Haven for Christians

Actually, Israel is the ONLY safe haven for Christians in the Middle East.

Ironic, isn’t it?

The only place in the Middle East that is safe for Jews is the only place in the Middle East that is safe for Christians.

Yes. VERY ironic.

This isn’t to say that it’s heaven. Many religious Jews are skeptical of, even hostile to, a Christian presence in Israel. There is even a law trying to work its way through the Knesset outlawing Christian materials being sent through the mail.

Yes, I know that the law is supposed to be against missionary materials, but everything about Christianity is essentially ‘missionary’. How can you tell the difference between what is intended as missionary and what isn’t?

But, I digress.

The point is that, for all her faults, Israel has become the only safe place in the Middle East for anyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah.

I think that’s quite a tribute to a people who suffered terribly at the hands of Catholics (and others) in Medieval Europe.

Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians
Just as Jews were once expelled from Arab lands, Christians are now being forced from countries they have long inhabited.

By Michael Oren

The church in Bethlehem had survived more than 1,000 years, through wars and conquests, but its future now seemed in jeopardy. Spray-painted all over its ancient stone walls were the Arabic letters for Hamas. The year was 1994 and the city was about to pass from Israeli to Palestinian control. I was meeting with the church’s clergy as an Israeli government adviser on inter-religious affairs. They were despondent but too frightened to file a complaint. The same Hamas thugs who had desecrated their sanctuary were liable to take their lives.

The trauma of those priests is now commonplace among Middle Eastern Christians. Their share of the region’s population has plunged from 20% a century ago to less than 5% today and falling. In Egypt, 200,000 Coptic Christians fled their homes last year after beatings and massacres by Muslim extremist mobs. Since 2003, 70 Iraqi churches have been burned and nearly a thousand Christians killed in Baghdad alone, causing more than half of this million-member community to flee. Conversion to Christianity is a capital offense in Iran, where last month Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death. Saudi Arabia outlaws private Christian prayer.

As 800,000 Jews were once expelled from Arab countries, so are Christians being forced from lands they’ve inhabited for centuries.

The only place in the Middle East where Christians aren’t endangered but flourishing is Israel. Since Israel’s founding in 1948, its Christian communities (including Russian and Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians and Protestants) have expanded more than 1,000%.

Christians are prominent in all aspects of Israeli life, serving in the Knesset, the Foreign Ministry and on the Supreme Court. They are exempt from military service, but thousands have volunteered and been sworn in on special New Testaments printed in Hebrew. Israeli Arab Christians are on average more affluent than Israeli Jews and better-educated, even scoring higher on their SATs.

This does not mean that Israeli Christians do not occasionally encounter intolerance. But in contrast to elsewhere in the Middle East where hatred of Christians is ignored or encouraged, Israel remains committed to its Declaration of Independence pledge to “ensure the complete equality of all its citizens irrespective of religion.” It guarantees free access to all Christian holy places, which are under the exclusive aegis of Christian clergy. When Muslims tried to erect a mosque near the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Israeli government interceded to preserve the sanctity of the shrine.

Read the rest of the article here.