'In the arena of the Israel-Palestinian conflict ... the Holy See has shown a consistent and unbalanced support for the Palestinians, condemning Israel on a number of occasions for its responses to terrorism and violence (not least in the second intifada) without holding the Palestinians to account for their own actions.
While statements from Rome have been encouraging in overall Christian-Jewish relations, at a local (Middle Eastern) level church representatives have shown a wholehearted support for the anti-Israel BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.
The infamous 2009 “Kairos” document issued by Palestinian Christian leaders encourages Western churches to support boycotts against Israel and has spawned several national supportive “Kairos” organisations around the world. This unbalanced and blatantly anti-Israel document was signed by the heads of all the branches of Catholicism in the region.
The Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land has fully imbibed the “occupation rhetoric” of the PLO and PA, partly in the mistaken belief that this support will somehow inoculate Catholic Christians against persecution by Muslims. Far from this being the case, there are many and repeated examples of brutal persecution of Christians within the PA-controlled areas.
All the traditional Christian denominations prefer to ignore both what is happening to their own people at the hands of Muslims and the inconvenient fact that Jewish Israel is the only Middle Eastern state where Christians can freely exercise their religious beliefs and practices....'Read the entire article here
'A conflict largely defined by dueling narratives became a battle of competing imagery during Pope Francis’ sojourn through the Holy Land, with Palestinians and Israelis both seizing on the pontiff’s strong symbolic gestures to promote their perspectives....
“He made some gestures that feel a little bit uncomfortable for us, but he also went out of his way to make gestures to comfort us,” said Rabbi Gordis, senior vice president of Jerusalem’s Shalem College.
“It depends on which set of lenses one wants to bring to this,” he added. “If one wants to do a kind of tit for tat, photo op for photo op, then there are going to be Israelis that feel we got the short end of the stick. If you zoom out, what it feels like is an attempt to inspire.” ...'
For pontiffs have visited Israel before, gone to the western Wall and to Yad Vashem, but never to Herzl's resting place.
Melanie Phillips, writing in the Jerusalem Post, wondered
"whether the pope will speak out clearly against this Christian victimization when he meets representatives of Islam on his visit to what he calls the Holy Land. He reportedly wants to heal the fissure between Jews and Palestinians. Very nice; but surely his priority should be stopping the slaughter of his own flock."She proceeded to remind us that
'.... Across the developing world, including countries where Christians are being persecuted, the churches are experiencing phenomenal growth. If trends persist, Europe’s Christians will be overtaken by those in Africa, Latin America and Asia, most of the growth driven by the astounding expansion of Pentecostal, Charismatic and other evangelical churches....One reason for such growth is that people who have suffered from repressive regimes are turning to a religion which (thanks to its Jewish roots) underpins freedom and human rights. The more barbaric Islamic regimes become, the more people turn to Christianity....
The striking feature of these new Christians is that, because they are evangelicals and thus take very seriously what is written in the Bible, they devoutly support Israel.
.... Westerners may feel uncomfortable about these new churches since they emphasize healing, prophecy, visions, ecstatic utterances and the supernatural. But they are amongst Israel’s best friends in the world. And their amazing growth has major global implications.
In the West, Christianity is in decline. Even in the US where the churches are still relatively strong, the culture war is being lost to the forces of galloping secularism. With the Islamic world exploiting this civilizational vacuum, Britain and Europe are steadily being Islamized. At same time, the developing world is becoming Christianized. The face of Christianity is thus changing color, from white to (its original) brown and black.
This growth is a huge opportunity for Israel because these new Christians are free from the poisonous hostility towards it of the Western churches. Encouragingly, Israel has come to view these new allies as a strategic asset, but it needs to invest in them much more, helping improve their economies and living standards, to cement this friendship and use it to transform Israel’s leverage at the UN.
It’s not true that time is running out for Israel. Time is running out for the West. It’s not true that Israel is friendless.
It has many friends. Just different ones. And it has to nurture them more carefully....'"Salvation is from the Jews," observes a celebrated phrase in one of the Christian gospels.
For Israel, salvation (so to speak) therefore seems set to come from the Christians, particularly Christians of the Third World.
See her article, with its encouraging statistics, here
As she says,
'In Iran, of all places, the churches are experiencing the fastest expansion in the world with estimated annual growth rates of more than 20 percent. According to some sources, the number of Iranian evangelicals has grown from a few hundred in 1979 to more than five million today.
It’s even happening in China. Mao expelled Christian missionaries and predicted that “colonialist” Christianity would disappear. Yet from a total of 900,000 then, Chinese Christians have now grown to at least 80 million.
One reason for such growth is that people who have suffered from repressive regimes are turning to a religion which (thanks to its Jewish roots) underpins freedom and human rights. The more barbaric Islamic regimes become, the more people turn to Christianity. Just a few years ago Algeria, for example, had around 1,500 Christians; under its repressive Islamist government, their numbers have swelled to nearly 200,000.'But Israel and its friends mustn't be complacent. For the anti-Zionist Christians in the West (including that tireless crusader against Israel Stephen Sizer, no stranger to either Iran or Algeria and who recently had one of his anti-Zionist works translated into Chinese) have obviously also taken note of these figures. Their pernicious influence must be countered.
"I am in Algeria this week at the invitation of the Minister for Religious Affairs and Wakf, Bouabdallah Ghlamallah, and the Right Revd Dr Mouneer Anis, the Anglican Bishop of Egypt and North Africa. I have been giving a series of lectures on the Middle East conflict from a Christian perspective in universities and Islamic institutes, made some TV and radio programmes, given several newspaper interviews, and preached in Holy Trinity Church, Algiers, the only Anglican church in Algeria....
One of the issues I am addressing is the influence of Christian Zionism in perpetuating the Middle East conflict, which tries to suggest Zionism is some how compatible with Christianity and lends it a veneer of Biblical credibility it does not warrant. The movement has been repudiated unequivocally by the heads of the indigenous Middle East churches in the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism....
The Algerian Religious Affairs Ministry are keen to arrange a follow-up lecture tour of other universities in 2014.'