Thursday, November 01, 2007

the plight of Christians in the Middle East continues

In a number of areas* I have found some more excellent articles on the plight of Christians in Iraq and Palestine, two areas the Evangelical Church in North America routinely ignores while we support any policy to further Israeli or American interests, often at the expense of Christian brothers and sisters.

I remember one of the hardest Pastoral counseling sessions I have ever had. Like many reading this blog, I have counseled people in difficult situations, whether it was a suicidal teenager, an emotionally abused student trying to make it to 18, parents of a student shot and killed accidentally or member of our church with a terminal illness. However, a Christian teenager from Gaza I became friends with through my ministry in Boston (I worked closely with an Arab Church) was the hardest for me.

As I tried to encourage this young woman that was constantly in fear due to the bombing of her community by the Israeli government, trying to hide among a Muslim population with almost no Christian friends, I felt as useless as I ever have. She sought answers, but I had none. Platitudes, theological statements, Christian answers fell flat. The only hope for her state of mind was escape to the US or another safe haven... something she could not do until she reached 18 (she was 15 at the time).

We wonder why there are so few Christians in the Middle East, the place Christianity began. But, after hearing friend's stories of houses bombed, passports taken, friends and families kidnapped and killed (this is not just Muslim on Christian violence, especially in Palestine-where Muslims and Christians get along relatively well because they are both religious minorities), businesses stolen and constant threats, it is a wonder there are any left.

A few years ago I read Charles Sennott's The Body and the Blood about the Holy Land's Christian communities (he was Boston Globe's bureau chief for that area), an excellent book which comes to the conclusion that the only hope for the area (especially Palestine) is the presence of Christians as mediators and peacemakers. As I see the violence against Christians in the area since the Iraq War began, and the blood which stains the hands of the makers of American foreign policy, I hold out little hope for the future of this faith in the place it began.

While I am not naive enough to think there are easy answers and it is not a complex situation that bears much wisdom to navigate the maze of American political interests, stability in the region, internal politics and religious concerns, Israel's self interest, the words of Jesus and the plight of Christians in the area, I am also not naive enough to think that we must always support Israel or American interests when Christians are hurt by our inaction. We are culpable.

Here are some news links for your own research (there is much more out there on the web)

West Bank fence driving out Christians

Protection Promised for Iraqi Christians
Gaza Christians finding something scarier than Hamas
Christians that fled to Baghdad for safety
Christians flee to Northern Iraq
from earlier in the month, the murder of the owner of a Christian bookstore in Gaza
Violence makes life hard for Iraqi Christians

The Christians of Iraq website

* many of these articles are linked from Baptists Today, a newsmag bringing the plight of Middle East Christians to light.

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