No faithful Christian would put his ethnicity and nationality above his Christianity. Christ is either Lord or ethnic identity is lord. (That was one of the problems facing Christianity during Nazi Germany.) The Christian’s first obedience, no matter how hard, must be to Christ and his word. Many Christians in the Middle East are suffering because of their faithfulness.
I am interested in the article because there is an on going argument about whether the Palestinian Christians are leaving the Middle East because of Israel or because of persecution by radical Islamic groups. The author of the article seems to be making a case for the former. His reference to past offences by Islamic groups is rather weak. Almeghari, quoting Khalil Abu Shammala, director of the Al Dameer Association for Human Rights, writes:
“For example, in 2008, we recorded a number of incidents, in which a Christian man was killed and some Christian [-owned] buildings were bombed by suspected Islamic extremists in the territory,” Abu Shammala said at his Gaza City office.A little more information about the Christian killed and the bombings is helpful. An article, “My Heart is in Gaza” published in Christianity Today in 2008 begins:
Abu Shammala suggested that for Christians, as a minority, the main issue is psychological pressure.
“For instance, over the past few years, many Christian women in Gaza have been forced to put on a headscarf, something that can be attributed to the change since 2007,” Abu Shammala explained. “But in general, I can assure you that we as a rights group have not received any formal complaint by any Christian group or individual about any kind of harassment or violence by individuals, groups or authorities in Gaza.”
Gaza Baptist Church used to draw hundreds of Palestinian worshipers to its two Sunday services. But on a recent Sunday in January, less than 10 people risked attending the only evangelical church in the 25-mile coastal strip.These two events happened after Hamas took control of Gaza. And it is true that both Muslim citizens as well as Christians have suffered because of Israel’s security features. As the author, Jeremy Weber, put it, “Conditions have also worsened due to Israel's security efforts, which have constricted the incoming flow of food, electricity, and fuel. Israel tightened security in response to ongoing Hamas rocket attacks and the first suicide bombing in Israel in three years [In 2008].” But many Evangelical Christians left Gaza because of radical Islamic persecution.
Palestinian evangelicals, a group of hundreds living among 1.5 million Muslims, have been fleeing the Gaza Strip for the West Bank in response to increased violence and threats from Islamic extremists. In October, Rami Ayyad, the 29-year-old manager of Gaza's only Christian bookstore, was kidnapped and murdered. Then on February 15, a group of 14 masked gunmen forcibly entered the ymca offices and set off a bomb in the library, burning thousands of books.
"Suffocating the Faithful” written by David Aikman, a year earlier, covered the problems of many Christian communities in the Middle East. Aikman had this to say about the Palestinian Christians:
In Bethlehem, now under Palestinian authority, Christians have shrunk from 85 percent in 1948 to around 15 percent today. Throughout the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian Christians are caught between growing Islamic fundamentalism and Israel's quest for security. In Palestinian-controlled areas, Christians number about 60,000, less than 2 percent of the overall population of 3.9million. Many of these believers live in Christian villages with debilitated economies.But going further afield and looking at the whole situation for many Christian communities in the Middle East, an atheist gives the clearest report and the greatest plea for tolerance. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has written an eye opening article, “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World.” Written in February 2012 it looks carefully at every area in the Muslim world where Christians are persecuted. Hirsi Ali calls it Christophobia, writing, “… we also need to keep perspective about the scale and severity of intolerance. Cartoons, films, and writings are one thing; knives, guns, and grenades are something else entirely.”
In another place she writes:
No, the violence isn’t centrally planned or coordinated by some international Islamist agency. In that sense the global war on Christians isn’t a traditional war at all. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.And for this reason alone, “a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions and ethnicities,” all Christians in the Middle East must be feeling wary and perhaps alone. While Hirsi does not mention persecution of Palestinian Christians it behooves the West including mainline denominations to speak with care toward and about Christians in the Middle East. Sunday night CBS’, “Sixty Minutes” will be televising a show about the shrinking Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land. I am praying that they are honest with their questions, understanding the hard situation of the Palestinians.
See also http://www.sbcbaptistpress.org/BPnews.asp?ID=26573