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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christians persecuted around the world, Christians silent

Thursday night is Christmas, but in much of the world, and especially in much of this region, it's not likely to be much of a celebration. Christians are persecuted in many parts of the world, and especially in the Middle East. Here's Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe talking about the Christian Copts in Egypt.
On May 31, 2008, a band of Bedouin Muslims stormed Abu Fana, destroying a small church and burning the monastery’s farm. Nine monks and monastery employees were wounded, and four others were abducted. “One of the [abducted] monks had his arm and legs broken,’’ the Egyptian lawyer and human-rights activist Nagib Gabriel later testified. “The other two were tied together with ropes, suspended from a tree, and severely beaten with hoses and sticks. Afterwards, they were placed - upside down and still tied together - on the back of a donkey and shoved off. The monks were further commanded to spit on the cross and proclaim the shahada [the Muslim credo that “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet’’], beaten every time they refused, and even threatened with death.’’

Two millennia after Jesus was born in the Middle East, Christians living there often suffer greatly for their faith. Egypt is home to the oldest and largest Christian population in the region, yet the indignities heaped on them are many: They are prevented from building or repairing their churches, barred from many government positions, and treated with disdain when they seek help from the police or the courts. In the wake of the Abu Fana assault, the government arrested two Coptic brothers, who were held for 14 months and released only after the monastery agreed not to press criminal charges against those who had actually attacked the monastery.

When President Obama spoke in Cairo last June, he noted mildly that “among some Muslims, there’s a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of somebody else’s faith.’’ But there was nothing mild about the violence at Abu Fana, or about other recent attacks in Egypt, including the vandalizing of a Christian center in Ezbet Boshra-East in June, the torching of a Coptic church in Ezbet Basilious in July, or the looting and destruction of Christian-owned businesses in Abou Shousha and Farshoot last month.

What is most tragic about the plight of the Copts, however, is that they comprise only a fraction of the estimated 200 million Christians worldwide who face persecution because of their religion.
Hebrew University's Alex Grobman writes of the silence of Christian leaders in the face of the persecution that 'Palestinian' Christians face from their Muslim neighbors (Hat Tip: Daled Amos).
Justus Reid Weiner, an international human rights lawyer, warns that the present Christian Arab leadership is not telling the truth about the real conditions in these areas, and who is really responsible for perpetuating the anguish of Arab Christians. The “patriarchs and archbishops of Christian Arab denominations,” he says, “who are currently deceiving the international community, are self-interested people. They collaborate with the Muslim perpetrators of intimidation and violence. Against all evidence they claim that the Christians Arabs are living comfortable and prosperous lives. In fact the present situation is growing worse by the day.””2

Though these false accusations are not new, there is a danger they could change the way some of Israel’s Christian supporters view the Arab/Israeli conflict.3 That is why we need to examine what is really transpiring in these areas.

Samir Qumsiyeh, owner of the private Al-Mahd (Nativity) TV station in Beit-Shahur, warned that, “15 years from now there will be no Christians left in Bethlehem. Then you will need a torch to find a Christian here.”4 Population increases in the West Bank have been generally flat. In 1967 there were 40,000 Christians in the area; in 2006 there were approximately 45,800.5

The cause for the concern is the Islamic success at the municipal elections, 6 and the Muslim campaign of “intimidation” to force Christians to leave their homes and relinquish their land. After the Palestinian Authority (PA) took control of Bethlehem in 1994, they altered the municipal boundaries of the city and the predominately Christian suburbs of Beit Jallah and Beit Sahour to incorporate the 30,000 Muslims residing in the nearby refugee camps of Dehaisheh, El-Ayda and El-Azeh, and thousands of residents living near the Ta’amarah Bedouin tribe. These boundary modifications created sweeping changes in the demographic balance of Bethlehem.7

At the same time, Muslims were persuaded to move from nearby Hebron to Bethlehem where large-scale Muslim housing was being planned. In 1990, Christians comprised 60 percent of the population of Bethlehem.

By 2001 they were 20 percent of the population, resulting in a significant effect on local elections. As a result, PA chairman Yasser Arafat appointed a Muslim as Governor for the Bethlehem District, and the bureaucratic, security and political apparatus was purged of Christians.8
It gets worse. Read the whole thing.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I spent much of today on a special IDF briefing for bloggers. The briefing took place in northern Israel, and we went close to both the Syrian and Lebanese borders. One of the things I'm going to discuss later - because it was only today that I began to appreciate the extent of it - is the way in which the local Arab population is intimidated into remaining silent about its plight and is forced to blame their plight on Israel for fear of making things worse - much worse. This applies to Christians as well as to minority sects within Islam. The extent to which there is no freedom in much of this region is simply being ignored in the West.

And note something else. There's only country in this region that does not discriminate against Christians. Yes, you guessed it. Israel.


At 11:28 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The only country in the Middle East in which the Christian population is actually growing is Israel. Yet Israel remains a pariah in the West.

What could go wrong indeed

At 1:11 AM, Blogger Mr. Gerson said...

Real life is a parody. God has a sense of humour.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Ashan said...

Did you know that Bituah Leumi (Israel's Social Security) has advanced its benefits payments to December 23 because of the Christmas holiday? (http://www.btl.gov.il/English%20Homepage/About/News/Pages/ChristmasHoliday.aspx)

Ignorant and biased anti-Israel fools and tools, please take notice. These payments are for every Israeli citizen who qualifies, no matter the religious affiliation.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Abu Yussif said...

i love this country.


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