Just like the Jews before them, Christians flee

Riots flare up in Egypt following an attack on a Coptic church in Cairo

As no prominent Christian leader is prepared to speak up on behalf of the Christians fleeing Arab lands – just like the Jews before them – this task falls to Michael Oren, Israel’s envoy to the US, writing in the Wall St Journal (with thanks: Denis; Lily):

The church in Bethlehem had survived more than 1,000 years, through wars and conquests, but its future now seemed in jeopardy. Spray-painted all over its ancient stone walls were the Arabic letters for Hamas. The year was 1994 and the city was about to pass from Israeli to Palestinian control. I was meeting with the church’s clergy as an Israeli government adviser on inter-religious affairs. They were despondent but too frightened to file a complaint. The same Hamas thugs who had desecrated their sanctuary were liable to take their lives.

The trauma of those priests is now commonplace among Middle Eastern Christians. Their share of the region’s population has plunged from 20% a century ago to less than 5% today and falling. In Egypt, 200,000 Coptic Christians fled their homes last year after beatings and massacres by Muslim extremist mobs. Since 2003, 70 Iraqi churches have been burned and nearly a thousand Christians killed in Baghdad alone, causing more than half of this million-member community to flee. Conversion to Christianity is a capital offense in Iran, where last month Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death. Saudi Arabia outlaws private Christian prayer.

As 800,000 Jews were once expelled from Arab countries, so are Christians being forced from lands they’ve inhabited for centuries.

The only place in the Middle East where Christians aren’t endangered but flourishing is Israel. Since Israel’s founding in 1948, its Christian communities (including Russian and Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians and Protestants) have expanded more than 1,000%.

Christians are prominent in all aspects of Israeli life, serving in the Knesset, the Foreign Ministry and on the Supreme Court. They are exempt from military service, but thousands have volunteered and been sworn in on special New Testaments printed in Hebrew. Israeli Arab Christians are on average more affluent than Israeli Jews and better-educated, even scoring higher on their SATs.

This does not mean that Israeli Christians do not occasionally encounter intolerance. But in contrast to elsewhere in the Middle East where hatred of Christians is ignored or encouraged, Israel remains committed to its Declaration of Independence pledge to “ensure the complete equality of all its citizens irrespective of religion.” It guarantees free access to all Christian holy places, which are under the exclusive aegis of Christian clergy. When Muslims tried to erect a mosque near the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Israeli government interceded to preserve the sanctity of the shrine.

Israel abounds with such sites (Capernaum, the Hill of the Beatitudes, the birth place of St. John the Baptist) but the state constitutes only part of the Holy Land. The rest, according to Jewish and Christian tradition, is in Gaza and the West Bank. Christians in those areas suffer the same plight as their co-religionists throughout the region.

Since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, half the Christian community has fled. Christmas decorations and public displays of crucifixes are forbidden. In a December 2010 broadcast, Hamas officials exhorted Muslims to slaughter their Christian neighbors. Rami Ayad, owner of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore, was murdered, his store reduced to ash. This is the same Hamas with which the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank recently signed a unity pact.

Little wonder, then, that the West Bank is also hemorrhaging Christians. Once 15% of the population, they now make up less than 2%. Some have attributed the flight to Israeli policies that allegedly deny Christians economic opportunities, stunt demographic growth, and impede access to the holy sites of Jerusalem. In fact, most West Bank Christians live in cities such as Nablus, Jericho and Ramallah, which are under Palestinian Authority control. All those cities have experienced marked economic growth and sharp population increase—among Muslims.

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  • Trish….your raciast slip is showing. "PA thugs" How would you feel if someone uses pejorative narrative about Jews? It doesn't add to a discussion and is a clear picture of someone that will never ever never consider other ideas.

    I'm the retired AF pilot and officer that posted before you. I was there without a real dog in the fight. I am telling you that neither side is clean is this mess. After retiring I joined christian humanitarian groups as their security adviser. What drwho said about homes being bulldozed is still going on in some places. Not as rampant as it was but it is still happening.

    To me, what I saw is very reminiscent of south Africa thirty five years ago. From a military standpoint, it is like an ant attacking an elephant. The Palestinians are the ant and Israel is the elephant. With the USA backing they are actually a herd of elephants. Stone throwers are never going to defeat When an AC 130 (spooky) shows up the earth trembles and we will take care of business.

    Trish you need to face the truth of war in the world and that truth is that nobody is pure in a war.

  • "The net is filled with houses being bulldozed." Well, there you go! It's true because it's on the Internet! What an idiot! No house has been bulldozed for terror activities in over a decade. Houses DO get torn down if built without a permit, but guess what? They do that in California, London and Paris also. More Palestinian Christians have lost their homes, their land, and their sense of security to PA thugs of all alphabet soups of terror groups than to any Israeli bulldozers. Arab Christians in Jerusalem LOATHE the PA and the Muslim Arabs for their corruption, thievery and mistreatment of Christian Arabs.

  • bataween exactly…it was war and it was done to Christians. The same things that you now attribute to Arabs. Do you think it still is not war? You are blind if you think it is still not war. Do you think that both sides are not doing evil things to each other? Apparently you've never witnessed war. I can tell you with certainty that the people of the USA would fight very hard if another people starting trying to take our land, I would be fighting back.

    In 1947 the partition plan was drawn up and Israel was granted around 6% to 7% of land. Ya think they have exceeded that agreement, ya think they are still expanding? They have decided to disobey the plan. Hm? That usually doesn't work well with international law. You think there aren't people that still remember the atrocities of that war? Well there are those people and they are PO'd! Your position that now that Arabs are doing it that it is bad but when Israel did it then it was ok. That is an odd logical position.

    I was still flying in 1967 and this is true …"“The former Commander of the Air Force, General Ezer Weitzman, regarded as a hawk, stated that there was ‘no threat of destruction’ but that the attack on Egypt, Jordan and Syria was nevertheless justified so that Israel could ‘exist according the scale, spirit, and quality."

    Although I am retired, I still talk officers around the world. Once the cold ended, pilots that were once enemies found a camaraderie (another story). Anyhow it is worth telling you that the world is getting tired of the entire Israeli Palestinian conflict. It is not bringing stabilization to the middle east and the world is taking notice that Israel is practicing Apartheid and continued land expansion that is outside the original agreements.

    Senator J.William Fulbright (a man I once met) proposed that the USA would guarantee Israel’s security but Israel would retire to the borders of 1967. Guess what? Israel wouldn't accept it. My butt flew to protect, it was duty. But after a lot of reading, it is my conclusion that Israel is as much at fault as are the Arabs. Today I would tell my son to stand down before going to war for Israel.

    Flying high above, when I saw green lawns in the settlements but knew that others had to buy water from tankers, at inflated prices, it was a turning point for me.

    It seems as one writer said, Zionism says ‘Look here, God. We do not like exile. Take us back, and if you don’t, we’ll just roll up our sleeves and take ourselves back.’ Now I ask, is that for or against an oath?

    The people that I still know that deal with the middle east are telling me that the young people in Israel are not the war hawks and the young people are starting to consider that Zionism was…carried out as a pure colonialist act. Possibly their thoughts are being sculpted by new Israeli scholars that are looking back at history.

    If I were a Christian living in the area, I would leave because both sides can be nasty creatures of war. My American Evangelical brethren are brainwashed by the media and preachers of war. When I am in church I will tell them what I have seen first hand is not what they have been told.

  • Many of the incidents you list obviously took place in the context of the war in Jerusalem in 1948 and 1967.

    It is easy to produce a random list like you have done.

    I could play the same game as you and list 18 blood libels spread by Christians against Jews in the Ottoman empire resulting in RIots and DEATHS, not just injuries, but I will not stoop to your level.
    The issue is the treatment of Jews and Chrstians as minorities in the Arab world. It is a lie to infer that Christians are treated badly in Israel – on the contrary. It is the country in the middle east where Chrstian numbers are increasing.

  • Ok bataween I'll leave proselitisation out and since this is about fleeing and reasons why I'll just re-post a few of the things done to Christians. War stinks from both sides of the coin. How do I know about war??? My pay grade is above O-5 and I've been alive for a long time.

    Maybe you're not old enough to remember but I am. We are talking over 60 years of war and the list is much longer. So let's see if you have (the you know what's) to post the other side of the story.

    St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem. On 3 Feb. 1944 three Jews were surprised as they tried to set a bomb at the gate of St. George's Cathedral through which the British High Commissioner would pass on his way to Sunday service.

    French Catholic Ratisbonne School. On 20 Nov, 1947 Jews smashed the statue of the Virgin Mary in the enclosure.

    German Catholic Church of Jerusalem. On 16 Feb. 1948 Jews threw hand grenades into the yard of the the church.

    Dormito Abbey, Mt. Zion. Also on 16 Feb. 1948 a bomb was thrown by the Haganah into the garden barely missing two fathers.

    Zionists fired on Jerusalem from the Hebrew University, Hadassah Hospital and from two synagogues located in the Old City.

    On Mt. Zion in Jerusalem Israeli forces first seized then looted various churches and convents. Gold and silver religious objects were taken and the churches and convents turned into military posts. The soldiers desecrated
    and vandalized the Armenian and Greek Orthodox cemeteries.

    Christmas Day 1952 the Israeli army blew up the village of Ikret, whose population was 100% Catholic. Its beautiful church was destroyed and the population were scattered to other parts of Galilee.

    October 1953 the Israeli army destroyed the Christian village of Kafr Bur'om in Galilee. Its churches and schools were demolished and the population scattered to various parts of Galilee.

    July 1954 Israeli fundamentalists attack a Christian religious procession of the Carmelite Fathers and the Christian community of Haifa on Mt. Carmel near Haifa. The procession was dispersed, many crosses were destroyed and
    many Christians were injured.

    July 1961 a Christian Fundamentalist missionary group in Jerusalem was forced to cancel it services when attacked by stone-throwing Jewish religious fanatics. They chanted "Eichmann! Eichmann!" and began tossing

    10 January 1963 the Finnish Christian Mission School in Jerusalem is attacked by seventy Jews, mostly Yeshiva students. They smashed windows and beat Mr. Risto Santala, the school pastor. Further along the street the plate glass windows of the Zion Mission shop run by Reverend William Hall
    were smashed.

    1967 & After –

    Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem shelled by Israeli forces

    Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem — Israeli soldiers and youths throw stink bombs into the church

  • Your comments re. resistance to proselitisation in Israel are completely Off Topic, that's why they were removed.

  • I see, so much for open debate. I posted a list of historical atrocities that Jews did to Christians and you remove the post. Truth hurts eh? In true fashion of propaganda, you hide negative news. Tsk tsk tsk!

    I guess you only want to hear of the atrocities of the one side and not the other. It is why the backlash is coming.

  • bataween- proof is in the pudding. The net is filled with houses being bulldozed. Your opinion is outweighed by evidence showing the opposite. I guess you'll tell me that Israel didn't pass a law in 1978 that makes it illegal to prostilize to Jews. I am not the average blind fool that falls for propaganda that Israel is perfect. In a war for land both sides d bad things. For some reason we are to believe that Israel is above it all. Perhaps it is that chosen people ego thing? There is no perfect country. Can I say USS LIBERTY

  • You can safely say that more Palestinian Chrstians have lost their land and homes to Palestinian Muslims. Look at the way the Muslims took over Beit Sahour. The population of Bethlehem was once 80 percent Chrstians and is now 10 percent. So was Ramallah.

  • I guess no Palestinian Christians lost their land or homes to the Israeli bulldozer? Yep Zionists never do wrong. As a Christian I say this entire do it to gather the children was played once before. Read john 11:49. They finally had their way and killed him.

  • You know, critcising Jews has always been part of their vocabulary. Ya welli!!!
    suzy vidal

  • Don't want to kick a dog while he's down, but the Copts are probably the most anti-semitic Christians in the ME.
    I don't believe in karma but…..

    I wonder what pope Shenouda will say now. He's probably going to criticize the Jews and Israel again…….

  • concerns the tribulations of Christians in Egypt:
    What did the Christians do for us Jews when we went thru all the horrors?
    Just had to say this. Sorry for those who were my freinds through our ordeals. They are still my friends today.
    sultana latifa

  • "Israeli Arab Christians are on average more affluent than Israeli Jews and better-educated, even scoring higher on their SATs. "

    Where can I find these numbers? From my personal experience I can say that most 'Arab' Christians in Israel are as uneducated as their fellow Muslims.

  • It's hard to work up the concern what with the Orthodox prelate just next door in Jerusalem doing all he can to become best friends with the PLO and Hamas. If ethnic cleansing of his fellow Christians is acceptable to him, then who are we to stand between them and their destiny.


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