As Christians worldwide prepare to celebrate the birth of the man they regard as humanity’s savior, those in Muslim nations must wonder whether the West’s Christian leaders have abandoned them.
Throughout the autumn, Christians in Asia and the Middle East became targets of arson, extortion, mob violence and even murder in Allah’s name. Instead of addressing those problems, however, Western Christian leaders indulged in sanctimonious pedantry, fashionable naiveté and outright appeasement in the name of dialogue and peace.
The Church of England commemorated the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by endorsing an official apology to Muslim leaders for the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.
The church’s report, “Countering Terrorism: Power, Violence and Democracy Post-9/11,” advocated “truth and reconciliation” meetings with Muslim leaders that would give Christian counterparts the opportunity to perform “a public act of institutional repentance” for the West’s “long litany of errors” in dealing with Iraq, including the 2003 war.
Moreover, the report’s addendum concerning Iran’s nuclear program suggested universal disarmament as the ultimate solution: “If certain countries retain their nuclear weapons on the basis of the uncertainty and potentially violent volatility of international relations, on what basis are the same weapons denied to other states?”
Not to be outdone, 95 bishops from the United Methodist Church – President George W. Bush’s denomination – publicly regretted their “complicity” in the “unjust and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq” in a statement they issued in November.
In discounting Saddam Hussein’s support for international terrorism, the president’s moral responsibility to protect American citizens – and the Iraqi people’s own suffering under a sadistic tyrant – the Methodist bishops mimic the Left’s tired platitudes about war and peace.
“True security lies not in weapons of war,” the statement said, “but in enabling the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized to flourish as beloved daughters and sons of God."
Specifically, the Methodist bishops state that ensuring peace means “personal, institutional and governmental priorities that protect the poor and most vulnerable; modeling an end to prejudice toward people of other faiths and cultures; confronting differences and conflicts with grace, humility, dialogue, and respect…”
Apparently, tyranny, non-Western imperialism and malignant ideology do not exist in the Methodist bishops’ universe.
Neither do Islam’s extreme tendencies exist in the mind of Cardinal William Keeler, the Catholic archbishop of Baltimore. Keeler, who served as an expert at the Second Vatican Council, specializes in interfaith relations.
When asked in October by the liberal National Catholic Reporter about Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad’s public demand for Israel’s annihilation, Keeler offered this response:
“I thought, ‘This is another politician trying to get an easy solution to a very complicated problem.’ I also thought, ‘This guy obviously doesn't know what Islam teaches about the relationship to the Jewish people.’ The Koran esteems Moses as a lawgiver, and there are many passages that draw upon Hebrew scripture…”
It is the height of arrogant irony for a Catholic prelate to declare that he knows more about Islam than the president of a self-proclaimed Islamic republic.
Yet none of the aforementioned responses compares to the groveling appeasement demonstrated by members of the Presbyterian Church USA during an October visit to Lebanon made possible by the terrorist group Hezbollah.
Nabil Qawuq, Hezbollah’s commander in Southern Lebanon, complained to the Presbyterian contingent that President Bush sought to intervene in Lebanon for Israel’s benefit against Syria. Robert Worley, who taught for 35 years at a prominent American seminary and served as the group’s spokesman, gave this response recorded by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Mustaqbal:
“We do not wish to defend the U.S. administration. We all elected the Democratic Party against the Republican Party. Rest assured that we will return to the U.S. in order to continue our activity for peace, and we want to hear about the charity activities and the cultural and social activities organized by Hezbollah in south (Lebanon).
“The Americans hear in the Western media that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and they do not hear any other opinion. They know nothing about the party's concern for the people of the south. We have suffered much pressure on the part of Jewish organizations in the U.S. because (of our help in) divesting corporations working with Israel.”
During a 2004 visit to Lebanon, Presbyterian elder Ronald Stone praised the terrorist group more effusively on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television:
“We treasure the precious words of Hezbollah and your expression of goodwill towards the American people. Also, we praise your initiative for dialogue and mutual understanding. We cherish these statements that bring us closer to you. As an elder of our church, I'd like to say that according to my recent experience, relations and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders.”
While Christian leaders from the West danced with denial, other Christians feared for their own safety.
In Iraq, gangs of anonymous Muslim terrorists threaten to abduct or kill people whose families refuse to pay amounts ranging from $100,000 to $150,000 for Mafia-style protection. Families must beg for cash, sell their homes and belongings, leave the country or face death.
“It’s a really catastrophic problem right now,” Father Mekhail Nageeb, a Dominican priest, told Catholic News Service in November.
In one neighborhood in Mosul, Nageeb said, “There are more than 20 or 30 homes without people living in them,” because their Christian homeowners fled.
Muslim religious leaders support the extortion. Father Sabah Patto, a Chaldean Catholic, told Catholic News Service that some Muslim figures “are encouraging the Christians to leave their country and to leave their properties and everything, and nobody is buying from (the Christians).”
Nobody is buying, Patto continued, because Muslim leaders are saying that the abandoned properties “will become free for people.”
Nine days after the Church of England produced its report on terrorism, the London Times reported on Sept. 28 the apparent murder of the lay leaders of Iraq’s largest Anglican church. They were presumed dead after being attacked while returning from a conference in Jordan.
In Pakistan, Muslim mobs burned churches and a convent in November in Sangla Hill, 50 miles east of Lahore. Inciting the mob were rumors that a Christian who had won a lot of money gambling with Muslims set fire to a box containing torn pages of the Koran.
“Soon the alleged deed was broadcast by mullahs from mosques,” the London Telegraph reported Nov. 14.
“I heard the mullahs had been telling people over loudspeakers, ‘We are guardians of the Koran and it is our foremost duty to teach a lesson to those kafirs (unbelievers),” Farther Samson Dilawar, whose church was among those burned, told the Telegraph.
In Egypt, thousands of Muslims attacked seven Coptic Orthodox churches in Alexandria on Oct. 21. Rioters broke windows at St. George’s Coptic Orthodox Church before police repelled them.
The attacks resulted from demonstrations over a play that portrays a young Christian converting to Islam to improve his financial and marital prospects. He then joins a band of extremists, becomes disillusioned, wants to return to Christianity and gets shot while trying to escape the extremists.
“The play had gone unnoticed when it was first performed at St. George’s two years ago,” the Associated Press reported. “Though it has not been performed recently, it caught Muslims’ attention when, according to security officials, Islamic extremists may have been distributing DVD’s of it to raise tensions ahead of parliamentary elections…”
Those elections dramatically enhanced the power of the anti-Semitic Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to turn Egypt into an Islamic state. The Brotherhood gained 88 seats in the Egyptian Parliament –almost six times its previous number – to become the biggest rival to President Hosni Mubarak’s New Democratic Party.
In Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, Christians claim that Muslim mobs forced more than 30 churches to close last year, the Voice of America reported in November. Many congregations have had to worship outdoors, where Muslims harass them.
Indonesian Muslims, led by such radical groups as the Defense of Islam and the Alliance Against Apostasy, exploit a law requiring religious groups to get permission from local residents and obtain a government license before building a house of worship. These groups – often with the support of local officials – “accuse Christians of breaking the law by praying in unlicensed churches, and claiming that local Muslims object to the churches,” the VOA reported.
Muslim extremists are not satisfied with stopping worship. In May, a bomb killed 22 and injured 70 in one town’s largest Christian market. In October, three Christian girls were attacked and beheaded while walking to church. Days later, two other Christian girls were fired upon while walking to a Girl Scout meeting.
Inciting the violence are two more terrorist groups, Jemaah Islamiyah and Laksar Jihad, “a newly created militia…that was supported by hard-line elements of the security forces,” the Associated Press reported.
In Saudi Arabia, which forbids non-Muslims from worshipping publicly, a court sentenced a teacher to 40 months imprisonment and 750 lashes in November for, among other things, “discussing the Gospel,” reported the Saudi newspaper Al-Madina.
That same month, a leading Iranian ayatollah called non-Muslims “sinful animals who roam the earth and engage in corruption.” The ayatollah, Ahmad Jannati, is a top aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni and a mentor to President Ahmadinejad.
Perhaps the most tragic example of intimidation can be found in Bethlehem itself.
When the Palestinian Authority took control in 1995, it expanded the city’s boundaries to ensure a Muslim majority. Incorporated into the enlarged boundaries were 30,000 Muslims from adjacent refugee camps. As a result, 20 percent of Bethlehem’s population remained Christian in 2003 – as opposed to 60 percent in 1990.
That Christian minority faces constant Muslim hostility, as Jeanine Hirschhorn wrote in 2003:
“Off the record, Bethlehem’s Christian spokesmen speak of harassment and terror tactics, mainly from the gangs of thugs who have looted and plundered Christians and their property under the protection of Palestinian security personnel.”
Christian homes and real estate have been arbitrarily expropriated, including a school in Beit Jala that the PA turned into a terrorist training center. Christian women have been intimidated, abducted and raped, with many “becoming terrorists to save family honor,” Hirschhorn wrote.
“Those brave enough to speak out publicly,” Hirschhorn continued, “risk PA accusations of ‘collaborating with Israel,’ subject to arrest, extensive interrogation, imprisonment and execution.”
The Christians’ position has become so tenuous that even Pope John Paul II told them, “Do not be afraid to preserve your Christian heritage and Christian presence in Bethlehem” when he visited the city in 2002.
Nevertheless, Christians are fleeing Bethlehem in large numbers. If the trend continues, “the only Christian presence in Bethlehem may be foreign tourists,” Hirschhorn wrote. “Bethlehem’s revered Christian shrines may one day become tourist curiosities, like the Nabetian city of Petra or the Roman amphitheater at Caesarea.”
In his Dec. 10 editorial in the London Telegraph, in which he discusses the Archbishop of Canterbury’s trip to Pakistan in the wake of intensified persecution, Charles Moore accurately describes the mindset of Western Christian leaders:
“The agenda … is to try to placate. Sorry about the Crusades, sorry about George Bush, sorry, sorry, sorry, they say, in the hope that Muslims will start to say sorry, too. But where is the evidence that this pre-emptive self-abasement is working? The grim fact is that the development of Christian/Muslim official dialogue has coincided with much greater Muslim persecution of other faiths than 30 years ago.”
To Moore, such efforts “remind me of peace delegations to the Soviet Union in the 1930s,” he said. “They create a structure of unreality and leave millions of the victims of persecution where they were before the delegations arrived – frightened and alone.”