Jeremy Hunt, the British Foreign secretary, has recently commissioned a report on the persecution of Christians, most acutely occurring in the Muslim World, and especially in the Arab/Muslim Middle East.
Addressing an audience at the Foreign Office in London on July 8, 2019, along with Bishop Philip (Rt. Rev.) Mounstephen, (Bishop of Truro) who helped prepare the report, Hunt pointed out that, “The number of countries where Christians suffer because of their faith rose from 128 in 2015 to 144 a year later. In the Middle East, the very survival of Christianity as a living religion is in doubt. A century ago, 20% of the region’s people were Christians: today the figure is below 5%.” Jeremy Hunt added, “Perhaps because of a misguided political correctness – or an instinctive reluctance to talk about religion – British governments have not always grappled with this problem.”
Bishop Mounstephen’s concluded that, “Religious persecution and discrimination, political failures, the rise of Muslim extremists, and the lack of legally protected freedom of religion or belief have all contributed in shaping the status of Christians in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. Based on Pew Research findings, Christians remain the most vulnerable of religious groups in the Middle East. Though the decline of Christians from the Middle East started in the early 20th century, during the past decade, on the evidence cited above, millions of Christians have been uprooted from their homes, and many have been killed, kidnapped, imprisoned and discriminated against.”
Specific cases include Palestinian and Saudi hate education against Christians and Jews. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued a study of Saudi school textbooks in March, 2018. The findings confirmed that they have been teaching pupils religious hatred and intolerance toward non-Muslims “including references to anti-Christians and anti-Jewish bigotry. Similarly, Palestinian textbooks are notoriously anti-Semitic, and triumphalist. The population of Palestinian Christians has dropped from 11% (under the British Mandate) to 2%. The 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ and the fall of old dictatorships gave ground to religious extremism that greatly increased the pressures and persecutions upon Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Libya. Interestingly enough, Israel is the only state in the Middle East where the Christian population is free and has grown. An Asia News headline on 1/8/2019 read “Christians in Israel grow through immigration, educated and active.”
Contrasting the positive treatment of Christians in Israel with that in Muslim states in the Middle East, such Iran and Turkey, reveal a sad reality. Arrest, detention and imprisonment are common in Iran. For example, in the course of six days before Christmas, 2018, 114 Christians were arrested in Iran with court cases still left pending, apparently as a form of intimidation. Though most cases in Iran involve converts, indigenous Christians such as Pastor Victor, an Assyrian Christian, with his wife Shamiran Issavi and their son, have also been targeted and imprisoned.
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s nationalist agenda has asserted Sunni Islam to the disadvantage of minority groups, a process which “gathered momentum” as the government responded to the July, 2016 coup. Christians reported being under increased pressure, maintaining that the state media portrayed them as “the enemy.” Whilst the Turkish constitutional system is based on equality before the law, with religious discrimination outlawed, the governing AK Party (Justice and Development Party) has depicted Christians as a “threat to the stability of the nation.” Turkish Christian citizens have often been stereotyped as “not real Turks,” but as Western collaborators.
Yet, despite the above record compiled by Anglican Bishop Philip Mounstephen, it is Jewish Israel and not Muslim nations such as Iran, Turkey, or the Arab states (including Palestinians Arabs) that is being set up for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions, as well as other anti-Israel measures, by the mainline Protestant denominations, and especially the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA).
The PCUSA is a shadow of its former glory. The church membership has declined from 2.5 million members in 2000 to 1.4 million in 2018, and the number is still falling. The Pew Research Study found that of the current membership, 38% of the church is 65-years old and older, 30% are 50-64, 24% are 30-49, and only 8% are 18-29 years old. In short, the PCUSA is an aging organization, and the young are going elsewhere.
At its 2018 General Assembly (GA), the PCUSA resolutions echo those of Israel’s enemies in statements such as calling for “the right of return of Palestinian refugees,” which is plainly a formula for the destruction of the Jewish state through demographics. The notion is totally unacceptable to Israel since it invites demographic suicide. PCUSA doesn’t apply this formula to millions of German refugees from Poland, who were forced out after WWII. For that matter, has the PCUSA given a thought to the ancient Jewish communities in the Arab World that were forced out of their homes? Jewish refugees from the Arab Middle East were more numerous than the Palestinian refugees.
Another resolution called for the deployment of an “International Peacekeeping Force,” a measure that would deny Israel its right of self-defense against Palestinian terrorists. Still another resolution “urges the U.S. to end the occupation of Palestinian territories now.” This is a false premise to begin with. UN resolution 242 did not apply to, nor recognized an entity called Palestine. Hence, the phrase “Palestinian territories” is a total canard. Had the Palestinian leadership accepted the many offers for the partition of Palestine in 1937 (Peel Commission) or the 1947 UN Partition Plan, or even the Clinton (U.S. President) parameters of July, 2000, there would have been a Palestinian state. Olmert’s (Israeli Prime Minister) in 2008, offered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a most generous solution, but it was likewise rejected. The Palestinians have habitually refused a compromised solution. Thus, a Two-State solution never materialized, and therefore, no “Palestinian territories.” Instead of choosing statehood, the Palestinians preferred terror, and a zero-sum deal, namely, “all for them and nothing for the Jews.”
One PCUSA resolution “urged Israel to accept the Arab League peace plan,” which would amount to Israel’s demographic destruction in that it called on Israel to accept the inflated Palestinian refugees and surrender half of Jerusalem. Finally, the PCUSA resolved that the U.S. should “reallocate its annual aid” and while not explicitly saying so, it meant to cut its aid to Israel and allocate it to the Palestinian Arabs.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) Assembly passed eight resolutions against Israel and called it an “apartheid state.” Rabbi Noam Marans (American Jewish Committee Interreligious Director) asserted that, “For many years and in myriad ways, the PCUSA has gone beyond legitimate criticism of Israel and embraced demonization of the Jewish state.”
Fortunately, for the most part, the relations between the Presbyterian churches and the Jewish communities throughout the U.S. are good. It is a small and vocal minority that is occupying the PCUSA bureaucracy that has kept up the demonization of Israel over the last 14 years. This powerful minority has gone far beyond the pretense of “social justice,” and has degenerated into antisemitism.
The finding of Jeremy Hunt’s commissioned report should be of major concern to the PCUSA, and its resources ought to be mobilized to combat those who oppress fellow Christians. Instead, the PCUSA GA energies are spent on demonizing the only state in the Middle East where Christians are free and growing as a community in Israel.