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April 09, 2014

Prodromou Ignores Christian Safety and Freedom in Israel

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Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou, Assistant Professor at Boston University, Visiting Professor at Tufts University, and former vice chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, wrongly identified Israel as one of the countries in the Middle East where Christians are persecuted and the survival of Christianity is in danger.

Dr. Prodromou (photograph above) did this during a presentation titled “Myth Busting and Reality Checking,” which she gave at a conference in Brookline, Mass., on March 28, 2014.

During her talk, Prodromou stated that the current persecution and cleansing of Christians in Syria reflects broader realities in the Middle East, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In an ironic twist considering the title of her talk, she presented as “myth” the reality that Israel protects Christians and that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christianity is growing.

Dr. Prodromou was one of several participants in the annual mission consultation co-sponsored by the Missions Institute of Orthodox Christianity and the Boston Theological Institute International Mission and Ecumenism Faculty Committee of Boston University. The meeting was held at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA. The subject of this year’s consultation was “Christians in Syria at the Crossroads, The Middle East: The Future of Ecumenism in an Age of Strife.”

A common theme in each of the presentations was the difficulty of addressing the need for ecumenical solidarity among Christians in the midst of the current persecution of Christians in the Middle East. This is a very real need and the violent cleansing of Christians in most of the region is a stark reality.

However, Israel is not one of the countries where Christians are persecuted and Christianity faces extinction.

In the case of Israel, it is Prodromou’s claims that are the myths; myths disproved by a number of realities. As stated in articles on CAMERA's website, the Statistical Abstract of Israel reports that in 1949, there were approximately 34,000 Christians living in Israel. This figure was not broken down by ethnicity, but the vast majority of these people were Arab Christians. At the end of 2011, there were approximately, 125,000 Arab Christians living in Israel. This is a 268 percent increase in Christian population since 1949!

So much for the myth that Christianity faces extinction in Israel.

After declaring it to be a myth that Israel protects Christians, Prodromou claimed that the reality is that in Israel, Christians are caught between extremists. This statement implies that Jews treat Christians the same way Muslims treat them – a “reality” that is not supported by facts.

In reality, Christian holy sites have always been respected and protected by the Israeli government. Following a recent wave of vandalism at various holy sites, both President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu issued statements condemning those attacks and promising increased security.

So much for the myth that Christians are not protected in Israel.

Indeed, Israel protects religious sites and freedom of religion for others. The exception to religious freedom in Israel is the restriction of Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, which is controlled by Muslim authorities. Jews caught praying or worshipping on their holiest site are arrested and forcibly removed by Israeli police, who have been instructed to prevent any occurrence that could incite violence.

Dr. Prodromou must know about the activities of Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth, but she chose not to include him in her discussion. Prime Minister Netanyahu has recently recognized Father Nadaf for his proactive support of Israel, which includes encouraging Israeli Christians to integrate into Israeli society and to enlist in the Israel Defense Force.

Christians who want to enlist in the IDF are welcomed by the IDF and by the government of Israel. At a recent meeting with Father Nadaf, Prime Minister Netanyahu said:

Members of the Christian community must be allowed to enlist in the IDF. You are loyal citizens who want to defend the state and I salute you and support you. We will not tolerate threats against you and we will act to enforce the law with a heavy hand against those who persecute you. I will not tolerate attempts to crumble the state from within. The State of Israel and the Prime Minister stand alongside you.

Again, so much for the myth that Christians are not protected in Israel. The reality is that Christian enlistment in the IDF tripled in 2013, and 500 young Christians volunteered for Israeli National Service programs. Young people don’t volunteer to serve and fight for a country in which they are persecuted.

The reality is that Israel protects Christians.

The reality is that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christianity is growing.

In light of the very real dangers facing Christians throughout most of the Middle East, it is rather unfortunate that Prodromou diluted her effort to bring much needed attention to their plight by confusing reality and myth when it comes to Israel.

(CAMERA's attempts to reach Prodromou by email and phone have been unsuccessful.)

Posted by dvz at April 9, 2014 03:52 PM

Comments

Just checked the site for the commission that the professor worked for and found nothing about any such behavior that she alleges -- contrary to the inference one can erroneously draw from the photo. She wrongly blames Israel, but unless you have evidence to the contrary, you are wrongly tying that commission in with her remarks.

Posted by: John at April 9, 2014 05:41 PM

Just checked the site for the commission that the professor worked for and found nothing about any such behavior that she alleges -- contrary to the inference one can erroneously draw from the photo. She wrongly blames Israel, but unless you have evidence to the contrary, you are wrongly tying that commission in with her remarks.

Posted by: John at April 9, 2014 05:42 PM

I take exception to the very notion Christians are not safe in Israel. In fact (and in deed), Israel is the safest country for Christians in the Middle-east. Christian communities grow in Israel, contrary to other Middle-east countries. Christians are part of the Israel fabric and society. If there are ANY threats to Christians in Israel, it is from rockets launched by terrorists outside the country. I wish Dr. Prodromou would reconsider her assertions.

Posted by: Mark Schneider at April 10, 2014 10:13 AM

I agree that it is wrong to group Israel with Gaza, where Christian bookstores are bombed, or Egypt, where oppression of the Copts is quite real. But in cities like Nazareth, where Muslims are now the majority, Christians are feeling a bit helpless, and the Israeli police are reluctant to intervene when, say, Christians emerging from church are stoned by Muslim children. There has to be a way to discuss this without repeating that everything is just fine with the Christian communities in Israel.

Posted by: Wendy at April 10, 2014 04:21 PM

Please get your facts straight,this is why anti-semitism is spreading,people are listening to and believing people like her and spreading the same misinformation which results in misguided opinions of what is really happening in Israel.

Posted by: Lionel Thwaits at April 11, 2014 02:32 AM

Corrections: Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou is NOT a professor at Boston University. A friend of mine that attended the Conference shared this with me: "The entire conference was on the persecution of Christians by Muslims. It was really heartbreaking. There was a film on the destruction of the Iraqi Christian community. There was a speech by a bishop from Syria whose people have been forced into exile or murdered. There was vigorous discussion of whether Christians in Syria, those who remain, should arm themselves. Members of the exile community were in tears as they discussed the murders of their relatives, forced conversions of girls, etc. There was NO discussion of Israel in the conference, except for Dr. Prodromou’s brief reference. But I’d say that nobody picked up on this point. The conference was all about persecution by Muslims in Iraq and Syria."

Posted by: Alejandro Botta at May 5, 2014 11:04 AM

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