Saturday, December 21, 2013
The wrong Christmas message
Shame on the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, for taking the occasion of his annual "Christmas message" to blame Israel for the plight of Christians in the Middle East. It is precisely at this juncture -- when the persecution of Christians in the Muslim-Arab world is not merely increasing at a frightening rate, but is becoming more blatant and bloodier -- that the chief Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land should be warning against the religious war being waged against his brethren.
After all, churches in every Islam-dominated country are being destroyed; Christian women (including nuns) are being raped, men (including priests) are being beheaded; and the property of those who would escape this fate is being confiscated.
Meanwhile, liberal Christians in the West have been looking the other way. Fearing accusations of Islamophobia, they prefer promoting "interfaith dialogue" to protesting the abominations being perpetrated against their own. There is also an element of "out of sight, out of mind" at work. Those "other" Christians live in faraway lands and speak foreign languages. This makes it easier to forget about them and go about the business of decorating trees, shopping for gifts, stuffing stockings and singing carols.
But there is no excuse for "His Beatitude" Archbishop Twal -- a Jordanian-born Palestinian responsible for the tens of thousands of Catholics living in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Gaza, Jordan and Cyprus -- to view the victimization of his fellow Christians as anything other than a concerted effort on the part of radical Muslims to subjugate, convert, banish or wipe out his co-religionists.
Nevertheless, he cloaked his holiday message in diplo-speak, based on false premises.
"The situation in the Middle East is becoming more complex and dramatic," he told reporters. "The scenarios in Syria and Iraq can be repeated elsewhere, as seen in Egypt and Libya. The instability affects everyone, but especially our faithful who are tempted to emigrate. In Gaza our people are suffering from the effects of the embargo imposed by Israel and even Egypt. To prevent the conflict from spreading in the whole region, a 'sustainable' cease-fire in Syria should be immediately established and prevent any entry of outside weapons. As the Syrian problem cannot be resolved by the force of arms, we call on all political leaders to assume the responsibility for finding a mutually acceptable political solution that will end the senseless violence, and uphold respect for the dignity of people. … The Israeli-Palestinian talks resumed in late July, after three years of interruption. But the efforts are hampered by the continuous building of Israeli settlements. As long as this problem is not resolved, the people of our region will suffer."
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has nothing whatsoever to do with the assault on Christians in the Middle East. And the mere mention of Israeli settlements in this context takes the art of lying to a whole new level.
Even Britain's Prince Charles -- who has spent the last two decades trying "to build bridges between Islam and Christianity to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding" -- has come to grasp this. On Tuesday, at a reception for Middle East Christians at his official Clarence House residence, he said, "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."
Israel doesn't come into it at all, other than being an ally under similar attack for its biblical values.
Twal knows this all too well. He is also aware that Israel is the only country in the Middle East whose Christian population is growing. His behavior is the kind of collusion with the enemy that should not be tolerated.
"Turning the other cheek" may be a Christian tenet. But offering an aggressor someone else's cheek as a method of self-protection is sinful.