Persecution, cultural genocide, murder, discrimination, kidnapping, arrest, conquer, injustice, immigration … These and other cruel and bitter words I have heard yesterday evening during a conference which was held at the Political Academy of ÖVP in the 12 district in Vienna about “Discrimination, Oppression and Persecution of Christians in the Middle East“.
According to the speakers, “in many countries of the world, including the Middle East, there is discrimination between peoples of different religion who live in the same country and under the same laws. There is little religious freedom for Christians in Egypt, Iraq, Iran … because of their faith”.
This is very sad and true, but it is part of the bitter political realities which the Christians experience in these countries. It is also in great part due to the political bankruptcy of the regimes of these various countries. Restriction of religious freedoms is also a part of the occupation policy, for example like what had happened to the Christians in Iraq under the American occupation.
Yesterday, in a hall of the Political Academy of the ÖVP (an Austrian rightist party) was full of participants in a conference about religious repression against Christians throughout the world. Among them were many representatives of the Christian communities in several Arab countries, a group of persons from the Egyptian Christian Coptic community in Vienna, interested Austrians, academics, journalists and representatives of the church and the media. “Click of the pictures to make them bigger”.
The audience listened to the speakers carefully. All speakers stressed the policy of discrimination and restriction of religious freedoms against Christians, and violations of their rights, in the Arab countries.
During the introduction of the conference, it was mentioned that Christians are most discriminated against in “formerly soviet countries”, with Muslim states being in third place, so it surprised me to subsequently hear bitter complaints regarding discrimination against Christians exclusively against Muslim countries. I was aghast listening at some of the things I heard.
It should be noted that none of the speakers which I heard at the conference referred in their speeches to the serious violations of human rights and religious freedoms by the State of the Zionist occupation against the Christians in Palestine.
They did not provide any statistics on the number of the deported, wounded and the martyrs and detainees of the Christians faith under the Israeli occupation since 62 years.
They did not provide statistics on the Israeli crimes, the burning of several Churches in Jerusalem and Nazareth. I will try to (partially) fill the void which they left.
Discrimination against Christians was not mentioned for Palestine, and I found it disconcerting that in no way it is mentioned that most of all discrimination against Christians in Palestine comes from the zionists, but this somehow seems to be something fit only to be swept under the rug, and that there is religious discrimination in Arab countries which does not stem from Islam. In this regard I find the attitude of the Catholic church regarding the Catholic community in Gaza most interesting.
In 2008, the catholic priest of the community, Monsignor Emmanuel Musallam, complained about the blockade on side of Israel and tried to get help from the Christian world. His words fell on deaf ears. Next, during the massacre of last January, he tried to ask for intervention from the Catholic hierarchy in order to protect his community. I do not remember that the Catholic church of Rome did anything. Forward to May of this year 2009, the Pope visited “Israel”. He did not visit the Catholic community of Gaza despite repeated public requests from Monsignor Mussalam. What I and many others who followed that visit in the media remember, is that the Pope spent a couple of days grovelling to the Zionists, who accused the Catholic Church of ignoring the Jews and who are directly culpable of most of the problems befalling the Christians of the “Holy Land”, rather than giving support to one of the most grief-stricken Christian communities of the world.
Under such circumstances, when even the highest dignitaries of the Catholic Church ostentatiously abandon their own brothers and sisters in faith, when most of the crimes against Christians are perpetrated by the zionists, is it not strange to forget the chapter of Palestine in the speeches altogether?
Our worried speakers failed to mention the Israeli checkpoints which prevent Christians from access to the churches in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth.
They did not speak about the obstacles faced by the Christian pilgrims who wish to perform Hajj (pilgrimage) in Palestine.
The city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, has been turned by the Israeli zionists into a concentration camp, an open-air prison, horrors which were not known even in the time of the Nazis and Hitler. That the people of the “Holy Land”, Christians and Muslims alike, are slowly dying of hunger and destitution at the hands of the Zionists, is also dutifully censored by the Austrian national TV when they show footage of Austrian children visiting the “Holy Land” to light candles during Christmas.
Three Other Events Which Merit Mention in This Context:
Nobody speaks about the huge trauma which happened to the Christians in the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth when extremist jews from the area threw explosives and incendiaries into the church on 3 March 2006 during a religious ceremony, burning and injuring many of the members of that Christian community.
On 23 May 2008 the assistant major of the town of Ori Yehuda, of the extremist party Shas, burnt Christian bibles before hundreds of students of a yeshiva, an institution where religious extremists are taught.
Dr. Bishara Awad, priest and director of the of Bethlehem Bible College, and the professor and priest Dr. Alex Awad, the author of the books “The Muslims, My Neighbors” both of them are Palestinians with an American citizenship, could speak for weeks about the genocide and the crimes against humanity committed by the zionist occupation against the Christians in Palestine. It would be necessary to mention these crimes within the long list of crimes against Christians in the Middle East.
But the question remains: Why do not Christians talk in conferences held in Europe over the crimes of the Jews and the Zionist occupation against the Christians in Palestine?
The Israeli occupation is a big threat to the Church and the Christians, a much greater danger than the one which comes from the governments of some Arab countries in the Middle East. Why are politicians, high religious dignitaries, journalists afraid to talk about Israel’s crimes against Christians?
Was the aim of this event to find a serious solution to the problem of Christians in the Middle East, or was it just to incite against some countries under the policy of Europe and USA?
The situation of the Christians in Iraq was also mentioned by one of the speakers. The situation of the Christians in Iraq is indeed horrible in these days. There have been Christian communities in Iraq for thousands of years, long before Europe became Christian. These communities have always been integrated into society, before and during Islam. Even during the years of the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Christians of Iraq were not persecuted, their troubles started with the US invasion, and they are due to the many guerillas, death squads and groups of extremists which are trained, protected and financed by the USA and their partners in crime, the other western countries currently present in Iraq. This “small” fact was obviously forgotten by the person speaking about the troubles of the Christians of Iraq. Why would that be?
The troubles of the Christians in Egypt was also mentioned by one of the speakers, who the term “cultural genocide” when describing their situation. The situation of the Christians in Egypt is indeed terrible. While Christians and other non-Muslim communities are nominally protected under the law, groups of extremists harass these communities with all kind of violent acts. One of the disgraceful acts which are perpetrated against the Coptic Christians is the kidnapping of young girls and engaging them in forced marriages to Muslims.
But like in Iraq, Egypt is home to some of the oldest Christian communities of the world, which have traditionally been integrated into society, and here, equally, the speaker conveniently forgot to mention the “small” fact that the troubles of the Christians in Egypt started when Anwar Al-Sadat signed peace agreements with Israel, and worsened under Hosni Mubarak, an autocratic dictator installed by the USA.
The Mubarak regime has no legitimacy among the people, it is politically bankrupt and can exist only due to a massive repression apparatus financed by USA and EU; the disaffection within the population of Egypt with this regime has led a significant part of the population under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Since the brotherhood and religious groups opposed to the regime in their influence are too powerful to be repressed, an implicit understanding between both factions reigns in the country: the regime allows the brotherhood more or less free hand in their doings, provided that these religious groups do not interfere in politics or stand effectively against the interests of the regime. The atrocities against the Christians occur in this context, which the speaker at the ÖVP event did not mention.
I perfectly understand that, as Christians, the participants in this event would be worried about the Christians living in other countries. I think that this is perfectly legitimate. The aspect of this discussion which I find definitely questionable is that, while various speakers complain that it is forbidden under law (“sharia”, a term often used) in Muslim countries to proselytize, the overall aim of the event seemed to me to be more about demonizing Muslims and Islamic law and customs than about anything else, and this within a circle of people who seemed to me to definitely have the connections and the resources needed to carry forward political projects with potentially troublesome consequences for the peace of all those living in Austria at their disposition, and under the auspices of a political party which is currently represented in the government of Austria.
Supposing that a betterment of the situation of the Christian populations living in Arab and Muslim countries is what was wanted by the organizers and speakers during this event, then, instead of exacerbating tensions between Christians and Muslims at the expense of these Christian minorities, instilling animosities against Muslims at home and tolerating and justifying genocide against Muslims abroad is decidedly not the way to go.
The first priority for anybody interested in a betterment in the situation of Christians in all Muslim countries should be to use all possibilities to force Israel to respect international humanitarian law, to respect exactly all UN resolutions regarding the situation in Palestine, to make it clear to the “State of Israel” that the they must stop their crimes against non-jews immediately.
The immediate next priority towards the betterment of the situation of Christians in Arab and Muslim countries is for the western countries to end all support for all the corrupt and autocratic regimes in these countries, and equally to stop funding extremist deleterious movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Wahabism, which are products of western secret services.
I think that peace between Muslims and Christians is possible and within reach, but what I saw at the political academy of the ÖVP makes me doubt that peace is really what is wanted by some. Who wants to talk about peace between peoples or religions, he should not play with fire.
Something I learned in the land of the prophet Jesus, where I was born, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those who have his good will!”. This is what my Muslim father taught me too.
15 Demands from Vienna Akademikerbundes to the Muslim Community