Latin America, the Mideast, and the Pope
I have taken on the dubious effort of translating some news reports from South American TV into English. Though my Spanish is fractured and weak, I can still glean one trend that is ominous. South American media has taken a viciously anti-Israel turn. There are many reasons for this. Certainly, the enormous amount of Arab immigration to Latin America has had an influence. There is also a growing Latin-Arab alliance when it comes to OPEC. However, the undeclared bull in the china shop is Roman Catholicism's refusal to take a clear stand on the Mideast issue.
A Christmas News report from Bethlehem, by TeleSurTV, a transnational network run out of Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, runs a dateline from Palestine, something which would not be seen on American TV or even on most European reportage. They report not from the West bank nor the disputed territories, but "Palestine." TeleSur's reporting can be downright hostile, and might as well be Al-Jazeera.
The report also mentions that the majority of pilgrims to Bethlehem are Roman Catholic. I do not know if this is true or not. Certainly, our American media does not emphasize the denominational spectrum of pilgrims; and tends to be a bit more generic, but TeleSur plays to a Latin audience which is still heavily Catholic. What could be the reason for declaring the denomination of the pilgrims?
It would seem that Chavez's TeleSur has conflated Latin America's Roman Catholicity with Palestinian nationalism. It is a slippery bait and switch requiring enormous historical duplicity to identify Catholic South America with an Islamic cause. Didn't the Catholic Church call for the Crusades in order to fight Islamic imperialism?
It was a Catholic Frankish army which halted the Muslims at Tours in 732 AD. It was Catholic European Crusaders which liberated Spain, Portugal, Sicily, and Malta from Islamic Rule. It was a Catholic fleet which broke the back of Turkish naval power at Lepanto in 1571. It was Catholic Poland and Austria who stopped the Turks in 1683 at Vienna. It was Catholic Crusaders, and later French Catholic troops, who saved Maronite Christians from extinction in Lebanon. Like or detest Catholic theology, it was Rome which saved Western Europe from the scimitar after Constantinople fell.
The myopia of this new found Latin-Arab alliance is breathtaking in its dishonesty. Is Chavez now denying the Reconquista? Does he even remember who the enemy of Latin Christianity was?
In another report by TeleSur, the announcer uses a map of Palestine that seems to have first surfaced a few years ago on anti-Semitic websites. Telesur did not even bother to translate the map into Spanish; but delivered the map straight up to the audience without citation regarding its spurious origins.
Nor is this confined merely to Venezuela's Chavezistan.
A recent report by Argentine Public TV uses an English language anti-Israel video from YouTube, and did not even bother to translate the video's title into Spanish for their audience. The video's origin is from an American YouTube channel where the poster refers to the Palestinians as "enslaved by the wall," in his comments.
Most noticeable is the Argentine dateline: Navidad en Belén Ocupado (Christmas in Occupied Bethlehem). The commentator, Pedro Brieger, a Jewish-Argentine Academic and Journalist, discusses the sad situation of the Palestianian Christians, but seems to lay their predicament singularly at the feet of the wall. Granted the wall has hurt the Christians of Bethlehem, and maybe Israel can be severe at times; but was there any mention of Islamic predations on the Christians? Any balance?
Internet media which Americans would dismiss as vulgar or unreliable are now presented to Latin American audiences without caveat and without translation. It is not merely ugly. It is sloppy, unprofessional, and often derives from genuinely anti-Semitic sources.
Unlike America, where the Evangelical denominations have cultural sway -- or Europe which is post-Christian -- in Latin America, Catholicism still has considerable clout. True, it is being eroded by increasing Evangelical revivals; but the cultural power of the Roman Catholic Church is still quite massive. Argentina still pays the salaries of priests. Almost every country has a representation of the the Virgin. Brazil has the Carnaval which is derived from a Catholic pre-Lenten festival and so on.
A word from Rome could dampen this alarming Latin American trend considerably. Jewish critics -- not always justifiably -- condemned the Papacy for its supposed silence during World War II. Now would be the time for Rome to undo whatever resentment still exists with a strong declaration. Instead, what comes out of Rome is pitiful waffling.
Rome has surely taken into consideration what the effect of such a declaration might be. Pope John Paul II was shot by a Muslim. Over the past two centuries, Christian communities in the Islamic Ummah have dwindled; often as a result of Islamic predation, with the case of Lebanese Maronites being the most glaring example of such ethnic cleansing. Given recent Muslim rampages -- often against Christians -- over supposed slights to Islam, there must certainly be the fear that millions of Levantine Christians would pay a severe price for Rome's courage, if she ever decided to speak boldly.
However, Rome can still make some effort to show what side of the civilizational struggle she favors. Would it be too much for Rome to issue a papal bull declaring that Jesus was Jewish?
John 4: 22 (ESV) You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
In an age, when Arab -- and increasingly, non-Arab -- media refer to Jesus as a Palestinian, a reaffirmation of Jesus' Jewishness would be a revolutionary act. It would place the Jewish people historically in the Mideast, and remove the Islamic lie of "Jewish imperialism" from credible discussion.
No one is demanding that Rome declare what the proper borders of Israel are. That confrontational issue can be left to Zionist Evangelicals who seem to relish that battle. Is it too much to ask that Rome take a minimal stance?
Would it hurt the Papacy, or Rome's authority, to declare that the proper name of the city is Jerusalem, and not Al-Quds -- which etymologically derives from the Hebrew Qadosh, "the Holy Place" -- and actually evinces a Jewish origin to the city?
Would it hurt Rome to stop proclaiming Rome as "the eternal city" and restore the rightful honor to Jerusalem -- under its Hebrew name, not Al Quds?
If Rome really wanted to proclaim the Gospel it could assert that Jesus wept over Jerusalem hundreds of years before Islam even existed.
Matt 23:37 (Douay-Rheims) Jerusalem, Jerusalem ... how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not?
Rome could simply declare that Jesus was not a Muslim, in defiance of what the Koran proclaims.
If the Pope wants to avoid religion, couldn't he point out that the Crusades were a reaction to Islamic imperialism, and was not European aggression?
Just do something. Lead, move, or get out of the way!
Roughly half the world's Catholics are in an increasingly rich and powerful Latin America. They are being drawn into a political and economic alliance with Islam. Catholicism has to power to arrest, if not reverse, this alarming development. Yet, Rome remains silent. Why?
Popes can issue Bulls against artificial birth control - a very questionable doctrine -- yet there is no Papal Bull on a Jewish Jerusalem; a Bull which would be unquestionably biblical.
Catholicism is not alone. Mainstream Protestantism, which lost its moral bearing decades ago, has also taken up the anti-Israel banner.
I remember reading a complaint that Brazil's growing Evangelical movement would soon swing Brazil to a pro-Zionist viewpoint. Chile is having a revival also. Israel has started to notice.
If the supposed "Vicar of Christ," the Jewish Moshiach, cannot make some declarations against Islamic lies; and give some support to Israel, then Roman Catholicism deserves to lose Latin America to the Evangelicals.
At one time, Rome was the front-line defender of European civilization against Jihad. In South America, for all its faults, Catholicism managed to convert those Muslims who came in during the period of Arab immigration.
That day seems to have passed.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of the editor of http://latinarabia.com// which discusses the Arab subculture in Latin America. He is American. He is neither Jewish, Arabic, nor Hispanic in ancestry, but he wishes his facility in Spanish were better.