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Jerusalem (Agenzia Fides) – The strike that Christian schools have been conducting for two weeks against the discriminatory policies implemented against them by the Israeli government represents a battle to defend education, “basic human right that should not be denied to any young person”.
13 Patriarchs and heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem contextualize the struggle waged by Christian educational institutions, that since the beginning of the school year have not yet opened the schools, to protest the cutting of state funding by the Israeli government. “It hurts us” write Christian leaders in a statement released on Wednesday, September 16 “to see 33 thousand students of all faiths and denominations who remain out of classes”, while hundreds of teachers and employees spend their days of mobilization in empty schools.
The statement points out that the battle of justice against discrimination of Christian Schools began two years ago, when severe budget cuts imposed by the government led many Christian schools to pay in a situation of financial deficit. In the statement, the solutions proposed so far by the Israeli Ministry to overcome the crisis are defined unrealistic or pejorative. “For hundreds of years”, says the text sent to Fides “our schools offered high level education. Our commitment to the service of education and in the promotion of our society is rooted in our very mission and our vision”. The statement refers to the Ministry of Education and the Government of Israel to put in place measures that lead to the immediate suspension of the strike, responding to the right and certainly not exorbitant demands of Christian schools. The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem hope that the story will eventually lead to the full restoration of the rights and the due respect to Christian schools”, so that they can continue their educational mission, for the glory of God and at the service of humanity”.
The budgetary constraints imposed by the Jewish state are at the root of the protest, which put at risk the very survival of educational institutions animated by the Churches and Christian communities in Israel. In a few years, government subsidies to Christian schools have declined by more than 45%, forcing the institutions to increase the school fees paid by families, often with low incomes, below the national average.
The 47 Christian schools in Israel are attended by 33 thousand students (of whom only half are baptized) and employ 3 thousand teachers. State subsidies, which until a few years ago covered 65% of the fees, have been dramatically reduced and now do not even cover 30% of the expenses. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 17/09/2015)
Christians make up slightly over 2% of Israel’s population. Christians are mainly Arabic speaking and attend Orthodox, Protestant, Catholic churches. These Christian schools recognised but unofficial by the Israeli government, are attended by Christians, Muslims, Druze, including Jews and considered some of the best in the country. These schools are known for their success and contribution to Arab and Israeli society, were mostly founded before the establishment of the State of Israel. In secular schools where Jewish students considerably out-perform their Arab classmates, Arab students at Christian schools do far better.
It’s been claimed that Jewish ultra-orthodox schools, also classified as ‘recognised but unofficial’, still receive full funding from the state. However, the Education Ministry reports there is no difference in the funding of Christian and Jewish schools of recognized but unofficial status. They also stated that Christians had been offered a number of ways to resolve the differences but had rejected them while choosing to close the schools “at the students’ expense.”
Botrus Mansour, the general director of Nazareth Baptist school said, “We will lose our control, message and our identity,” he says, adding that under the proposed regulation, the state would be responsible for appointing teachers and principals, as well as choosing the students. source
On September 6, some 450,000 Arab Israeli pupils stayed home as their schools called a strike in solidarity with the Christian schools. Yesterday, students in the country’s Christian school system came out in droves to demonstrate in Haifa and other places. Protests continue on this 17th day of the strike.
Outraged by the discrimination against them, many believe the budget cuts, which also puts a cap on tuition fees, are a death blow to the continuance of Christian schools in the nation.
UPDATE Sept. 27, 2015:
The Christian schools have been on strike since the school year began on Sept. 1 to protest cuts in government funding. Christian leaders have said the cuts amounted to discrimination.
(Morning Star News) – After months of Islamic State (IS) committing horrific violence in the Middle East and North Africa, Palestinian Christians say a large number of Muslims in the Palestinian Territories and Israel have become “radicalized” and are much more aggressive toward them.
Anti-Christian hostility boiling under the surface for years has come into plain view in the past few months in the form of physical attacks, incendiary religious speeches and inflammatory billboards, they said.
Palestinian Christian leaders said not all Muslims in the Territories and Israel have become extremists, and elders within the Muslim community are trying to dampen the effects of extremist ideology, but enough Palestinians have become radicalized that many Christians feel unsafe or, at minimum, openly unwanted. Whereas tensions between Christians and Muslims previously were seen as issues between individuals, there is now a definite “us vs. them” mentality from Islamic extremists, Christian leaders said.
“Since I was a child this has been happening in the Christian Quarter and in the Muslim Quarter [in Jerusalem’s historic Old City area], but not in this way,” said Rami Fellemon, a Palestinian Christian and director of Jerusalem Evangelistic Outreach, headquartered in East Jerusalem. “Many people are sitting here, and in their own mind they are thinking, ‘What the heck are we doing here in this country? Let’s leave the country.’ Others have resentment toward Muslims now. They don’t understand why they are doing this in such a way.”
Ramped-up hostilities from radicalized Muslims come on top of attacks on Palestinian- and Christian-owned properties by ultra-Orthodox Jewish zealots, in addition to the day-to-day difficulties Israeli officials impose on Palestinians in the Territories.
“They feel like even more of a minority now and feel hated by both sides [Jews and Muslims],” Fellemon told Morning Star News. “It’s a terrible feeling. Feeling afraid. Feeling cornered. Feeling, ‘Maybe this is not my place. Maybe I just need to get out of here. I don’t want to deal with them. I don’t trust them anymore.’”
Opinions differ as to when attitudes started to change in the Territories, but most agree it happened some time in 2014, either during a retaliatory military campaign by Israel against Hamas for the June 12 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, or when the IS territorial expansion in the Middle East started in earnest.
In February, Christians in Israel’s heavily Muslim town of Nazareth were alarmed to find a billboard posted downtown ordering them not to spread their faith or even talk about Jesus in a way that contradicts the Islamic version of His life.
Quoting from Surah 4:171 in the Koran, the sign reads in Arabic, “O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, ‘Three’; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son.”
The billboard was placed just outside the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, which, according to tradition, was the site where the angel Gabriel told Mary that she had been chosen by God to give birth to Jesus, the promised Messiah. According to local media reports, area Christians are too afraid to ask to have the sign removed. None of the Christians interviewed by Morning Star News were willing to talk about the sign.
That month in East Jerusalem, in the Old City area, on Feb. 26 someone started a fire at a seminary building used by the Greek Orthodox Church near the Jaffa Gate. No one was injured, and although no one was ever arrested, ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups were widely thought to be responsible.
Islamist anti-Christian sentiment has not been limited to billboards. On May 1, Sheikh Issam Ameera, an imam at the Al-Aqsa mosque (built on the Temple Mount in the Old City area), posted online a video of a sermon entitled “The Islamic State is the keeper of religion and state” in which he essentially told fellow Muslims that they must be in a constant state of war and conquest against the “polytheist enemy”, i.e., Christians, as well as against Jews.
“Today, our honorable Islamic scholars talk about defensive jihad, ‘Fight for the sake of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress, for Allah does not like transgressors,’” Ameera says in the video. “In other words, you should always be polite, never go against anyone, and never point your weapon at anyone, unless someone attacks you. In all other cases, everything must be peaceful? No! When you face a polytheist enemy, you should give him three options – they must convert to Islam, or pay the jizya [tax on non-Muslims], or else you should seek the help of Allah and fight them. You should fight them even if they do not fight you.”
Ameera repeats that “polytheists” are enemies that must be fought with Allah’s help.
“Let the scholars hear this: You should seek the help of Allah and fight them – only when they fight you? No! When they refuse to convert to Islam, and refuse to pay the jizya,” he preaches. “In such a case, it is meaningless to let them keep enjoying their life in this world, eating from the sustenance bestowed by Allah, yet disbelieving in Him. No! Against their will, we shall subjugate them to the rule of Allah.”
Three days later, a disagreement between a Christian and a Muslim in the Old City escalated into a mob attack against Christians. According to several witnesses, 60 to 80 Muslims in their 20s rampaged through the Christian Quarter immediately after the argument, throwing stones at houses and businesses. The young men also attacked an area Ethiopian Orthodox Monastery, where they spray-painted anti-Christian messages on the building and destroyed a cross.
“When they came, it was a wave of anger that was … you cannot describe it, you cannot understand it,” Fellemon said. “Because when one kid is fighting with another kid, and 60 to 80 people come and start smashing doors and throwing stones on windows and doors of Christian families and smashing the cross of the convent, this is totally not about a kid hurting a kid. This is more about Islam and Christianity. It’s more about persecution.”
The attack on the Ethiopian monastery was considered particularly sinister because it took place two weeks after Islamic State released a video in which they beheaded or shot 28 Ethiopians for being Christians and threatened other attacks against Ethiopian Christians. The slogans spray-painted in the Christian Quarter caused concern among Palestinian Christians because they were the same statements made in the video, where IS called Christians “worshipers of the wooden cross.”
There is some debate as to what is causing the change in attitudes of Palestinian Muslims toward Palestinian Christians, particularly those of Muslim youth in the Territories. Christians are asking how far IS ideology has penetrated Palestinian society. Has IS arrived in the Territories, or are the anti-Christian attitudes there the natural outcome of other radical Islamic groups in the region since 1980s? There is evidence for both theories.
The IS graffiti, scrawled word for word in the Christian quarter from the video of the slain Ethiopians, is thought to show that some Muslims are embracing IS ideology or, at minimum, are being influenced by it. Hizb al-Tahrir, an Islamist party in Palestine, has placed a recruiting billboard between Jerusalem and Ramallah inviting Muslims into IS and its caliphate. Ameera of the Al-Aqsa mosque is a leading member of the same party.
On May 11 the Islamic hostility appeared to be mitigated when a traditional elders council between Muslim and Christian leaders took place in Jerusalem. According to every Christian interviewed, the Muslim leaders apologized earnestly for the actions of those who attacked the Christian quarter. One Christian leader said they appeared to be almost shamed by the actions of the mob, which may show that the majority of Muslims in the Territories are tolerant towards the Christian minority.
The group issued an “honor pact” in which further attacks were foresworn. But on May 24, Muslims attacked another group of Christians near the Damascus gate. Details about the attack are scarce, other than that one man was slightly injured and that Israeli police broke it up.
Nashat Filmon, general director of the Palestinian branch of The Bible Society, said recent hostilities in Jerusalem could be the related to IS.
“The dark ideology of ISIS is spreading all over the region like cancer,” he said. “This is also including the Holy Land. Christians, overall, live here in peace and harmony with Muslims in Jerusalem and the West Bank, but incidents do happen from time to time, and it’s true that these incidents have recently increased, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem.”
He added that some incidents could have been inspired and encouraged by Muslim extremists “and ignorant individuals or groups or others who are interested in making a problem.”
Fellemon said that although he thinks IS may have some influence in the Territories, the terrorist group is a part of the larger problem of militant Islam in the Territories and not the other way around.
“Are they [those who attacked the Christian quarter] ruled by ISIS? I don’t think so,” he said. “Are they inspired by ISIS? It is hard for me to answer yes or no because ISIS is inspired by radical Islam. So maybe I would answer and say, ‘Yes, they are inspired by radical Islam.’”
Filmon said the hostilities call for prayer in the Territories.
- “Pray for the relationships between Muslims and Christians to be good despite all of the problems,” he said.
- Pray that the Christians would act as they are called to be, ‘salt and light’ and a living testimony.
- Pray against this dark, satanic, and attacking spirit of fundamentalism,
- and for the Christians to respond in a way that reflects Christ.”
I recently did a post about the growing trend of supporting and joining the killing fields in the middle east. There is an ever growing number of those from the west calling themselves Christians who are supporting and even calling for killing in the name of Christianity. Is this what we are suppose to do? Is this commanded by Jesus? Yes, we can defend ourselves, but to be a crusader that backs and supports killing is another matter all together. Yesterday, on a Christian site, I read a piece titled, “Christian Militia teaches ISIS a lesson.” It literally sent chills down my spine. This is not about a re-birth of the crusades, this is not about imitating a Roman Emperor (Constantine). This is not about keeping score or revenge. God say’s ‘Vengeance is mine.’ This is about watching 1/4 of the world’s population as they are slaughtered and tortured.
Today while reading the news about the American aide worker captured and beheaded by ISIS (his identity has not been confirmed), I felt what everyone feels—sadness, anger, rage even, but I also feel what he felt. Below is a quote from Peter Kassig in an interview he did about his work and why he felt compelled to do it.
“It’s about showing people that we care, that someone is looking out for those who might be overlooked or who have slipped through the cracks in the system for whatever reason.”
He started his own organization 2 years ago and traveled to Syria out of love to provide aid (food, clothing, and medical assistance) to the suffering people of the war in Syria. His Mother is calling for restraint in the media. She does not wish for the hostage takers to use anything that would further their cause. I couldn’t agree more. This honorable man should be held in high esteem, but to allow this evil to use any retaliation to further their cause and ideology is wrong.
The claimed Christian militias are spreading fear and hate and a mindset of revenge. What they may not realize is they’re actually allowing this evil to grow in popularity. This tribulation is turning into a sort of sports game where scores are kept. The so called christian group in Nigeria called Anti-balaka are also spreading this same type of fear and hatred. They recruit those weak in faith or weakened by greif. By the way we have proven they are not a Christian group. We can also say that it’s been proven that the Lord’s Resistance Army has a huge presence in Nigeria even today.
The lack of interest from the UN and western governments has fueled Boko Haram, ISIS, Al-Queda, and those like them, and the fear they are spreading. Fear breeds fear. Hate breeds hate. What have we become? As Christians, what have we become when we remain silent about the persecution our brothers and sisters are facing? As Christians is the only answer to take up arms and join in the slaughter?
We can take a lesson from what is happening in Nigeria. Watch this video, it’s very graphic, but then ask yourself what are we becoming, when we allow fear and hatred to overtake us. We’ve remained silent while murderous rampages happen. What did we expect would happen, while thousands watch their loved ones systematically killed in the name of a religion and leaders stand idly by? What do we expect will happen when we as voices for the persecuted remain silent and complacent? What do we expect will happen unless we unite and form a chain of love and peace to aid those suffering. There is such a great need in Nigeria, Syria, Libya, Pakistan and all parts between.
As these men who more resemble monsters are taking over 1/4 of the world, or at least that’s what they portray. The leaders of the free world are taking an obligatory response and fueling the flames, while some in the west are taking up arms to join the fight. A fight that is a losing battle at least for Christians, expanding the bulls-eye giving them reason to target each and every one of us. We, or at least some of us are sending the wrong message. As peace is taken from Jerusalem and a form of evil hatred is forced upon Israel, the rest of us are lulled into believing that peace has been taken from the world and there is no recourse except to trust in bureaucrats, or dictatorship. One that closes it’s eyes to genocide and persecution in order to divvy up the spoils and carve up the land.
The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
1 Corinthians 14:33
For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints..
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So does the word of God sound like it advocates hatred and killing? No in fact just the opposite. It advocates a peace that passes all understanding. (Philipians 4:7) And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
So let us unite in our prayers for the 1/4 of the earth still in slavery and chaos, let us unite for our persecuted brethren, let us unite to give aid to the weak, the sick, the war torn, the tortured. Let us unite in Christ’s love and peace, for He alone can calm the storm, though it rage all around us, He alone can keep us safe in the midst of the waves. Not man, not a government, not a militia, not a crusade. God.
I ask again, “How far do you go to stop evil, before you are also evil.”??????
We have not forgotten them. They are not invisible. We can not look away from our family in Christ. Our brothers and sisters need our immediate assistance. Will you partner with us in this mission?
Thank you for your continued support. We could not do it without you!
(Morning Star News) – Seven years of harassment and attacks by hard-line Muslims have finally forced a Palestinian church in East Jerusalem out of their building, church leaders said.
The congregation of Calvary Baptist Church, under Holy Land Missions, moved out of their building in the Shofat area of Jerusalem in July after Islamists threatened their landlord. They are looking for a safer, more permanent place to meet.
Pastor Steven Khoury said he was emotionally torn when he handed over the keys. The persecution was difficult but had also been a catalyst for spiritual development, he said.
“It was very emotional, because a lot of our people really started to grow there,” he said. “Most of the growth happened in Shofat because of the persecution.”
The persecution started almost immediately after the congregation moved into the building in a predominantly Muslim area in 2007.
Within 10 days of starting meetings and worship services, a Muslim who lived close to the church building attacked a member with a knife. Then someone tried to set the building on fire, likely with a Molotov cocktail, Khoury said.
“It only burned a few of our playground sets and didn’t reach the building,” he said.
Next came the vandalism – first cars parked at the church building were damaged, then the property, and finally there were physical attacks on children coming to church gatherings.
“These were all spread out over a two- or three-year period, to let us know that we were not welcome there,” Khoury said.
When the local government accepted a request in late 2008 to put up a road sign identifying the location of the church building, things “really escalated,” Khoury said.
“When we did that, it took everything to the next level. The landlords were now being threatened. The landlords were being told, ‘How dare you do this, this is a disgrace to Islam. If you don’t do anything about this, we will.’”
Eventually the landlord succumbed to the pressure, and the 110-member congregation had to leave the building.
The departure last month was not the first time Muslims angry about their activities have forced the Jerusalem congregation to leave a building they were using for ministry. It has happened twice before.
In 2006, Holy Land Missions had to leave a building in the Beit Hanina area of East Jerusalem, which, like Shofat, is a Muslim-majority area. In 2004, when the group rented the building, church vehicles were vandalized, a sign identifying the church was torn down twice and the building was subjected to repeated vandalism and break-ins, Khoury said. By comparison, Khoury doesn’t remember any other building near the church property being vandalized.
Church administrator Hany Khayo said persecution has been constant.
“I have been here since 2004, and every day we have a story,” Khayo said.
Especially disheartening to the congregation was the response they received from clergy of “traditional” Christian denominations such as the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox.
“Some of those [pressures] in the community were from traditional Christians, believe it or not,” he said. “Traditional Christians did not want us there. They said, ‘You guys are not Christians. What Christianity do you represent? If you’re not an official church, then God doesn’t hear your prayers.’”
A well-known phenomenon in the Middle East rarely discussed openly, centuries-old churches accuse evangelical Christians of “sheep stealing” when they arrive to establish churches. Paradoxically, hard-line Muslims tend to be more tolerant of the ancient churches because of the perception that they do not engage in evangelism, whereas evangelical denominations, by definition, actively spread the message of Christ. Any missionary activity brings them into direct conflict with Muslims.
“[They persecute us] because we believe in one God, because we believe that Jesus is our Lord and we ask everyone to have God’s love,” Khayo said.
Eventually the landlord of the Beit Hanina building began receiving threats from his fellow Muslims, and the church had to leave after only two years.
Paying the Price
The Beit Hanina congregation was Khoury’s second attempt to plant a church in Jerusalem.
When he was an adolescent his father, a convert from Islam and a pastor, ministered in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem. During that time, Khoury’s uncle, George Khoury, showed the need for a church in East Jerusalem. He would also display the power that a church body can have on people’s lives, changing young Khoury’s life forever.
In the mid-1990s, George Khoury was a stocky, 6-foot-6 man known to be a trouble-maker with anger issues. He was also a Muslim. Young Khoury’s father invited him to a three-day prayer conference.
“When we invited him, the first thing he said to us is, ‘Will there be free food?’” Khoury said. “At the end of the three-day conference, my Uncle George – big man, tall guy, anger problems, liked very few people and very few people liked him because he was just a trouble-maker – on the third day of the conference in the Sea of Galilee, he accepted Christ as his personal savior.”
On the way back from the conference, George Khoury made an abrupt announcement: “We need to have this in Jerusalem.”
“When he said, ‘We need to have this,’ what he meant was that he wanted the fellowship, the Bible and the spiritual growth,” Khoury said. “He wanted that, he just didn’t know the lingo for it was called ‘church.’”
Khoury said about two years passed, and his uncle quickly became a different man. He was the inspiration for the church established by the elder Khoury in Wadi al-Joz in East Jerusalem. His favorite Bible verse was Matthew 16:25, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”
The verse became prophetic when a neighbor began frantically knocking on George Khoury’s door as he sat in his house one night. Some Muslims in Wadi al-Joz were trying to take an elderly man’s house from him by force. George Khoury took him into his house to protect him, and then walked outside to face the group of Muslims and stop the attack. It was the last thing he would do.
“He barely walked outside his doorstep, and the same men that were attacking, chasing after the old man, saw my uncle walk out onto his doorstep,” Khoury said. “In our culture, when somebody ‘walks out’ – when you take somebody’s place – you’re basically responsible for that man’s life, and Uncle George was beaten to death with a metal rod by these men.”
He added, “When they were beating him, they were saying, ‘It’s okay, he’s a Christian.”
The elderly man survived the attack. Many years later, when he could talk about what happened, he told Khoury that his uncle had more peace in him that all those who killed him. When he died, the elderly man told Khoury, “The peace of Christ was upon his face.”
The Wadi al-Joz congregation rented a building to use as a church but was forced to leave it as well because of persecution.
“It was always being targeted for break-ins. We had multiple, a minimum of 10 break-ins,” Khoury said. “We were always being cut with glass because people would throw glass bottles inside the garden area. We’d fall and scrape our legs over the glass bottles and everything, but that was the reality of that church setting there.”
When the Wadi al-Joz congregation left the building, members tried to set up house churches but quickly found that didn’t work, Khoury said. Whereas converts and other Christians could go to a church building with some degree of safety and anonymity, it was nearly impossible to meet unnoticed in a house church because of the small, tightly knit community that defines Palestinian society.
“They did home meetings for a while, then that started to cause problems for people because many people live in apartment buildings, and the majority of the Arab community in Jerusalem, whether they be in the Old City or outside the Old City, are Muslim,” Khoury said. “So if you’re a Christian living in an apartment or you’re a Muslim who has received Christ, it’s going to be very dangerous for you to do worship – music and Bible teachings in your apartment. It became a struggle. It became a difficult thing to do because of threats and danger issues.”
Some of the original Wadi al-Joz members later joined other “above-ground” churches. Others left the country because of political problems and violence.
As a temporary measure, the Shofat church rents a meeting hall for a few hours, two times a week. They found a multi-story building they would like to buy for $3.5 million. The price of the building is high because of the incredibly competitive real estate market in Jerusalem, Khoury said.
“Because Jerusalem is the most sought-after city in the world by the three major religions in the world and land is so scarce, Jerusalem is one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world,” he said. “We can’t get a loan because we don’t own anything in Israel. By faith we are asking the Lord to help us raise $3.5 million. We’ve been able to raise about $700,000 so far.”
In spite of all that happened to him and his congregation, Khoury said they are determined to stay in Jerusalem and do what he feels God has called them to do.
“I believe in being persistent, and I believe in holding your ground and standing strong,” he said. “I believe in the message so strongly I am willing to risk my life. Our members are willing to risk their lives by continuously coming to the same location. I believe still that people will see that we are committed just like they are in their religion, and we are willing to die for our faith just as they are as well.”
TEL AVIV – One hundred fifty Christian citizens of Israel demonstrated Sunday, March 23, outside the European Union’s delegation in Tel Aviv against the EU’s silence in relation to what they termed “the ethnic cleansing of Christians throughout the Middle East.” The protesters demanded that the EU act on their own cry for human rights and fight for the Christians throughout the Middle East, who are quickly becoming extinct everywhere but Israel.
Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth and strong proponent of Christian enlistment in the IDF, demanded that the attacks on Christians be stopped and thanked Israel for being a warm home for Christians.
Shadi Halul, spokesman of the Christian Lobby (CL) which organized the protest, stated: “We have witnessed in the past how the world was silent as six million Jews were slaughtered. Here in Israel, where we are enabled freedom of worship, protection and a normal life, we have decide to cry out and call on the European Union to safeguard human rights in Israel and throughout the world. Become active, do not repeat past mistakes. We constantly receive reports from our Christian brethren throughout the Middle East imploring that they be helped, envious of our status as Israeli citizens.”
Last week the Christian Lobby sent a letter to the EU Ambassador in Israel and 18 other western Ambassadors protesting inaction. “We, the members of the Christian Lobby in Israel, found it appropriate to turn to you and cry out about the human and citizens’ rights condition of our Christian brothers across the Middle East. The slaughter, persecution, discrimination, apartheid, the ethnic cleansing, and all the crimes committed against the Indigenous Aramaic & Christians of the Middle East, in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, among others, and continue to be committed without any intervention of the Western countries,” the letter states.
In the Letter the CL demand that the EU take action. “We are turning to you as someone who represents a Western country, which engraved the values of human and citizens’ rights on its flag. Get up and take action. Prove to the slaughtered and the persecuted, and to yourselves, that you believe in those values and act accordingly, wholeheartedly, and not half way.”
They further attack the EU for their double standards regarding Israel. “The lack of taking real steps by the European and Western countries and the continuation of the horrifying condition pales, opposed to the double standards and the hypocrisy of Europe and the West towards the State of Israel, the Jewish and democratic country that provides freedom of religion, human rights and defense to every religious and ethnic minority. There is no doubt that the safest and most free place for Christians, as well as other minorities in the Middle East, is the State of Israel… the lack of steps taken for the Christians in the Arab countries, in the Middle East, bring into question the sincerity of the declarations and intentions of the European and Western countries regarding human rights and humanism. It seems that the treatment towards Israel is a cover up for the failure of the west in the Middle East, failures that allow the continuing of the crimes and atrocities against Christians.”
“From here, from the State of Israel, a state that was established by a nation that was persecuted and slaughtered while the world stood by and watched, we the members of the Israeli Christian lobby are calling out “no more,” we will no longer be silent. No more to the abandonment of Christians in the Middle East. No more to the double standards and hypocrisy. And yes to taking action for the persecuted Christian minority. We are demanding the involvement of your country to stop the ethnic cleansing committed against the Eastern Christian nation in the Arab countries and the Middle East,” the letter concludes.
A recent study warns that Christianity is at the risk of being wiped out in the biblical heartlands of the Middle East. According to the London Daily Telegraph, which cites the study, 10% of Christians worldwide – approximately 200 million – are “socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.” With over 2.3 billion Christians around the world, the study notes that Christians face the most persecution in the region of the world where Christianity first originated – the Middle East.
By Aryeh Savir – San Diego Jewish World
* Aryeh Savir is a staff writer for the Tazpit News Agency in Israel. He may be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org
Islamist terrorists have exploited the lawless Sinai to perpetrate vicious attacks on Egyptian Christians there, as reported earlier this week in the New York Times. Indeed, throughout Egypt, the Copts continue to be targeted and scapegoated for the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood.
As defenseless and abandoned as Mideast Christians seem today, it is worth remembering their historical roots, and recognizing just how much the plight of Middle East Christians has deteriorated. Over 2,000 years ago, Christianity was born as a religion and spread from Jerusalem to other parts of the Levant, including territories in modern Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt. The Christian faith flourished as one of the major religions in the Middle East until the Muslim conquests of the 7th century.
Despite Muslim domination of the region, Christians comprised an estimated 20% of the Middle East population until the early 20th century. Today, however, Christians make up a mere 2-5% of the Middle East and their numbers are fast dwindling. Writing in the Winter 2001 issue of Middle East Quarterly, scholar Daniel Pipes estimated that Middle East Christians would “likely drop to” half of their numbers “by the year 2020″ because of declining birth rates, and a pattern of “exclusion and persecution” leading to emigration.
The “Arab Spring” has only worsened conditions for the indigenous Christians of the Middle East. Like the Kurds, Middle East Christians are a stateless minority, struggling to survive in the world’s toughest neighborhood. But the Kurds at least have enjoyed partial autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991 and most of them are Sunni Muslim, making it easier for them to survive in the Muslim-dominated Middle East. Christians, on the other hand, are a religious minority that controls no territory and is entirely subject to the whims of their hosts. These host countries – with the exception of Israel – offer a grim future to Middle East Christians. Home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, Egypt also has the largest Christian population in the Middle East, totaling 8-12 million people. But because Christian Copts make up only about 10-15% of Egypt’s estimated 80 million people, they have for decades lived in fear as second-class citizens, subjected to attacks on churches, villages, homes, and shops; mob killings; and the abduction and forced Islamic conversion of Christian women compelled to marry Muslim men. Such abuse took place under the staunchly secular regime of Hosni Mubarak, but grew much worse under the rule of Mohammed Morsi, the jailed Muslim Brotherhood activist who succeeded Mubarak, and they are now being blamed for Morsi’s ouster.
In Lebanon, Christians represent a bigger portion of the population, so their fate is for now less precarious than that of their Egyptian coreligionists, but their long-term prospects are worrisome. The Christian population is estimated to have dropped from over 50% (according to a 1932 census) to about 40%. Over the last few years, the de facto governing power in Lebanon has become Hezbollah, the radical and heavily-armed Shiite movement sponsored by Iran. With all of the spillover violence and instability produced by the Syrian civil war and Hezbollah’s open involvement in it, and/or the next war that Hezbollah decides to start with Israel, the emigration of Christians out of Lebanon will probably only increase in the coming years, leaving those who stay increasingly vulnerable.
In Syria, 2.5 million Christians comprised about 10% of the population and enjoyed some protection under the secular and often brutal regimes of the Assad dynasty. But as jihadi groups fighting Assad extend their territorial control, the past protection of Christians is often the cause of their current persecution by resentful Sunnis who revile the Assad regime and seek to impose Sharia law wherever they can. Christians have been regularly targeted and killed by rebels, and the sectarian chaos and violence that will likely prevail in Assad’s wake will only increase the number of Christians fleeing Syria.
In Iraq, the bloody aftermath of the 2003 invasion demonstrated how dangerous life can become for a Christian minority when a multicultural society in the Middle East explodes into sectarian violence. By 2008, half of the 800,000 Iraqi Christians were estimated to have left, rendering those remaining even more insecure. In 2010, Salafist extremists attacked a Baghdad church during Sunday Mass, killing or wounding nearly the whole congregation. Such incidents turn any communal gathering into a potential massacre, forcing Christians across the Middle East to ask the ultimate question of faith:
“Am I prepared to die for Christian worship?”
The so-called “Arab Spring” threatens to exacerbate matters in much of the Middle East, as Islamists now either control the government or influence it enough to persecute Christians with impunity. As new Islamist regimes in the Middle East condone religious intolerance and introduce Sharia and blasphemy laws, the long-term trend for Christians in their ancestral lands will only grow bleaker.
The one bright spot is the state of Israel – “the only place in the Middle East [where] Christians are really safe,” according to the Vicar of St. George’s Church in Baghdad, Canon Andrew White. Home to Christianity’s holiest sites and to a colorful array of Christian denominations, Israel has the only growing Christian community in the Middle East.
Because Israel is the only non-Muslim state in all of the Middle East and North Africa, it represents a small victory for religious minorities in the region, and serves as the last protector of freedom and security for Jews, Christians, Bahai, Druze, and others. Without Israel, how much more vulnerable would Christians in the Middle East become?
JERUSALEM, Israel (CBN) — Persecution of Jews and persecution of Christians: Is there a link between the two? Journalist Lela Gilbert says yes.
Gilbert has written extensively about the global assault on Christians around the world. She recently spoke with CBN’s Scott Ross about her latest book, Saturday People, Sunday People.
The California author arrived in Israel during the 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon for a three-month visit. Today, she spends much of her time in Jerusalem. She shared with Ross about radical Islamic plans to first rid the Middle East of Jews and then of Christians.
But first, she said she has noticed that persecution by Islamists is not the only challenge for Christians in Jerusalem.
Disunity Among Christians
Ross: There are many Christian sects, denominations, etc, in this Land, how are they doing with one another?
Gilbert: Not too well. They’re not doing much better than the ones in America.
Ross: It was Nehemiah that said, look we’re divided on the wall one from another and how are they going to do battle if they don’t have one mind and one strategy, one approach to everything? One! Jesus prayed it.
Gilbert: You know you’ve got Christians arguing about prophecy, I mean, evangelicals arguing about all kinds of things, much less the old churches who have ancient rifts within themselves – that go back to the fourth century. So it’s not surprising but what we know is that we all look pretty much the same through a jihadi rifle site. And maybe we need to remember that.
Ross: Are you hopeful?
Gilbert: I’m hopeful because of my faith in the Lord and in His way of working things out. Politically, I can’t understand what’s going to happen…my hope is in Him…He’s worked in my life in so many miraculous ways that I have to believe He’s going to work amongst His people and bring them together and protect them.
Her New Book
Ross: And now out of all this, a book. I was fascinated by the title define that significance.
Gilbert: It’s graffiti from radical Islamists that appears throughout the Middle East. In the best terms it says, “First comes Saturday, then comes Sunday.” But there’s a flag, a photo of a flag in the book that says, “On Saturday we kill the Jews, on Sunday we kill the Christians.” And that’s where I got the title.
Gilbert said even though many of the world’s Muslims are not violent, their voice is drowned out by radical elements.
Watch the full interview on The 700 Club, July 26, or check CBNNews.com after 10 a.m. ET.
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Patriarchs and heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem on Sunday released a joint statement denouncing attacks by Israeli police officers on worshipers and pilgrims during Holy Saturday at the Church of Holy Sepulcher.
Signatories of the statement highlighted that they saw “awful scenes of the brutal treatment to clerics, average people and pilgrims in Jerusalem during Holy Saturday.”
They added: “A day of joy was turned into a day of severe sadness and pain for several of our faithful brothers who were mistreated by a number of Israeli police officers at the gates of the Old City of Jerusalem leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.”
It is unacceptable, according to the statement, that clergymen and average people “get beaten brutally and indiscriminately and be denied access to their churches under the pretext of keeping order.”
The statement urged the Israeli government to denounce the violence that police practiced against worshipers and clergymen.
The patriarchs and heads of churches also denied claims of those who blamed the churches for what happened during the Holy week in Jerusalem. “These claims are counter to what happened in reality, and all heads of churches condemn the Israeli procedures and violations of the Christians’ rights,” the statement said.
The statement was signed by heads of all recognized churches in the Holy Land including the Roman Orthodox Church, the Latin Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Custodian of the Holy Land, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Maronite Church, the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, and the Armenian Catholic Church.
Israel on Thursday officially apologized to Egypt after Israeli police officers attacked Egyptian diplomats and a Coptic clergyman at a church in Jerusalem.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry summoned Israel’s ambassador in Cairo after the attack during Orthodox Easter celebrations at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Israel Broadcasting Authority said.
Israeli police say they were not notified of the attack but that they will investigate immediately, the IBA reported.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Amr Roshdy told Egypt’s daily Al-Ahram that Israeli authorities tried to stop Egyptian diplomatic officials from attending Coptic Easter mass.