by Faith McDonnell — Juicy Ecumenism Blog — 10/13/2013
In Part One of this article I responded to Brian McLaren’s first two suggested reasons that Christians in the West are “so silent” about the persecution of their fellow believers around the world. He raised the issue of Islamophobia, a favorite of the Religious Left, and, sadly, more increasingly also of “progressive” Evangelicals. And he also believes that anti-Christian persecution is retaliation for America’s hawkish foreign policy.
Many Christians, along with the rest of the world — government leaders, newspaper and magazine publishers, other media types, educational institutions, top brass in the military — are afraid of being labelled Islamophobic. In fact, many are so afraid of it that they are willing to deny the reality that is before them (don’t believe your lying eyes!), and to allow factual evidence to be condemned as ”defamation of religion.” They are so afraid of being labelled Islamophobic that it seems as if they would rather let the global Christian community pay the price, and that they would rather persist on a fatal course of suicidal appeasement and denial.
The concept of Islamophobia is central to all of McLaren’s reasons for Christian silence. Just as those who first put forth the concept had anticipated, all other thinking about jihadist violence is colored, shaped, and modified by concern for Islamophobia. And all other thinking about any forms of non-violent jihad (cultural, legal, financial, civilizational) is squelched by concern for Islamophobia.
It becomes obvious that McLaren’s third reason for Christian silence, They know that a careless bias against Palestinians – many of whom, by the way, are committed Christians – has become a pre-requisite in some circles for being considered “pro-Israel.” is a typical liberal slam at Israel. This “reason,” condemning Israel’s “ongoing occupation of Palestine” and its “illegal settlements,” indirectly condemns Israel for anti-Christian violence in the Middle East but has no facts to back it up.
3. Neither Israel, nor those whose acknowledge its right to exist, is to blame for the suffering of Christians in the Middle East.
The reality is that Israeli is the safest place in the Middle East for Arab Christians. A September 30, 2013 column by Steve Apfel in The Commentator notes that “in 1949, Israel had 34,000 citizens of that faith [Christian]. Today the number is 168,000.” Exclaiming over the irony that although Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians are protected and thriving, Western Christians are more focused on condemning Israel and championing the cause of Palestine (including those Palestinians that are killing their co-religionists), Apfel writes:
If Muslims are off limits and sacrosanct; you’re allowed to say what you like about Jews, provided you call them Israelis or, better yet, Zionists. And you can write a made–to-order record of that people, replete with blood libels, ethnic cleansing, Apartheid and all manner of crimes a Jew can inflict upon humanity. Say about Zionists or Israelis whatever you like, only avoid the fatal ‘J–trap.’
In a gentler vein, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, also wrote in a March 2012 Wall Street Journal opinion editorial, quoted by Arutz Sheva, that Israel has become the only safe haven for Christians in the Middle East. This is not an idle boast – Oren based his statement on facts concerning the treatment of Christians and their increasing flight from the ancestral homelands where they were once the majority population.
Twenty percent of the population of the Middle East was Christian a century ago according to Oren. Today only five percent are Christians, with the numbers continuing to go down, he continued. But he was writing in early 2012, before the most recent pogroms against Christians throughout Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, and the intensified victimization of Syrian Christians by the Obama administration-supported jihadists of the Free Syrian Army.
Strikingly, although Arab Christians “are granted full rights and privileges within Israel’s borders, the treatment they receive by the ‘Palestinian’ population is quite different,” Oren said. He said that “since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, half the Christian community has fled.” In the Palestinian state, “Christmas decorations and public displays of crucifixes are forbidden,” Oren revealed. What’s more, ”In a December 2010 broadcast, Hamas officials exhorted Muslims to slaughter their Christian neighbors,” the Ambassador reported.
Although you would never hear it from the anti-Israel Left, Christians are persecuted and forced to convert to Islam in the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip. It has nothing to do with anyone’s perspective on Israel. In July 2012 CBN News reported that Christian men, women, and sometimes whole famlies, were disappearing for extended periods of time and then there would be an announcement that they had converted to Islam and they would reappear with armed people around them for “protection.” One especially brutal case was the kidnapping and murder of Arab Christian, Rami Ayad, in October 2007. The Guardian reported how the body of Ayad, who worked in Gaza’s only Christian bookstore, was found in the street. He had multiple stab wounds and had been shot in the head.
The reaction of Arab Christians living in Israel to the treatment of Christians elsewhere in the Middle East demonstrates the difference in their situation. The July 2013 Israel Today article reported that in Israel, "local Arabs see what is happening across the Middle East and realize that Israel is the only place in the region where Christians can feel safe and belong. The paper quoted Arab Christian Moran Khaloul who said,”We don’t live in Syria, where Christians are not allowed to speak…or in Iraq, where churches are bombed. We live in a Jewish state, which is democratic and free. As Israeli Christians we see ourselves as part of this state and not as part of those who oppose it.”
The Israel Today report also told of the growing number of Arab Christians that are serving in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), saying ”For a number of years now, a group of Nazareth Christians who are officers in the Israeli army have been actively recruiting young local Arabs to follow in their footsteps and serve the Jewish state.” Many Arab politicians oppose Arab participation in Israel’s defense forces for fear it will “legitimize the existence of the Jewish state (which pays their paychecks).” But, as one Arab Christian said, “more and more of us are realizing that there is no other country here that is worth fighting for.
Arab Christians are becoming increasingly emboldened. The paper reveals that some “even refer to themselves openly as ‘Israeli Christians.’” And one teenager who plans to join the IDF explained that “Ultimately, from a religious point of view, we are one. Jesus was a Jew, his mother was a Jew, and his 12 disciples were Jews.”
But guess what? To point out the difference between Israel’s civilized, respectful treatment of Christians and the savage, supremacist treatment they receive elsewhere in the Middle East that is causing the region to be emptied of Christians is. . . Islamophobia!
(Part Three, the conclusion of this blog post, will show that dependence on Arab oil is not why Western Christians are silent about Christian persecution, and that although situations may be complex, it does not justify moral equivalence or negate the existence and power of evil. I will also heartily agree with Brian McLaren’s sixth reason for why Christians in the West are silent: We don’t know what can be done practically. So we remain silent, and offer my own explanation for why many Christians are silent. You may not like my reasons!)