Christian Persecution: Israel and the Global War on Christians

American Christians are among Israel’s most stalwart supporters.

Evangelical Christians, in particular, have been unyielding in their demands that America stand by the tiny nation. Their advocacy for Israel has raised the political stakes concerning America’s policy toward Israel in the upcoming election.

Violent persecution of Christians is a growing reality in much of the world. It cuts especially deep when it happens in countries and comes from people that Christians here in America support. There is an innate desire to turn our heads and pretend that it isn’t happening. As a long-time supporter of Israel, I understand the feeling. However, our first allegiance must be to our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.

In a September 7 article Playing politics with the global war on Christians, John Allen discusses just such a conundrum: The violent persecution of Christians in Israel. Members of my parish went on pilgrimage to Israel last year and came back with eyewitness testimony concerning similar stories. It appears that persecution of Christians in Israel is real.

You can write the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren here. Please do so. If there is one country that should be willing to listen to American Christians it is Israel.

The article says in part:

Playing politics with the global war on Christians

Most people, most of the time, are fundamentally decent. Hence if they knew that there’s a minority facing an epidemic of persecution — a staggering total of 150,000 martyrs every year, meaning 17 deaths every hour — there would almost certainly be a groundswell of moral and political outrage.

There is such a minority in the world today, and it’s Christianity. The fact that there isn’t yet a broad-based movement to fight anti-Christian persecution suggests something is missing in public understanding.

In part, of course, the problem is that unquestionable acts of persecution, such as murder and imprisonment, are sometimes confused with a perceived cultural and legal “war on religion” in the West, a less clear-cut proposition. In part, too, it’s because of the antique prejudice that holds that Christianity is always the oppressor, never the oppressed.

Yet as with most things, politics also has a distorting effect, and a story out of Israel this week makes the point.

On Tuesday, the doors of a Trappist monastery in Latrun, near Jerusalem, were set ablaze, with provocative phrases in Hebrew spray-painted on the exteriors walls, such as “Jesus is a monkey.” The assault was attributed to extremist Jews unhappy with the recent dismantling of two settlements on nearby Palestinian land.

Founded in 1890 by French Trappists, the Latrun monastery is famed for its strict religious observance. Israelis call it minzar ha’shatkanim, meaning “the monastery of those who don’t speak.” Ironically, it’s known for fostering dialogue with Judaism, and welcomes hundreds of Jewish visitors every week.

Tuesday’s attack was not an isolated incident. In 2009, a Franciscan church near the Cenacle on Mount Zion, regarded by tradition as the site of Christ’s Last Supper, was defaced with a spray-painted Star of David and slogans such as “Christians Out!” and “We Killed Jesus!” According to reports, the vandals also urinated on the door and left a trail of urine leading to the church.

Last February, the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land wrote to Israeli authorities to appeal for better protection after another wave of vandalism struck a Baptist church, a Christian cemetery and a Greek Orthodox monastery. That time, slogans included “Death to Christianity,” “We will crucify you!” and “Mary is a whore.”

At the time, the custodian, Franciscan Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, complained that no arrests had been made in any of these cases. (Read more here.)

 


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