Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
L'institut Canadien de Recherches sur le Judaisme
Strength of Israel will not lie

CHRISTIANS IN M.E. PERSECUTED IN IRAQ, SYRIA, EGYPT, CHRISTIANS FIND HOME IN JEWISH ISRAEL

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

 

 Contents:         

Christianity's Savior in the Middle East – Israel: Lawrence Solomon, Huffington Post, Dec. 23, 2013 — With one exception, Christians throughout the countries of the Middle East are at risk or on the run, their churches burned, their property expropriated, their personal safety in peril from thugs intent on beatings, rapes, and murders.

Despite Plight of Mideast Christians, Some Leaders Still Single Out Israel: Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 26, 2013 — The deadly bomb attacks in Christian districts of Iraq’s capital Baghdad on Christmas Day caused the deaths of 37 people.

Israel's Christian Awakening: Adi Schwartz, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 27, 2013— As Christmas neared, an 85-foot-high tree presided over the little square in front of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

Arab Discrimination Against Christians Must Stop: Michael Curtis, American Thinker, Dec. 28, 2013 — Now is the winter of Christian discontent in Arab Middle Eastern countries.

 

On Topic Links

 

Palestinian Christ Persecuted by Israel?: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Dec. 27, 2013

Christmas Brings Little Hope for Syria's Christians: Alaa al-Halabi, Al-Monitor, Dec. 23, 2013

Christmas—A Time of Fear for Christians in Iraq: Leah Barkoukis, Town Hall, Dec. 25., 2013

Book Review: 'The Global War on Christians,' by John L. Allen Jr.: Philip Jenkins , Wall Street Journal, Dec. 19, 2013

What the Middle East Would Be Like Without Christians: Christa Case Bryant, Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 22, 2013

                        

 

 

 

CHRISTIANITY'S SAVIOR IN THE MIDDLE EAST – ISRAEL

                      Lawrence Solomon                                                                                   Huffington Post, Dec. 23, 2013 

 

 

With one exception, Christians throughout the countries of the Middle East are at risk or on the run, their churches burned, their property expropriated, their personal safety in peril from thugs intent on beatings, rapes, and murders. The one exception — where Christians flee to rather than from, where they increase rather than decrease in numbers — is Israel. A century ago, the Middle East was about 20 per cent Christian. Today, following waves of persecutions, the proportion is 4 per cent and falling. Some fear that the Middle East — the very birthplace of Christianity — may soon be all but emptied of Christians. Gaza, for example, is continuing to lose its few remaining Christians — 3,000 of them all told, or about one-sixth of 1 per cent of the total population — amid anti-Christian violence and an Islamist government that increasingly limits Christian institutions.

 

In Israel, the history of decline is reversed. The Christian community of 34,000 at the time the modern state of Israel was created in 1948 has more than quadrupled to 158,000. Part of that quadrupling stems from a natural population increase — the Christian fertility rate modestly exceeds the 2.1 children per woman required to maintain a population. Most of it stems from Christian immigration into Israel, often following upheavals in neighboring countries or far-flung parts of the world. The economic turmoil associated with the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s led to one major influx of Christians. Under Israel's immigration laws, anyone with a Jewish grandparent (or the spouse of someone with a Jewish grandparent) is entitled to Israeli citizenship upon landing in Israel, leading many Russian Christians to settle in Israel in pursuit of a better life. Likewise, Christians with Jewish blood from poor countries in Africa, Asia, South America and Eastern Europe migrated to Israel to escape economic hardship. Wars and conflicts also boosted Israel's Christian population. After Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2000, it granted refuge to several thousand Christian Maronites in Lebanon who had been allied with Israel, to avoid their expected slaughter at the hands of Lebanese Muslims. Israel also has absorbed Christian refugees from African and Asian countries, including Vietnamese boatpeople. Upheavals aside, Christians come to Israel to work, then marry and remain. Or they join relatives through family reunification provisions.

 

Israel's Christian population would be larger still but for reluctance — by both Israelis and Christians — to face the political consequences. After Israel in the 1967 Six Day War won the West Bank, including Jerusalem and the nearby Christian satellite town of Bethlehem, it decided to incorporate Jerusalem within Israel's borders and to separately administer Bethlehem and the rest of the West Bank. Five hundred and fifty Bethlehem leaders then asked Israel to incorporate Bethlehem within Israel's borders, partly because Bethlehem's economy depended on Jerusalem, partly to maintain ready access for Christians to pray at two of Christendom's holiest shrines, Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, where Jesus was born, and Jerusalem's Church of the Sepulchre, where Jesus was buried. But Israel declined, fearing the international condemnation that would follow an annexation as well as the prospect of ruling over Bethlehem's substantial Muslim population. Bethlehem tried once again, this time prior to Israel's intent under the 1993 Oslo Accords to turn over Bethlehem and other areas of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat. "Bethlehem will become a town of churches devoid of Christians, if you transfer the area to the Palestinian Authority," said the Christian Mayor of Bethlehem, Elias Freij, in trying to convince Israel's then prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, to keep control of Bethlehem. Rabin agreed but only on condition that the heads of the Christian church officially and publicly request that Bethlehem remain under Israeli rule. The church declined, unable to unambiguously embrace Israel for fear of Muslim revenge against Christians in the Holy Land and beyond. Christians then left in large numbers — thousands reportedly applied for Israeli citizenship, most left for North America and other countries welcoming to Christians. As a result of such mutual fears, an exodus of Bethlehem's Christians made it a Muslim majority town, its Christian proportion now estimated to be as low as 10 per cent to 15 per cent.

 

While Christians, including Arab Christians, fare poorly in the Muslim world, many fare well in Israel, in some measures outperforming Jews. Arab Christians graduate from high school at a higher rate than either Jews or Muslim, they score higher, and in higher education are far likelier to be accepted in medical schools. Twenty-five per cent of Israel's Arab Christians work in academic professions, the same as Jews. And Christians in Israel have, of course, complete freedom of religion. But until recently, the loyalties of Israel's Arab Christians were split, with many identifying with their Arab more than their Christian heritage, and few feeling loyalty toward the nation of Israel. Sympathy for Arab Muslims, for example, prevented Arab Christians from enlisting in the Israeli armed forces. That may be changing, however, with signs that Arab Christians may be aligning themselves with Israel and Zionism…

 [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]

 

 [Lawrence Solomon is a National Post columnist

and a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.]

 

                                                                              Contents
                                  

DESPITE PLIGHT OF MIDEAST CHRISTIANS,

SOME LEADERS STILL SINGLE OUT ISRAEL

                                                Benjamin Weinthal                                   

                                                Jerusalem Post, Dec. 26, 2013

                                                           

The deadly bomb attacks in Christian districts of Iraq’s capital Baghdad on Christmas Day caused the deaths of 37 people. One bomb appeared to target congregants leaving a Catholic church. Last December, The Jerusalem Post delved into the question “What do Mideast Christians face in 2013?” The results were horrific and lethal. In October, four Coptic Christians were riddled with bullets in front of their church in Cairo, and the Islamic Republic of Iran sentenced Christians to 80 lashes for drinking wine during communion and operating a satellite television dish. Also in 2013, Muslim Brotherhood activists torched Egyptian churches and kidnapped Coptic Christians. Radical Islamic extremists stamped out a Christian presence in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. Jihadists are believed to be behind the kidnapping of 12 Syrian nuns.

 

Sadly, if past is prologue, next year will see continued waves of bloody repression against a highly vulnerable minority in the Mideast. In a December Wall Street Journal book review of John L. Allen Jr.’s book The Global War on Christians, the review quotes Allen Jr. saying Christians “indisputably are the most persecuted religious body on the planet.” The ongoing decimation of Middle East Christians prompted Prince Charles and Pope Francis to spotlight the need to help struggling Christians in the region. “It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are increasingly being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants,” said Charles. In November, after meeting with patriarchs from Syria, Iraq, and Syria, Pope Francis said: “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians.” There was a growing trend – perhaps nearly a consensus – in 2013 that Islamic radicalism poses the gravest threat to Christianity in the Middle East.

 

All of this makes all the more bizarre the remarks of Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, on Christmas. “Today, singing of Bethlehem, we see injustices in Palestine and Israel, where land is taken or rockets are fired, and the innocent suffer,” said Welby. In sharp contrast to Welby, the archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, said “Christians are the most widely persecuted religious group in the world today, and this evening we think especially of the Middle East, especially of Egypt, Iraq and Syria.”

Why Israel was singled out by Welby in the midst of massive violence directed at Christians in Egypt, Syria and Iraq is nothing short of perplexing. After all, Israel’s Christians are largely immune from the persecution and violence inflicted on their fellow Christians in the heartland of the Middle East and other nations in the greater Middle East (Pakistan and Nigeria)…

 

While Israel remains the principal safe haven for Christians and the practice of their faith in the Middle East, the situation is not perfect. There have been “price-tag” attacks on Christian institutions in Israel and the disputed territories, including the scrawling of anti-Christian graffiti on Christian worship sites. To return to the question of what Middle East Christian will face in 2014, times will likely grow even tougher and more grueling for this persecuted minority in Muslim-majority countries. The disengagement of the US and West from the Middle East will only compound the misery of Middle East Christians.                               

                                     Contents

                                                                                                                                                              ISRAEL'S CHRISTIAN AWAKENING                                                    

Adi Schwartz                                                                                  

Wall Street Journal, Dec. 27, 2013

 

As Christmas neared, an 85-foot-high tree presided over the little square in front of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Kindergarten children with Santa Claus hats entered the church and listened to their teacher explain in Arabic the Greek inscriptions on the walls, while a group of Russian pilgrims knelt on their knees and whispered in prayer. In Nazareth's old city, merchants sold the usual array of Christmas wares. This year, however, the familiar rhythms of Christmas season in the Holy Land have been disturbed by a new development: the rise of an independent voice for Israel's Christian community, which is increasingly trying to assert its separate identity. For decades, Arab Christians were considered part of Israel's sizable Palestinian minority, which comprises both Muslims and Christians and makes up about a fifth of the country's citizens, according to the Israeli government. But now, an informal grass-roots movement, prompted in part by the persecution of Christians elsewhere in the region since the Arab Spring, wants to cooperate more closely with Israeli Jewish society—which could mean a historic change in attitude toward the Jewish state. "Israel is my country, and I want to defend it," says Henry Zaher, an 18-year-old Christian from the village of Reineh who was visiting Nazareth. "The Jewish state is good for us." The Christian share of Israel's population has decreased over the years—from 2.5% in 1950 to 1.6% today, according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics—because of migration and a low birthrate. Of Israel's 8 million citizens, about 130,000 are Arabic-speaking Christians (mostly Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox), and 1.3 million are Arab Muslims…

 

As a minority within a minority, Christians in Israel have historically been in a bind. Fear of being considered traitors often drove them to proclaim their full support for the Palestinian cause. Muslim Israeli leaders say that all Palestinians are siblings and deny any Christian-Muslim rift. But in mixed Muslim-Christian cities such as Nazareth, many Christians say they feel outnumbered and insecure. "There is a lot of fear among Christians from Muslim reprisals," says Dr. Ramon. "In the presence of a Muslim student in one of my classes, a Christian student will never say the same things he would say were the Muslim student not there." "Many Christians think like me, but they keep silent," says the Rev. Gabriel Naddaf, who backs greater Christian integration into the Jewish state. "They are simply too afraid." In his home in Nazareth, overlooking the fertile hills of the Galilee, the 40-year-old former spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem is tall and charismatic, dressed in a spotless black cassock. "Israel is my country," he says. "We enjoy the Israeli democracy and have to respect it and fight for it."

 

That is the idea behind the new Forum for Drafting the Christian Community, which aims to increase the number of Christians joining the IDF. It is an extremely delicate issue: Israeli Arabs are generally exempt from military duty, because the state doesn't expect them to fight their brethren among the Palestinians or in neighboring Arab countries. Israeli Palestinians, who usually don't want to enlist, say they often face discrimination in employment and other areas because they don't serve. "We were dragged into a conflict that wasn't ours," says Father Naddaf. "Israel takes care of us, and if not Israel, who will defend us? We love this country, and we see the army as a first step in becoming more integrated with the state." According to Shadi Khaloul, a forum spokesperson, the total number of Christians serving in the Israeli military has more than quadrupled since 2012, from 35 to nearly 150. This may seem a drop in the ocean, but it was enough to enrage many Palestinian Israelis. Father Naddaf says that his car's tires were punctured and that he received death threats, worrying him enough that he got bodyguards. Hanin Zoabi, an Arab-Muslim member of the Israeli parliament, wrote Father Naddaf a public letter calling him a collaborator and accusing him of putting young Christians "in danger." "Arab Palestinians, regardless of their religion, should not join the Israeli army," Ms. Zoabi told me. "We are a national group, not a religious one. Any attempt to enlist Christians is part of a strategy of divide-and-rule. "Many Arab Christians don't see it that way. "We are not mercenaries," says Mr. Khaloul, who served as a captain in an IDF paratrooper brigade. "We want to defend this country together with the Jews. We see what is happening these days to Christians around us—in Iraq, Syria and Egypt."…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]

 

 

                                                              ARAB DISCRIMINATION AGAINST

CHRISTIANS MUST STOP                                                 

Michael Curtis                                                                               American Thinker, Dec. 28, 2013

 

Now is the winter of Christian discontent in Arab Middle Eastern countries. In all those countries, Christians have been suffering a sad fate: killings; torture; rape; abduction; forced conversion to Islam; seizure of homes and property; and bombings of churches, Christian institutions, and schools, and Christian businesses. All too many well-meaning individuals and group have swallowed the fallacious Palestinian Narrative of Victimhood in the contemporary Middle East and fail to recognize that the Christians living there are the real victims. It was fitting that Pope Francis on December 26, 2013 urged people to speak out about the discrimination and violence that Christians were suffering; "injustice must be denounced and eliminated." For some time the puzzling question has been why human rights groups, non-governmental organizations, and mainstream Western churches have been so completely or relatively silent on the issue of the persecution of Christians, individuals, and groups rooted in their societies and loyal to them.

 

On December 10, 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion." In the Arab countries today, this worthy principle does not apply to Christians or to Jews. The world is aware that since 1948 Jews have almost completely departed from those countries and only a small number remain. It is less aware that Christian communities, many living in fear, have also been leaving or fleeing or forced to leave their countries. With 12.8 million (3.8% of the total population) estimated in the whole Middle East region, those communities now constitute less than 1% of the world's Christian population. Even the figures reported in the mainstream Western media of Christians in Arab countries are wildly overstated. The Pew Research Center report of December 2011, corrected February 2013, on Global Christianity provides what appears to be an objective statistical summary of present reality. Taking just three of the countries in the report, the estimates are as follows. Egypt has a Christian population of 4.2 million (5.3% of the population) ; Syria has 1.0 million (5.2%); and Iraq 270,000 (0.9%). Of these 43.5% are Catholics, 43% are Orthodox, and 13.5% are Protestant. These figures have to be put into the context of the history of the Middle East. The Christians suffering today are the descendants of the oldest Christian communities in the world. In the early years of Islamic rule, Christian scholars and doctors played a considerable role in the life of Middle East countries. Monks translated medical, scientific, and philosophical texts into Arabic. But for four centuries, until the early 16th century, Christians were persecuted and massacred. Under the Ottoman Empire from that point on Christians, as well as Jews, were treated as second-class citizens…

 

It is a poignant commentary that this Christmas period should have witnessed attacks and outbreaks of hostility against Christians. These were particularly violent in Iraq… [which has] already been the scene of killing of the Archbishop of Mosul in 2008, the kidnappings of clerics in 2005 and 2006, and attack on a Catholic Church in Baghdad in 2010 and an outdoor market that killed 58 people. An Islamist group affiliated with al-Qaeda termed the 2010 attack as involving a "legitimate target." In Christmas 2013 there were further senseless terrorists actions, especially against Christians. These included three bombings in Christian areas, including a car bombing in the Dora section of Baghdad as worshippers were leaving the Christian service; 38 were reported killed. Egypt is embroiled in its internal hostilities between the military group now in control and the forces of the Muslim Brotherhood and armed jihadists and supporters of the deposed President Mohamed Morsi, that have killed hundreds of people and led to the imprisonment of thousands. Though Egyptian Coptic Christians are not central to this conflict, they have been persecuted. It is true that Copts were largely sympathetic to the overthrow of Morsi. It was perhaps also impolitic for the Coptic Pope Tawadros II to appear on television with General Abdel Sisi, who removed Morsi from office. Yet these did not justify the savage attacks by Islamists against the Orthodox Christian Copts. Since the 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, more than a hundred Christians have been kidnapped. So far in 2013, the Islamist violence in Egypt resulted in more than 200 churches attacked and 43 totally destroyed. In addition, discrimination and violence has been frequently exercised against homes and businesses of Christians who feel imperiled. One Coptic Church in Minya province that had stood for a hundred years was burned. The Church of the Archangel Michael, outside of Cairo, was burned in August 2013.

 

Resolutions and calls for action in Middle East affairs are now frequent. Perhaps the call that is most urgent today is for the protection of Christians who should be accorded equality in law and culture in Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East. The mainstream churches and the groups purportedly interested in human rights ought to heed the plea of Pope Francis.

 

                                                  Contents

 

Palestinian Christ Persecuted by Israel?: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Dec. 27, 2013 —  On the most important week of the year for Christian faith, you would think that churches around the world and the Western media would bear witness to the accelerated persecution of Christians in Arab lands by the forces of Islam.

Christmas Brings Little Hope for Syria's Christians: Alaa al-Halabi, Al-Monitor, Dec. 23, 2013 — According to Christian clergy, the terrible damage wrought by the Syrian crisis is not only limited to Christians

Christmas—A Time of Fear for Christians in Iraq: Leah Barkoukis, Town Hall, Dec. 25., 2013 — As Christians around the world prepare to openly celebrate Christmas this year, many believers in the Middle East will not be so lucky.

Book Review: 'The Global War on Christians,' by John L. Allen Jr.: Philip Jenkins , Wall Street Journal, Dec. 19, 2013 — On Oct. 31, 2010, a dozen Islamist gunmen stormed the Catholic cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, in Baghdad. Striking during a service, they butchered some 60 priests and worshipers, notionally in revenge for insults to Islam.

What the Middle East Would Be Like Without Christians: Christa Case Bryant, Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 22, 2013 — From Iraq to Syria to Egypt, Christians are under siege. How their faith – including at a Bethlehem church – sustains them and how their decline is altering the region.

 

 

 

 

 

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