While commending the important work of recording the persecution of Christians around the world, UKLFI has urged reconsideration of a comment blaming “the Arab-Israeli Conflict” for the fall in the number of Palestinian Christians.
Tintoretto: the Baptism of Christ
The Bishop of Truro, the Right Rev Philip Mounstephen, has been asked by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to examine the oppression faced by Christians around the world and the steps that should be taken by the FCO to address it. He recently published an interim report, and the full report is expected later this summer.
The interim report made the unsubstantiated comment that “The Arab-Israeli conflict has caused the majority of Palestinian Christians to leave their homeland”.
Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI wrote to Bishop Mounstephen explaining: “the allegation that this exodus has been caused by the Arab-Israeli conflict does not appear to be substantiated by the cited reference and we believe it to be false. We consider that it is much more likely that Christians have left these territories because of persecution, as in the case of many other countries of the Middle East and North Africa in recent years, as so distressingly detailed in your Interim Report.”
Turner commented: “We are concerned by the erroneous allegation that the Arab-Israeli conflict has caused the majority of Palestinian Christians to leave for several reasons:
First, it seems to us to be an example of the antisemitic tendency to assume that Jews are to blame for all the problems of the world.
Secondly, false allegations such as this contribute to further antisemitism.
And thirdly, erroneous assessment of the cause is liable to result in misdirected proposals for remedying it.”
UKLFI pointed out that in contrast to numbers in the Palestinian Territories, the Christian population of Israel has increased in recent years. While there have been very occasional and deplorable attacks on “Messianic Jews” and some vandalism of churches in Israel, this bears no comparison with the major scale of atrocities and vandalism in Egypt and Turkey.
UKLFI has asked the Bishop to give further consideration to this point in the preparation of his final Report and to bear in mind the intimidation of Christians living in areas ruled by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas or with family there, which may prevent them giving a full and true account of the situation.