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Sojourners for Hamas By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Living under the rule of Hamas in Gaza cannot be a joy for anybody.  But Gaza's 2,000 Christians are especially apprehensive under the Islamist regime.

Meanwhile, a columnist for Jim Wallis's "Religious Left" journal, Sojourners, excoriates the U.S. and the opponents of Hamas as ultimately responsible for ascendant Islamic radicalism in Gaza.

During the recent battles between Hamas and Fatah, a Catholic convent and school were ransacked.  According to the Associated Press, attackers "burned crosses, damaged a statue of Jesus, and ruined prayer books."

Hamas denied any responsibility for damage to properties of their Christian "brothers," instead blaming Islamist groups that supposedly are even more radical.
An analyst writing for Sojourners preferred to point the finger elsewhere, at Fatah, and ultimately, at the West, for opposing Hamas.  
"During Hamas' military takeover of Gaza in recent weeks, one of their biggest Fatah targets lay just behind a Greek Orthodox school in Gaza City," explained Philip Rizk, an "Egyptian-German Christian" who works in Gaza and blogs at tabulagaza.com.  The Associated Press described the school as a Catholic Rosary Sisters school.
According to Rizk, Fatah forces took positions on the roof of a church school building during Hamas attacks on a Fatah headquarters. "Like many buildings that were used as strongholds during the fighting, the doors were blown open with a rocket-propelled grenade to ensure no resistance from inside. As widely reported in the Western media, the chapel and the nuns' living quarters were vandalized, crosses were broken, and equipment was stolen."
Rizk assured Sojourners readers that looters were likely the perpetrators of this vandalism. After all, Hamas "was fighting a war," and is not interested in desecrating churches. He also helpfully explained that during the recent struggles, "many shops and homes were similarly looted."  
"I cannot excuse it," Rizk was quick to emphasize about the attacks on churches to his American religious audience. But he preferred to talk about a World Bank report, which describes the economic crisis in Gaza as worse than the U.S. Great Depression. People in Gaza are "desperate." The world is punishing Hamas by punishing Gaza. It's not just Christians who are "living in fear" but the "whole population.
According to Rizk, Hamas helpfully found "some of the thieves" who had robbed a church school and returned some of the stolen computers.  Hamas radio even broadcast an interview with Gaza’s Catholic priest, who asked that the church attackers be put on trial. 
Rizk regretted that "extremism has been on the rise" and "many unheard-of groups" have formed in the name of Islam." Some of these unnamed groups have attacked "Christian entities" in the "name of religion," he noted. 
One of the Islamist groups, called Jihadia Salafiya, has demanded that Christians comply with Shariah law. "I expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza," its leader, Sheik Abu Saqer, told told the WorldNetDaily recently.
"Jihadia Salafiya and other Islamic movements will ensure Christian schools and institutions show publicly what they are teaching to be sure they are not carrying out missionary activity. No more alcohol on the streets. All women, including non-Muslims, need to understand they must be covered at all times while in public," said Abu Asqer. Warning against violations of Islamic law, he promised, "We'll attack these things very harshly."
The Islamist official also accused Gaza Christians of "proselytizing and trying to convert Muslims with funding from American evangelicals." Under Islamic law, of course, Muslims may try to convert Christians, but Christians may not evangelize. In April, a Protestant book store in Gaza, accused of evangelistic goals, was attacked
But such "religious extremism [i.e. ever more radicalized Islam] is bound to rise up under conditions like those in Gaza," Rizk observed.  Suffering people have told him they have nowhere to turn but to "God."  He responded: "I hope I could say the same if I ever find myself in a similar situation," though presumably his understanding of God would not include violent attacks on churches. 
"None of these actions can be excused," Rizk repeated. But, of course, "the broader context" must be understood. "Is it only the perpetrators that need to be condemned?" he rhetorcially asked.
Admitting that Hamas had forcibly taken over the Gaza, Rizk querulously asked, "How does an elected government perpetrate a coup d’etat?" He blamed the U.S., the West, and Israel for not accepting the Hamas electoral victory and isolatizing Gaza. "The U.S. started funding Fatah to counter Hamas’ strength—a policy that for many Americans should bring to mind the Banana Republics of Latin America," Rizk complained. "This month Hamas responded with force, seeking to disable those security bodies that were receiving outside funds." Now it all makes sense....
Since their military takeover, Hamas has brought "security," Rizk wrote. But the U.S.-led isolation of Hamas, and of Gaza, will only breed further economic collapse, he fretted. 
Jim Wallis' Sojourners is not usually very anxious to spotlight the plight of persecuted Christians around the world, tormented by Islamist or communist regimes. But in its few references to problems for Christians, it will evade blaming the actual tormentors and inevitably fault the ultimate culprits:  the U.S., Israel, the West, and their allies.

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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