Church Leaders Misplace the Blame for Christian Persecution in the Middle East
Christendom is in dire straits. Historian Tom Holland predicts the unthinkable – a Middle East without any Christian communities. Fr. Francesco Patton, a Catholic leader, Custos of the Holy Land and guardian of Christian holy places in Israel, seemed to be predicting the same thing in his article in a recent UK Daily Telegraph article, where he writes “Our presence is precarious and our future at risk.” He adds that the lives of Christians have been made “unbearable by radical local groups with extremist ideologies.”
Jerusalem clerics and patriarchs piled on their own concern about radical groups trying to purge the region of Christianity. When the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, perhaps the leading Protestant figure of all, vented more spleen about Christianity’s survival in the Middle East with a third article inside a week, we’re bound to conclude that something big must be going down.
As head of the Anglican Church, Welby joined the Archbishop of Jerusalem, Hosam Naoum, to write a shared Sunday Times article stamping their imprimatur on a crunch time for Christianity because Christians “had become the target of frequent and sustained attacks....”
Ha! Jihadists uprooting two millennia of Christianity or so you’d think from reading the news. Think again. The targets of all the angst and outrage were Jews. The damn ‘Zios’ are doing the uprooting.
Now that is odd. The other day a news item landed in my mailbox: “Israel’s Christian community is growing, 84% satisfied with life here.”
In it, I read that “Israel’s Christian community grew by 1.4 percent in 2020 and numbers some 182,000....” Of that number “76.7% of Christians in Israel are Arab.” And importantly, “84% of them [are] saying they were satisfied with life in the country....” Arab Christians tend to cluster in Nazareth, Haifa, and Jerusalem; non-Arab Christians are mainly found in greater Tel Aviv.
If that is not good enough, the study found that Arab Christian women are among the most educated in Israel. It also reports that a lower proportion of Christians rely on unemployment benefits compared to other Israelis.
There could hardly be a more ridiculous image to beat that of clerics wringing their hands over nothing. Christians in Israel are doing famously, thank you.
Meanwhile, Gaza and Ramallah are real death traps. Few know that because...well, when did the mainstream media run a story on the torments of Gaza’s few surviving Christian souls or on Bethlehem’s long-time Christian majority, which has shrunk to a minority under threat? By order of Hamas, Christmas decor and crucifixes in Gaza are banned. The owner of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore, Rami Ayyad, was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered.
The decay of Christianity in Gaza and the West Bank is part of a broader pattern in the region.
What’s the matter with men of the cloth? Broken compass? Apparently voicing outrage over Christians thriving under Jewish rule while papering over martyred Christians under Muslim rule, will get these Christians to heaven. Curse Israel and Grace will come to you. Love your Muslim persecutors and hate your Jewish protectors.
Those words are not ornamental or rhetorical. They are the collective sayings of Archbishop Welby, hectoring Israel while downplaying the beheadings and crucifixions by jihadists as non-lethal “sectarian violence.” His flock gets the message: love your murderers and hate your friends. And Welby definitely views Israel as the enemy:
I have no illusions about this. Historically the right response of Christians to persecution and attack is—it’s the hardest thing we can ever say to people. But Jesus tells us to love our enemies. It’s the hardest thing when you’re being violently attacked. It’s an indescribable challenge but God gives grace so often for us to love our enemies.
Hold onto the idea of Welby as the consoler for Christians drowning in blood while we revert to people of another faith. When did a Jew last kill a person for being Christian? Has one Christian been converted to Judaism under pain of death? Yet churchmen aim their missiles where?
The Rev. David Kim, head of the World Evangelical Alliance, has also taken aim at the “impossible people.” Back in 2012, his paper at a Bethlehem conference was not about ISIS. Instead, “How to Deal with the Impossible People – A Biblical Perspective” was delivered against the backdrop of a banner depicting a church, a cross, and a high wall built by Israel to stop Jewish blood from being spilled by the gallon. Kim’s paper was about how to deal with Jews. Apparently, no one on the platform whispered in Kim’s ear that under the “impossible people” Christianity has prospered mightily.
So, what is going on?
In my expanded essay on a chapter that Professor Ephraim Karsh commissioned for “War by other means” in Israel Affairs, I attribute this anomaly to a conjunction of a 4th-century doctrine and three 21st century doctrines. Although, actually, the latter three are more blind faith than anything—which does not mean that they’re treated less reverently than the Gospels. One is Human Rights, the second is Woke ‘Multiculturalism’ or “Inclusivity,’ and the third—a twisted belief you couldn’t invent if you tried—rebirths Jesus to make him a Palestinian.
At least we must respect the 4th-century doctrine of St Augustus who postulates that for their murder of Jesus, the Jews were exiled by God to live in sorrow and servitude and to be witness to Christianity as the true religion.
With their hostility to Israel, the likes of the World Council of Churches, the Presbyterians of America, World Vision, the Orthodox Churches, and the iconic late Desmond Tutu, have St. Augustine in mind. Get the hell out of Palestine! When you rejected Jesus we replaced you; we are now the Chosen People. Return to your divinely-ordained fate as witness wanderers.
Secular anti-Zionists nurse a theology not so far from Augustinian. For them, too, the Jews are meant to be powerless wanderers. Hence Israel’s rise from Holocaust ashes troubles the secularists. Their problem, however, isn’t doctrinal but perceptual. Anti-Zionists cannot come to terms with a military Jew stronger than his persecutors. The stereotype of the Jew of old—that bearded bookish stateless wanderer—could never have evolved into a mean machine. Go back to your inherent character!
Clerics harboring the ancient hostility towards a modern dynamic Israel feel compelled to punish the un-chosen people. God never meant you to make the desert bloom and build a mini-Manhattan and win Nobel Prizes by the ton and boast a high-tech economy and have a currency stronger than the Euro.
Anti-Israel clerical pores leak not envy but error—the faith-losing error of dogma. Hence the dogmatic anger towards Israel their protector: the spoilage of the plot, the shattering of the icon.
Steve Apfel is an economist and costing specialist, but most of all a prolific author of fiction and non-fiction. His blog, ‘Balaam’s curse,’ is followed in at least 15 countries.
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