and he also sends out many others to different parts of the world, just as the Pope does…I give you my word that the Christians of this island are the most expert enchanters in the world. It is true that the archbishop does not approve of these enchantments and rebukes them for the practice. But this has no effect, because they say that their forefathers did these things of old and they are resolved to go on doing them. And the archbishop cannot override their resolve.20."

You can download Stephen's complete document in zipped Word or Text format.

MS Word format 28kb download

Text format 19kb download [Go to the Top]