Note: The following article was published in The Commentator on June 3, 2013.
Late last month, 150 Christian leaders met in Lebanon under the auspices of the World Council of Churches
(WCC) to talk about the status of Christians living in the Middle East, where, as most people know, followers of Christ are suffering from terrible acts of oppression at the hands of Muslim extremists.
Some Muslims, particularly in Egypt, have stood in solidarity with their Christian compatriots after these attacks, but for the most part, attacks against Christians continue without much organized opposition from Muslim activists or governments in the Middle East. Egyptian police, for example, have stood by and even assisted in attacks against Christians and their churches.
Sometimes the anti-Christian violence manifests itself as poorly organized (but terrifying) mob attacks against churches and their members. These mob attacks often take place after an imam has incited anti-Christian hostility in his Friday sermon. Other attacks are well-planned jihad bombings perpetrated on Christian holidays (such as Christmas or Easter) that result in deaths of dozens of Christians at once.
Such attacks have a cumulative impact. Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Vatican's Permanent Observer to the United Nations and Other International Organizations recently announced that more than 100,000 Christians die as a result of their faith each year. Tomasi didn't mention exactly who was responsible for these deaths, but he didn't have to.
We know who is responsible radical Muslims intent on sending a very clear and simple message Christians are not welcome or safe in Muslim countries.
Muslim violence against Christians is not a new phenomenon. It dates back to Islam's founding reports Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (Regnery, 2013). Under Muslim rule, from the seventh century to the present, tens if not hundreds of thousands of churches once spread across thousands of miles of formerly Christian lands have been attacked, plundered, ransacked, and destroyed or converted into mosques, he writes.
Christians themselves are suffering horribly, Ibrahim reports. At this moment, from one end of the Muslim world to the other, Christians are being persecuted. The suffering is associated with efforts to impose Sharia, or the Islamic way of doing things, Ibrahim reports, adding that wherever and whenever Muslims are in power or getting more power, churches are outlawed, burned and bombed, while Bibles and crucifixes are confiscated and destroyed. Freedom of speechto speak positively of Christianity or critically of Islamis denied, often on pain of death.
Ibrahim also reports Muslims are not allowed to convert to Christianity and in many places Christian women and children are routinely abducted, raped, and forced to convert to Islam. Increasingly, Christians are able to justify their very existence only by paying large amounts of ransommoney extorted in the name of jihad,' Islam's holy war' to subjugate or eliminate non-Muslims.
This was the reality that the World Council of Churches (whose Twitter account is @oikoumene, a reference to its commitment to ecumenism) was slated to address at the meeting about Christians in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the organization is particularly ill-equipped to address the problem of Islamic violence against Christians. It is, however, quite able to attack Israel and its supporters.
Over the course of its history, the WCC an umbrella organization of 350 Protestant and Orthodox churches has worked assiduously to demonize the Jewish state while remaining silent about the sins of its adversaries. It has also made bowing and scraping in the face of Islamic violence a central plank of modern-day ecumenism. Speaking up forcefully on behalf of the victims of such violence is simply beyond the ken of the WCC. The organization is simply incapable of speaking the truth about this problem.
The WCC set itself up for failure even before the conference began. Prior to the conference, which lasted from May 21 to May 25, the WCC described the upcoming meeting about Christians in the Middle East as giving voice to ecumenical Christian concerns about the presence of Christians in the Middle East which the organization stated, differ from those who seek to kindle Islamophobia.
The May 15 press release announcing the meeting also reported that the speakers would include Palestinian diplomat Afif Safieh and Samir Morcos, a former assistant to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a man who has utterly failed to protect Coptic Christians in their homeland.
This pre-conference press release, issued on May 15, served as fair warning that meeting's attendees would sweep the problem of Islamist violence under the rug and then accuse anyone who would talk openly about the impact of jihad against Christians in the Middle East of being Islamophobes. It also served as fair warning that the attendees would try to steer the conversation toward Israel.
And that is exactly what happened.
In the statement issued after the conference, the attendees lamented the kidnapping of two Christian clergy in Syria and said they pray and hope that their speedy release, and assistance of the leaders of Muslim and Christian communities, will strengthen inter-religious co-operation. The leaders in question are still in custody.
The reference to the captivity of these two leaders was about the only mention of Muslim wrongdoing in the document, which condemned Christian Zionism as an ideology that enables the manipulation of public opinion by Zionist lobbies, and damage[s] intra-Christian relations.
You read that right.
The document about Christians in the Middle East which makes no reference to the theological and juridical underpinnings of Islamic violence against Christians raises the issue of Christian Zionism and portrays it as the problem, as if Evangelical Protestants from the U.S. have been blowing themselves up in houses of worship and murdering people in the streets. And it speaks the dark tones about Zionist lobbies but says nothing about Islamism.
Things get even weirder when the document states Palestine continues to be the central issue in the region.
By what measure? According to Israeli journalist Ben Dror Yemini, 86 million people have died as the result of armed conflict since the end of World War II. Twelve million of these deaths have been the result of armed conflict between Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East, Asia and North America.
The vast majority of these deaths have been the result of Arab-on-Arab or Muslim-on-Muslim violence in the Middle East. The Iran-Iraq war for example killed somewhere between 900,000 and 1.4 million people.
A very small percentage of the deaths that have taken place in the Middle East approximately 60,000 were the result of the Arab-Israeli conflict which began after World War II. And since the beginning of the First Intifada which started in 1987, the Arab-Israeli conflict has caused 8,000 deaths.
In light of these numbers, how can the World Council of Churches declare Palestine as the central issue in the region? How can the WCC say such a thing when the Syrian Civil War, which began just over two years ago, has already cost 100,000 people their lives? Are the people killing each other in Syria in support of the Palestinian cause?
The fact, is, the civil war in Syria, which has the prospect of opening up into a region-wide war between Shiites and Sunnis, is more of a central issue to the region than Palestine.
The WCC document also calls on Christians to reject Islamophobia, which mischaracterizes Islam as an undifferentiated whole, and undermines decades of cultivation of co-operation with Muslims. It also calls on Christians to refuse the temptation to amalgamation, generalization and sensationalization of our Muslim brothers and sisters.
Such Latinate gibberish is intended to shut people up about the elephant in the room: Jihad.
The dhimmis who call the shots at the WCC may not want to confront it, but Muslims themselves are speaking about it. For example, in a recent op-ed published in the Huffington Post, Canadian Muslim Tarek Fatah condemned the teaching of jihad that motivated the broad daylight attack that resulted in the death of a British soldier on May 22.
It is worth noting that not a single Muslim cleric since 9/11 has mustered the courage to say the doctrine of armed jihad is defunct and inapplicable in the 21st century. They rightfully denounce terrorism, but dare not denounce jihad. On the contrary, we keep hearing the propaganda that Jihad' has nothing to do with warfare.
In light of the WCC document, Tarek Fatah, himself a Muslim who is speaking at great risk about a hugely important problem, would qualify as an Islamophobe. And by the same token, the Christian leaders who met in Lebanon are courageous because they refuse to fall prey to the temptation of generalizing about Muslims.
What the WCC is trying to do is obscure the facts about Christian-Muslim relations that are readily evident in its own archives. In 2000, the World Council of Churches assisted in the publication of Jutta Sperber's book Christians and Muslims: The Dialogue Activities of the World Council of Churches and their Theological Foundation (Walter de Gruyter).
This book, based on WCC archives, gives readers some insight as to why non-Muslims might be frightened of Islam and its adherents. Sperber reports, for example, that in Muslim countries, Jews and Christians are not considered to have the same status as Muslims and are also not allowed to behave if they had. She then describes in some detail the manner in which non-Muslims (dhimmis) were forced to live under.
Why were these rules imposed? Simple. Since Jews and Christians are considered theologically as only having part of the truth, they are also in practice only allowed to enjoy a part of life.
Sperber also reports that Christians have regularly protested against their second class status in Muslim empires and then quotes a scholar who states that the Islamic dhimma system of the past is always there as a possible danger for the present the menacing shadow of history.
How could Sperber use such a phrase the menacing shadow of history in reference to Islam? Somebody tell the WCC. A book it helped translate from German into English is
The book is also pretty revealing. In her assessment of the WCC's dialogue with Muslim leaders, Sperber gives the game away:
The solution of the Palestinian problem in the sense of the West's abandoning its pro-Israeli attitude became the criterion to judge the credibility of the Christian/Muslim dialogue, and indeed, of inter-religious dialogue in general. This attitude was not only adopted by Muslims but also by Arab Christians.
In other words, if the WCC was going to have good relations with Muslim leaders, it needed to attack Israel's supporters in the West.
And that is what the organization has done, for decades.
And yet, Christians living in the Middle East still get attacked, no matter how much the WCC dumps on Israel.
Dexter Van Zile (@dextervanzile) is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (@CAMERAorg).