Turning a Blind Eye to Murdered Christians

on August 17, 2009

The following article originally appeared on the FrontPage Magazine website, and is reproduced with permission.


In June, North Korean’s beastly communist dictatorship executed a 33 year old Christian woman for distributing Bibles, while also imprisoning her 3 little children, husband and parents, in conditions undoubtedly ghastly.

Several weeks ago, mobs involving hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of enraged radical Islamists destroyed several Christian villages in Pakistan, responding to incendiary rumors about Christians supposedly desecrating the Koran. Hundreds of homes were destroyed, and at least 14 Christians were murdered, including three Christian women and a child who were burned alive as the radicals torched houses and shops.

U.S. church groups largely have been stunningly silent about these atrocities. At least the Geneva-based World Council of Churches and the Church of England’s Archbishop of Canterbury denounced the Pakistani outrages.

But U.S. church groups like to reserve their fire for what’s really important, such as denouncing Israel for evicting two Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem. On August 2, Israeli police, executing a court order, evicted 50 Palestinians from their houses in the Sheikh Jarrah section of East Jerusalem. Apparently the Palestinian tenants were refusing to pay rent to the Jewish owners, claiming that the homes were rightfully theirs. The Jewish landlords sought the court order against the tenants. The legal history behind the properties, across decades of Israeli, Jordanian, British and Ottoman control, is naturally messy.

This messiness did not hinder Churches for Middle East Peace almost immediately to contact Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to demand that the U.S. “insist on the immediate reversal of this ill-considered eviction and on the restoration of these houses to their former residents.” The signers include the Catholic Bishop who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, the President of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the General Minister of the United Church of Christ, the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the National Council of Churches, and several left-leaning Catholic orders, among others.

Maybe all these senior church officials are still drafting their statements of concern about the murdered Christians in Pakistan and the executed North Korean Christian woman, along with her imprisoned family. But it took only five days for Churches of Middle East Peace to organize its denunciation of Israel after the August 2 evictions, which followed the North Korean and Pakistani murders. It’s not clear why it should take two weeks, or two months, to condemn what should be manifestly deplorable to all in North Korea and Pakistan. The evicted Palestinians lost their homes and their belongings were removed to the street. Hurtful and humiliating, no doubt. But several hundred Pakistanis had their homes and all their belongings burned to the ground by angry mobs motivated by hateful mosque gossip, with 14 Christians dead, and little response from Pakistani police. The North Korean woman was quickly executed after a fraudulent trial, where she was accused of espionage, while all her immediate family were quickly imprisoned in retribution and for example to others. Why do home evictions, however unfortunate, gain more church sympathy than murders and mass arson, or state-ordered execution for religious belief?

The story behind the Palestinian evictions is complex, and even the Churches for Middle East Peace letter to Secretary Clinton offhandedly acknowledged there are “legal issues” that are “disputed.” These evictions, even if legal, are deemed “provocative,” and part of an overall Israeli “population substitution” to expand the Jewish presence over “Palestinian areas” of East Jerusalem, the prelates noted. “A home eviction order at this time and in this place is not a mere matter of local law enforcement, but raises significant international political issues,” they intoned. “It also undercuts U.S. efforts to create an environment for starting talks for a comprehensive peace agreement and is therefore harmful to both the Palestinian and Israeli hopes for peace.”

In an editorial, The Jerusalem Post admitted the Palestinian families “dumped in the street” after their evictions were “not a pretty picture.” Their expulsion came after an Israeli Supreme Court decision that the land belonged to the Sephardi Jewish community. The Palestinian homes were built there in the 1950’s when living under Jordan’s authority. After the 1967 Israeli reunification of Jerusalem, the Palestinians remained in the homes but eventually stopped paying rent and claimed that documents from the old Ottoman Empire showing Jewish ownership were forgeries.

Seemingly, the church officials aligned with Churches for Middle East Peace are not overly interested in the details of property ownership in Jerusalem, where both Jewish groups and wealthy Arab groups compete to buy property and stake claims. Instead, these church officials insist that peace in the Middle East requires restraining Jewish population growth outside of pre-1967 Israel. Almost obsessively, these prelates imagine that Israel is the cause of nearly all regional strife and must be pressured into retreat. Neither the Palestinians, as supposed victims, nor their Arab patrons are expected to offer any compromise or any substantive change in attitude or behavior.

Amid the preoccupying interest in Israel’s real and imagined sins, these same U.S. church officials show little to no public concern about far more dreadful suffering around the world. State-sponsored, or mob-induced murders of Christians, should seemingly arouse some interest from such justice-minded church prelates. Maybe they are still working on their statement about the Pakistani and North Korean outrages of two weeks and two months ago.

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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