Why can’t MidEast Christians be allies of the Jews?

At the Mass following the October Vatican synod (Photo: A Pierodomenico, Reuters)

The death of 52 people two days ago when terrorists stormed a Catholic church in Baghdadwas another tragic reminder of why the leadership of Middle Eastern Christians needs to stand up against Muslim fundamentalism – together with their natural allies, the Jews.

Jews reacted with shock and disappointment when patriarchs summoned by the Pope to the Vatican on 15 October to discuss the exodus of Christians from the Middle East called instead on Israel to end its “occupation” of Arab lands.

The synod’s message said that “re­course to theological and biblical positions which use the word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable,” implying that Israel uses the Bible to justify its treatment of Palestinians.

Most egregious of all was Greek Catholic Melkite Archbishop Cyril Bustros. Bustros, who is in the running to become Archbishop of Beirut, contradicted the teachings of the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council and echoed Islamic supremacist propaganda by saying that divine promises made to Israel according to Jewish and Christian Scripture “were nullified by Christ”.

Robert Spencer points out that Archbishop Bustros was contradicting an early statement of his own, made in 2009: “the doctrines of Islam dictate war against unbelievers.”

Bustros was in good company: Emmanuel III Delly, the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, who in 2007 said this: “Christians are killed, chased out of their homes before the very eyes of those who are supposed to be responsible for their safety.” In 2008, he said: “The situation in some parts of Iraq, is disastrous and tragic. Life is a Calvary: there is no peace or security… Everyone is afraid of kidnapping.”

But at the Vatican’s synod, Delly said this: “The population of this country, crossed by two famous rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, is 24 million, all Muslims, with whom we live peacefully and freely….Christians are good with their fellow Muslims and in Iraq there is mutual respect among them.”

Both patriarchs know full well that Christians are on the run from the Middle East. Forty percent of refugees from Iraq have been Christian. The Lebanese pay mere lip-service to Maronite power in a state where the Christians are a dwindling minority. In Egypt the Copts are marginalised, singled out for periodic oppression, abduction and and murder. The only place where the Christian population has grown is Israel: there were 34,000 Christians in Israel in 1949 and there are now 154,000.

The bishops at the Vatican synod squandered another opportunity unequivocally to condemn Islamist persecution and oppression, and the failure of Arab governments to protect them, preferring to exercise their knee-jerk impulse to blame the Zionist bogeyman for all the troubles of the Middle East.

At a time when all non-Muslim minorities are being driven from the region, Christians should stand united with Jews against Islamist oppression. They should realise that they are the natural allies of the Jews, who have already been as good as ‘ethnically cleansed’ from the Arab world.

So why do Christian leaders behave as they do?

Spencer gives three main reasons: one is that eastern Christians are desperate to show off their credentials as Arabs. Christians were among the pioneers of Arab nationalism because they saw it as their exit strategy from their inferior status as dhimmis. And the touchpaper of Arab nationalism is anti-Zionism.

The second reason is that Bustros is anxious to reassure Muslims of his suitability to become the next Archbishop of Beirut.

The third is simply reflexive dhimmitude – Middle Eastern Christians will not kick the habit overnight of centuries of kow-towing to their Muslim masters. Historically, it was a survival mechanism: often they redirected Muslim hostility towards their fellow dhimmi Jews – hence the frequent anti-Jewish bloodlibels in Muslim lands, an import of Christian antisemitism.

One could add a further reason: theological antisemitism. The Eastern Catholics, unlike their Western Catholic counterparts, did not agree to the declaration of the Second Vatican Council absolving the Jews of the original sin of ‘killing Christ’.

However, the pusillanimous Christian leadership may be out of sync with the rank-and-file. Last week, the press carried inspiring reports of one young Copt, who risks being ostracised and imprisoned as a conscientious objector to military service in the Egyptian army because he did not want to turn his weapon against Israelis.

Maikel Nabil Sanad told Ynet News:‘I am pro-Israel.’

“From a young age I read a lot about the Israeli-Arab conflict. I understood the Arab media hid facts that support Israel. I tried to contact Israeli activists and started asking them questions, such as, ‘Is it true that Israel is a militaristic state?’ or, ‘Is it true that Israel wants to expand and reach the Nile? That’s how I learned. I understood a lot about the state, society and its laws. Many Arabs living in Israel told me how they are really treated and how much they prefer living in Israel above any Arab state. I also read about Israeli pacifist organizations.”

“The Israeli nation must know there are many Egyptians who support it, that we love Israel (my emphasis) and support its right to exist. The picture painted by the media that all Egyptians hate Israel is false. This picture is not correct, and I want to make that clear to you.”

And so one young Christian is prepared to take great risks to buck the trend. Would the Christian leadership had one tenth of his courage.

Christians and Jews in the Muslim line of fire

The closing of the Christian womb (or why Arab Christians have already had their time in the sun)


  • It is time to build a Hebrew-speaking Christian buffer state
    between Israel and Syria, including parts of Lebanon, Golan, Jordan, Cyprus,
    and Sinai. Christians in Arab countries are hostages. The first
    Christians were Hebrew Good Samaritans. And these hostages are Hebrew
    Christians. Now that we know the Gospel was written in Hebrew and not
    colonial Grecian or colonial Arambaic, we know that Paul wrote his
    Epostiles to the Hebrew Diaspora, who became the first Christians.
    The Christians of Lebanon have been under Syrian occupation since 1974
    and have departed only nominally. The only way we would push back
    abominal millenia of Islamic and quasi-Christian heresy is if we
    establish a Christian bastion in the Holy Land. This bastion would be
    the friend and ally of Israel, a rebirth of the Good Samaritan
    homeland which is the essential halo force field around Israel for the
    Rapture and Revelation. You may ask why should we break up
    established countries? They are no such thing. The French still want
    to establish a Greater Seleucitanian Syria out of Iraq, Jordan, Turkey
    and Lebanon, which has always been the object of their chemical
    industrial feedstock policies. The French (children of the evil
    Robbespierre) and the Russians (children of the evil Magog Obshchina)
    took the Middle Eastern Christians into their heresies before the
    Evangelical Missionaries could make contact. And with such huge
    colonial armies against them, the poor Gospel Missions never had a
    chance. But the Evangelicals are the true brothers of these Ancient
    Believers and we must project America's Glorious Military might to
    correct these injustices. Brethren, we must act quickly for the End
    Times are near. We must begin by demanding Turkey allow full
    evangelical freedom in the remaining parts of its empire. Turkey is
    beholden to America and we cannot tolerate their failure to support
    Israel and Iraq any longer. America and Israel are Turkey's only
    friends and Turkey must not be allowed any other choice but to convert
    to the mission of the Gospel. Move forth Glorious brethren for blessed
    are those who would defend the Lord's people: Both the Ancient Hebrew
    Christians and their still-Jewish brethren.

  • As usual the press picks on the most sensationist story – what one bishop said out of 250. They made no attempt to put Bustros's comments in the context of the Aoun letter.
    However, my point still stands about the pusillanimity of eastern bishops. At least the Vatican was trying to make the right noises.

  • That particular sentence was taken from the official conclusions of the synod, the Vatican message and only binding document that was published on the 23rd. What Bustros or other bishops have said is not included in the Vatican official message. That sentence has nothing to do with Israel, but rather with Jewish (including but not limited to Israeli dialogue partners) and Christian dialogue. It seems to me it recommends to BOTH parties to avoid the use of theology to attack each other, and is directed both at Christians and Jews who might do that. Those who do it the most these days are Arab Anglicans such as Sabeel (liberation theology).

    Regarding Bustros, he was only one of some 250 bishops gathered there. He might be reassigned to Beirut as Spencer says, and therefore he feels he has to align with Hizballah's Christian ally, Michel Aoun, who is devoted to Hizballah and who wrote a letter to the synod exactly in the same spirit as Bustros' statement (I'll have to look at the letter again to see if his were not exactly the same words as Bustros').

    Interestingly, nobody mentioned Aoun's letter – and therefore Hizballah's interfering with the synod.

    And you didn't hear about the "Christians assassinated in Iraq" either, which is specifically mentioned in the official concluding document of the synod.
    The problem is that the first to report on the synod, Reuters and AP, have distorted it and this is what everyone is going by, including Spencer.
    This is not to say that there was no mention of Palestinian suffering and Israeli suffering, but not in the way it was reflected in the press.

  • I don't think you should forget that Christianity in the Middle East is traditionally very theologically hostile to Jews and Judaism (Damascus blood libel was instiigated by Christians)–so Christians are often anti-Israel even when it is against their own interest

  • The synod might not have intended its message to be taken that way, as you say, Sylvia – but Bustros seems to have imposed his own interpretation, tantamount to 'replacement theology':

    ‘The Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands,’ Monsignor Cyril Salim Bustros, Greek Melkite archbishop of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Boston, Massachusetts, and president of the ‘Commission for the Message,’ said at Saturday’s Vatican press conference.

    ‘We Christians cannot speak of the “promised land” as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people – all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people. Even if the head of the Israeli state is Jewish, the future is based on democracy. The Palestinian refugees will eventually come back and this problem will have to be solved,’ the Lebanese-born Bustros said.

  • (there is also a clause that deaLS WITH cHRISTIAN-mUSLIM DIALOGUE) – not in the paragraph that deals with politics

    should read:
    (there is also a clause that deals with Christian-Muslim dialogue) – these are not the paragraphs that deal with politics

  • "The synod's message said that "re­course to theological and biblical positions which use the word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable," implying that Israel uses the Bible to justify its treatment of Palestinians."

    I don't see it that way.

    This sentence is contained in the third paragraph of the article concerning Christian-Jewish dialogue (there is also a clause that deaLS WITH cHRISTIAN-mUSLIM DIALOGUE) – not in the paragraph that deals with politics.

    It is time for us to commit ourselves together to a sincere, just and permanent peace. Both Christians and Jews are called to this task by the Word of God. In his Word, we are invited us to listen to the voice of God "who speaks of peace": "Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his holy ones" (Ps 85:9). Recourse to theological and biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable. On the contrary, recourse to religion must lead every person to see the face of God in others and to treat them according to their God-given prerogatives and God's commandments, namely, according to God's bountiful goodness, mercy, justice and love for us.

  • One simple question should asked when was last time the christian were targeted and killed in Iraq before 2003?

    All these things came with invaders and occupier, we all knew Al-Qaida was not in Iraq they came with US and they flourish with them inside Iraq.


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