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November 02, 2010

Baghdad Church Invasion Highlights Christianity’s Handicaps in Middle East

The murder of a few dozen Christians at the Church of Our Salvation in Baghdad on Nov. 1, 2010, has directed attention to problems that were barely referenced in the final “official” statement issued by the Synod of Bishops from the Middle East last month – unrelenting hostility toward Christians on the part of Muslim extremists in the region and the failure of government officials to protect the rights of religious and ethnic minorities in their countries.

This is not the first time Christian statements about life in the Middle East been overtaken by events. In 2004 and 2005 a number of mainline Protestant churches passed resolutions condemning Israel and portraying it as a singular obstacle to peace in the Middle East. In sum, these churches affirmed a narrative offered by Sabeel in 2005 – “End the occupation and the violence will end.” Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 only to witness an electoral victory from Hamas in early 2006 and an attack by this organization that summer. People who bought the story told by these churches had no way to predict, explain or understand events as they happened.

A similar scenario has played itself out again. A group of Catholic bishops in the Middle East meet at the Vatican and affirm a statement that gives light treatment to Muslim violence and hostility toward Christians, Jews and Israel but levels direct and vocal criticism at Israel the Jewish state. The underlying testimony offered by the bishops about Muslim hostility toward Christians – and the theology that underpins this hostility – is included in the proceedings but not referenced in the final message, which speaks in bland and diffuse terms about the rights of citizenship.

And then, a few days later, terrorists in Iraq invade a Catholic church, murder the security guards, then the priest, and then terrorize the worshippers before killing many of them as well. Before the massacre, the terrorists – members of Al Qaeda – threatened to exterminate Christians in Iraq.

This is no joke.

Christians use to number more than a million in Iraq, but in recent years, their numbers have dwindled to less than approximately 400,000. This type of hostility is what drove many Christians to support Saddam Hussein when he was in power. He was a murderous dictator, but he kept Christians relatively safe. Now that he is gone, Christians are vulnerable.

Fortunately, Pope Benedict was able to do what the bishops from the Middle East could not – forcefully and unapologetically condemn an act of violence against Christians in the Middle East. And to its credit, the World Council of Churches also condemned the attack, which took place on the eve of a “consultation” with representatives World Islamic Call Society (WICS).

Neither of these condemnations, however, mentioned exactly who perpetrated the attacks. Imagine if these attacks were perpetrated in Israel -- by Jews.

Clearly, there is a problem in the Middle East and it can no longer be ignored – the mistreatment of a Christian minority by Muslim extremists in the region. It’s a problem that has manifested itself in Palestinian society, in Egypt and in Iraq.

Christian institutions that cannot bring themselves to address this problem in a direct manner cannot claim to offer up credible words of peace and justice to the region.

Pointing this problems out may make interfaith dialogue with Muslims difficult and uncomfortable, but what good is dialogue if difficult topics cannot be addressed? Muslim leaders have not refrained from making their complaints known.

And when Christians talk about Israel and Judaism, they speak in particularly forceful terms, in part because they know they can get away with it.

The math is pretty obvious. Offend Jewish sensibilities and you'll elicit a protest from the ADL. Offend Muslim sensibilities and you might need to dissappear.

The choice is simple.

Speak truth to power.

Or cower.

Posted by dvz at November 2, 2010 12:23 PM

Comments

The terrorism against the Christian Arameans (Syriacs) in Iraq must stop!
The Arameans are persecuted, expelled and murdered.
The Americans and Europeans can not look away.

Posted by: sder at November 2, 2010 10:16 PM

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