REDEEMING THE PLAINS OF NINEVAH.
By Paul Merkley.
The Jewish Response to the Crisis of the Christians of the Middle East: Finding Safe Haven for Christians.
Here is a parable for our times:
George Lord Wiedenfeld, a British peer and a distinguished publisher, was a penniless five-year-old when British Quakers and other Christians fed and clothed him, and helped him reach the UK from Vienna after Hitler seized Austria in 1938. Before he died at age 95 in January, 2016, Lord Wiedenfeld told the Daily Mail that for all these years he has felt that he “owed a debt” to these particular Christian people for what they had done for him and that he had at last found the best means in the establishment of the Weidenfeld Safe Havens Fund – a project to rescue 2,000 Christians from the ISIS terrorists in Syria. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3163561)
Christians in Search of Haven.
Indeed, Christians are in desperate need of haven in almost every corner of the world; but even in the places where persecution is greatest, new Christians are being baptized every day – this demonstrating the motto of Tertullian (AD) that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of faith.”
As for the Middle East, here is the bottom line:
In 1900, Christians made up about 13% of the population of the ME. Today, it is one percent – and falling rapidly.
Until the last few years, two main factors accounted for the falling population: emigration and declining birth rate. But today these factors are eclipsed by a thorough-going liquidation campaign being conducted throughout the Middle East. Islamist organizations whose mission statements openly and proudly call for the liquidation of the curse of Christianity are aided and abetted everywhere in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim universe by a new zeal for persecution of Christians for the sake of persecution—that is, for the sake of winning the approval of Allah and of course for the sake of loot.
We all believe in miracles, of course; but speaking strictly in natural terms, it is not probable that Christianity can survive beyond the next decade or two in the Middle East.
This story is a replay of the story of the expulsion of the Jews from the Middle East in the five years of so following Israel’s War of Independence – with Christians now in the role of the Jews.
Jewish Expressions of Solidarity and Concern.
Perhaps the largest irony attaching to this story is that if Christianity survives in the Middle East, it will not be because of any interest taken for its cause by the Christians in our part of the world, but rather because the State and the people of Israel and conscientious Jews elsewhere are dedicated to saving it.
The leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal organization are among the most effective of these Jewish champions for the persecuted Christians. It was they – not any bishop or any annual convention of any major church – who, about this time last year, responded to the execution of Christians by the ISIS in Libya, setting it in the context of the global reality of Islamic commitment to the liquidation of Christianity. Speaking for the Wiesenthal organization, Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, issued this statement:
We have been warning Western governments for months that a religious genocide of Christians was taking place…Much more needs to be done. First, the [U.S.] Administration should recognize the centrality of religious extremism to ISIS’s terrorist activities and publicly acknowledge that theologically-fueled hatred is at the heart of this conflict. Second, America must lead the way in combating such genocidal hatred and, together with its NATO allies, forge an action plan to protect endangered Christian communities across the Middle East. (“Open Doors USA and Simon Wiesenthal Centre respond to the execution of Christians in Libya” www.wiesenthal.com, April 20, 2015.)
Recently, this same pair have labored to get our political leaders to acknowledge that the major factor preventing resolution of the complaints of the Arab Palestinians is that the Palestine Authority is not truly devoted to any “two-state solution”; indeed, they intend to preside sooner or later over one State of Palestine, and today they are openly predicting that that State, like all the others in the region, will be a place where Jews are not allowed to live and where any surviving Christians will again live under the system of dhimmitude or something even worse.
As for the attitude and behaviour of the PA and as for public attitudes among its people,
We know of the increasing frequency of neighbours in Bethlehem, jeering at the shrunken Christian population, calling upon them to convert to Islam … [Throughout the Arab Middle East,] some of the oldest Christian communities in the world have already been decimated in the Assyrian Triangle of Iraq…. Who is pounding on the doors of world leaders about the majority of those Christians who cannot leave? … Why do Christian leaders seem so unmoved by mortal threats to their spiritual brothers and sisters? (Cooper and Adlerstein, “The Deadly Sounds of Christian Silence,” Christian Post, March 28, 2012.)
Israel: The Last Hope for Christians of the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Israel is the only polity in the Middle East in which the absolute number of Christians is growing. This is mainly on account of the flight of Arab Christians from the Palestine Authority and from the rest of the Arab world and of African Christians from persecution and terrorism in Ethiopia, Somalia, and other parts of that continent.
In 1948, at the time of the creation of the State of Israel, Christians were 2.9% of the population. The absolute number of Christians living in Israel has grown modestly but steadily with every census, so that the proportion of Christians to Jews today is actually slightly higher than it was in 1948. In 1948, Christians made up 2.9% of the whole population of 1.2 million; today, of the eight million people living in Israel, Christians constitute approximately 320,000 people, around 3.5 to 4% of the whole. Meanwhile, within the jurisdiction of the Palestine Authority, Christian numbers are declining precipitously, as Islamization of the population makes daily life downright dangerous.
Major Church Bodies Ignore the Plight of Christians in the Middle East.
All of the major Protestant denominations hold regular membership conferences. Incredibly, it seems impossible to find in the published proceedings of these bodies any clue to the plight of these persecuted Christians. Instead, they join in the Muslim chorus of vilification of Israel the Occupier. Reporting on a recent conference of the United Churches of Christ in the U.S. Dexter Van Zile (who researches Christian attitudes towards Israel for CAMERA, the Committee For Accuracy in Middle East Reporting) reports:
Since 1967, the UCC’s deliberative body has passed nearly 20 resolutions about the Arab-Israeli conflict, but has failed to offer up one word of criticism of the misdeeds of jihadists who have been murdering and kidnapping non-Muslims and women in the Middle East and North Africa since the Arab Spring…. When the Jewish state uses force to defend itself, the UCC’s general synod responds with condemnation, but when Arabs and Muslims do bad things to other Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, Bahais, the body has remained silent. … Any Christian body remotely concerned about human rights would confront these issues and yet the UCC’s general synod has remained silent in the face of these outrages. (“United Church of Christ’s Anti-Israel stand, Weekly Standard, July 22, 2015.)
At the same time, many influential Jewish voices all around the world are calling for cooperation of Christians and Jews in the work of rescuing Christianity.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the Forum for Drafting Christians into the IDF in Nazareth, a few days ago, took note of the “shrinkage and disappearance of entire Christian communities, communities that were there … since the birth of Christianity, entire communities that are deleted in one fell swoop, brutally, savagely.” “Israel,” he insisted, “is the only country in the Middle East where Christians are free from religious persecution.” Noting that the average number of Christians enlisting in the IDF has increased from 30 to 150 persons per year he said: “We are brothers, partners – we Christians and Jews and Druse and Muslims defending the State of Israel.” (Ariel Cohen, “Netanyahu commiserates with persecuted Christians, Jerusalem Post, February 15, 2015. )
Inspiration from the Book of Jonah.
Luma Simms, who grew up in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and who reflects on world affairs from a Catholic position for several journals of opinion, urges Middle Eastern Christians to withstand the widespread anti-Jewish vilification that is rampant in Arab lands and try understand that Israel represents their “last hope” to be saved from annihilation.
Anyone who claims that the Arab world — Muslim and Christian — is not pathologically antisemitic is delusional … The belief that Israel is behind every evil in the world and especially the evil that befalls the Arab world .. [and] therefore, it ought to be destroyed… is the secret sin no one wants to bring to the light …. Israel is the last hope for Arab Christians; it’s as simple as that.
Israel, she says, for its part, “must remember that you were enslaved, persecuted, and almost exterminated.” Let it always be said: In the dark age of ISIS, when desolation and despair covered the Arab world, Israel was the house of light…. Like the prophet Jonah whom God commanded to go to Nineveh and offer redemption to the Assyrians, may Israel go and redeem Assyria — redeem the Nineveh plains once again.” (Lea Speyer, “Columnist Luma Simms called Israel the “last hope” for Middle East Christians,” Algemeiner¸ July 22, 2016. )