Thursday, January 27, 2005

Holy Land Christians Tell NCC Delegation They Long for Western Christians' Solidarity

By the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar
NCC General Secretary

A few days into our National Council of Churches USA Delegation visit to the Middle East, in meetings with Christians and Muslims in Lebanon and Egypt, we already have heard repeatedly that Christians in the Holy Land need and long for the moral support of Christians in the West.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the center of the problems facing Christians in the Middle East. As the conflict continues to be seen in terms of Jews and Muslims, indigenous Christians, with very long histories in the region, are neglected.

One reason for the NCC delegation visit is to demonstrate solidarity with Christians in the Middle East, as they continue to be disproportionately affected by the ongoing violence in the Middle East. Certainly the ongoing instability and violence affect all people here. But the effect on the Christian community is a growing diminishment of Christian presence in the region.

Christians here feel that, if there is no peace, there will be no place for them here in the future. There is a lament that the United States does not care about Christians in the region, and the evidence pointed to is the neglect of historic Christian communities in Iraq as the violence continues there.

Christians, because of their natural ties to the West, find it easier than others to emigrate to the West. The violence and related instability are the main cause for emigration. Because their numbers are smaller than those of the Jewish and Muslim communities, this emigration affects the Christian community the most. There is no future seen for young people, and thus they seek their futures elsewhere.

Christians in the region see U.S. policy as the main reason for Islamic extremism. In the past, Christians and Muslims here lived peaceably side-by-side. Increasing tension between Christians and Muslims here is the direct result of the perception that Christians here think like Christian fundamentalists in the West, who support U.S. policy based on their own Christian Zionist theology and on their view that traditional Christian communities are negligible at best and targets of conversion at worst. The NCC delegation is striving to give an alternative picture of Christianity, and to strengthen a legitimate Christian witness together with our brothers and sisters in the region.

While Christians in the Middle East are part of the same Arab family as Muslims, they are increasingly confused with fundamentalist Christians in the West. The Christians here have difficulty in convincing their Muslim neighbors - who traditionally have been friends - that Christians aren't with the West as a dominating power, and conversely that their concern for peace, and for things such as human rights, is meant for all people of the region. While many Islamic leaders know this, there is a feeling among Christians here that these Islamic leaders can do more to voice this fact to their followers.

One message of the NCC delegation is to voice Christian concern for all people of the region - Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Though the Middle East’s Christian community is small, and despite years of repeated disappointments, there remains a hope that peace among Muslims, Jews and Christians will one day be a reality. Christians here all want peace. All see it as up to the United States.

The NCC delegation is exploring the opportunity for peace that now exists with the change of Palestinian leadership, the seeming willingness by the Israeli Government to take constructive action, and the second Bush term. Christians here state that real peace needs to be home grown, and not just the signing of treaties. For this to be nurtured among the people, real change needs to take place. Christians in the region are a presence of moderation. If Christians disappear from the Middle East, a moderating presence will also disappear. Christian leaders here see their churches as bridge-builders. They seek to facilitate peace for all, so that all may live in peace together.


Blogger UCCtruths said...

From UCCtruths.comNational Council of Churches Blames U.S. for Islamic Extremism

January 30, 2005 - Thank goodness for Bob Edgar and the National Council of Churches... things were getting slow around here.

The National Council of Churches is on yet another Middle-east tour meeting with their favorite terrorist sympathizers and anti-semites. On their blog about the trip, the NCC gloats about meeting with Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi. According to the blog, the meeting was covered in the Egyptian Gazette (ironically, the Anti-Defamation League claims the paper promotes anti-semitism):

"'Peace is fundamental to Islam, which condemns all sorts of aggression and terrorism,' Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi, told a visiting American religious delegation yesterday.

"Sheikh Tantawi regretted that certain people attempt to associate Jihad (holy war) with terrorism.

"He told the 11-member delegation, representing the US National Council of Churches, that Islam allows Jihad in defence of one's life, honour, property and homeland, as well as for restoring one's usurped rights or for the sake of justice.

"However, Islam denounces terrorism because it is an aggression on human life and people's rights and homelands, Sheikh Tantawi told the delegation, led by NCC President Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr.

Can't you feel the love? Unfortunately, the Sheikh has as much credibility as the National Council of Churches. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI):

"The great Imam of Al­Azhar Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, demanded that the Palestinian people, of all factions, intensify the martyrdom operations [i.e. suicide attacks] against the Zionist enemy, and
described the martyrdom operations as the highest form of Jihad operations. He says that the young people executing them have sold Allah the most precious thing of all."

"[Sheikh Tantawi] emphasized that every martyrdom operation against any Israeli, including children, women, and teenagers, is a legitimate act according to [Islamic] religious law, and an Islamic commandment, until the people of Palestine regain their land and
cause the cruel Israeli aggression to retreat…"

MEMRI also quotes the Sheikh in a different report:

Al-Azhar Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the highest-ranking cleric in the Sunni Muslim world, called the Jews "the enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs."

Of course, the National Council of Churches fails to mention that the Sheikh has encouraged terrorism. Instead, NCC General Minister Robert Edgar claims that Christians in the Middle East blame the U.S. "as
the main reason for Islamic extremism" in his latest blog posting.

January 30, 2005 at 5:39 PM  
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