Monday, March 22, 2010
The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy: Ignoring Christian persecution, maligning Israel
The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a hidden problem in their General Assembly “Human Rights Update 2010 Recommendation” paper. Anti-Semitism, in an interesting form, is residing there connected to the neglect of suffering Christian believers. Besides the main subjects of their report they attempt to give answers to three referrals from the 218 General Assembly. The third referral, my concern, is listed as:
"2008 Referral: Item 07-01. On Calling for Tolerance and Peaceful Relations Between the Christian and Muslim Communities, Recommendation 6. Identify Violations of the Civil Rights of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the United States and Other Areas of the World, Along with Other Incidents of Violation of Religious Freedoms, as Part of the Regular Human Rights Report to the General Assembly—From the Presbytery of Newton (Minutes, 2008, Part I, pp. 14, 15, 507–10)."
The ACSWP answers that referral with this:
“To speak directly to this third referral, in the case of this General Assembly, the most substantial discussion of Muslim, Jewish and Christian interreligious incidents is in the historical perspective appendix to the Middle East report. They cite the U.S. State Department Religious Liberty report on Israel and the Occupied Territories, finding discrimination against both Muslims and Christians and neglect of their holy sites. The nature of Church/State or religion/state issues differs, of course, in Muslim majority countries and Israel. The instances of torture discussed in the third section of this Update largely include Muslim detainees, and certainly religiously linked extremism is affecting the conditions of Christian minorities in certain conflict areas. We expect to do more with this referral in the future.”
The Members of the ACSWP have neglected Christian suffering in Arab lands with the vague words, “The nature of Church/State or religion/state issues differs, of course, in Muslim majority countries and Israel.” The only words which are clear in this statement are, “They [the Presbyterian (U.S.A) Middle East Study Committee] cite the U.S. State Department Religious Liberty report on Israel and the Occupied Territories, finding discrimination against both Muslims and Christians and neglect of their holy sites.”
So using A Plea for Justice: A Historical Analysis, the most appalling of the papers among those produced by the Middle East Study Committee, the ACSWP neglects the horrendous persecution happening to Christians in the Arab countries of the Middle East. They instead focus on the disputes about holy sites in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
But reading the U.S. Department of State’s, “2009 Report on International Religious Freedom” pointed to by both the ACSWP and the PCUSA’s Middle East Study Committee one sees differences that are as wide as good is from evil. For instance the report on Saudi Arabia states, “Freedom of religion is neither recognized nor protected under the law and is severely restricted in practice.”
Or, on Iran: “Government rhetoric and actions created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shi'a religious groups, most notably for Baha'is, as well as Sufi Muslims, evangelical Christians, and members of the Jewish community. Reports of government imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based on religious beliefs continued during the reporting period.”
Because the ACSWP has not yet dealt with Christian persecution in the Middle East but instead switched the focus of religious suppression to Israel and to a document that is historically biased and incomplete I intend to write several postings reviewing “A Plea for Justice: A Historical Analysis.”
 While the ACSWP paper refers at this point to the historical perspective appendix in the Middle East Report they are actually quoting from the paper “A Plea for Justice: A Historical Analysis, and using also that paper’s end note of the U.S. Department of State’s 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom and its listing of Israel and the Occupied Territories. See note 16 & 17 under 5. “Present Day Occupation.”