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The recent military victory of Syrian government forces in Aleppo could prove to be a major turning point in the country’s bloody civil war, which has lasted nearly six years. Similarly, in Iraq, government forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition and Kurdish allies have been engaging in an operation to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State terror group. Yet the major military operations in Syria and Iraq have come with the costs of devastation and immense human suffering. This has been especially true for the region’s minority groups, such as the Christians, who have been targeted for genocide by Islamic extremists while getting caught in the crossfire between more powerful Sunni and Shi’a Muslim governments and armies. As such, upon the arrival of this year’s Christmas season, the ancient and dwindling Mideast Christian community still finds itself fighting for survival.
Western policy towards Middle Eastern Christian refugees is an abysmal failure. Despite Secretary of State John Kerry designating the Islamic State terror group as being responsible for genocide against Christians and Yazidis, President Barack Obama still hasn’t prioritized efforts to rescue them. Out of all the Syrian refugees admitted into the U.S., only 0.5 percent were Christians, while even fewer were Yazidis. This leaves Israel as the last hope for Mideast Christians. Since the West cannot be counted on to provide refuge for Christians, Israel should lead the way for Christians to achieve self-determination and statehood in an increasingly hostile region, writes columnist Bradley Martin.
Marcie Lenk recently saw worlds being created. Her students, 50 Catholic participants in the four-year degree program of the Salesian Pontifical University housed at the Ratisbonne monastery in Jerusalem, together with four priests, traveled north to spend a day studying with students at a yeshiva. Lenk, a Shalom Hartman Institute research fellow as well as a teacher of both Jewish and Christian texts, recounts the unique interfaith experience in an op-ed for JNS.org.
Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds never spoke about his experiences as a prisoner of war during World War II. Captured during the Battle of the Bulge, Roddie survived an arduous march through frozen terrain and was interned for nearly 100 days at Stalag IXA, a POW camp near Ziegenhain, Germany. “Son, there are some things I’d rather not talk about,” Roddie would tell his boys, Kim and Chris Edmonds, when they were young. When Roddie died in 1985, Chris, now a Baptist pastor, inherited his father’s war diaries. Now that his father’s wartime stories are known, Chris said his life has been “turned upside down.” The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, an organization that identifies non-Jewish rescuers of Holocaust survivors and pays tribute to their courage, honored Roddie’s memory Nov. 28 with the Yehi Ohr Award during the foundation’s annual dinner at the New York City Public Library.
When Father Juan Solana, a Catholic priest, wanted to construct a guest house for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land in the Galilee region in 2009, he couldn’t have imagined he’d become the leader of incredible archaeological findings, exposing the rich Christian and Jewish history of the area. The findings include the remains of a first century synagogue, dated to the Second Temple period and the time of Jesus’s life, and most recently a domestic water installation and water channel from the same era.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S., passed two Israel-related resolutions earlier this month at its triennial assembly in New Orleans, La. While some pro-Israel groups are decrying the Lutheran church's "scapegoating of Israel" and its apparent movement towards embracing divestment, other Jewish leaders detect hopeful signs with the church's most recent positions.
Since being elected as the leader of the world’s roughly 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in 2013, Pope Francis has never shied away from breaking with traditional Catholic dogma by speaking his mind. However, recent comments by the pontiff on radical Islamic terrorism have overshadowed his first official visit to Poland and Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, writes JNS' Editorial Assistant Shalle' McDonald.
“In each and every generation they rise up against us to destroy us,” Israeli MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) reminded a packed Knesset hall earlier this month during the premier joint meeting of the Knesset Caucus to Fight Delegitimization of Israel and the Christian Allies Caucus. The focus of the event: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), and how Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel can work together to quash the economic warfare movement against Israel.
During the Holocaust era, there could have been greater numbers of Christians who actively helped stand up for what is right. Today, we see Christians who make the choice to ignore what they hear about new forms of anti-Semitism. There are Christians who join “peace and justice” activists and embrace a cause they think is good and right. They are being swayed by the fashionable attitudes of the “progressive left” when the truth is that anti-Semitism is beginning to shake the world again. Christians must be more engaged in learning not only about the historical oppression of Jews, but about the current overt hatred of Jews through the promotion of lies and misinformation about Israel, writes Carla Brewington, a doctoral graduate of the Fuller Theological Seminary in California.
While much of the media focused on the recent terror attack in Nice, the failed coup in Turkey, and the Republican National Convention, thousands of evangelical Christians gathered in the nation’s capital this week to show their support for Israel as part of the 11th annual Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Washington Summit. Although world events may have overshadowed its latest gathering, CUFI’s base of support—3.1 million members—is louder than ever. CUFI has become not only the self-described largest pro-Israel organization in America, but also likely the largest evangelical Christian organization of its kind. Much of CUFI's momentum stems from how Israel has become “one of the top issues for evangelicals” in a post-9/11 world. “All of a sudden [after 9/11] this distant land of Israel, battling these Islamic enemies, many realized that we are also facing the same threats and enemies,” said David Brog, one of CUFI’s founders and the director of its executive board.
Dr. Tim Shepherd raised his son Adam, a pre-law student at the University of North Texas, to become a devoted supporter of Israel. The Shepherds not only support Israel from their vantage point as Christian Zionists, but they also prioritize connecting fellow Christians to the Jewish community in order to foster deep, lasting friendships. “We need to be best friends,” Tim Shepherd told JNS.org, detailing how he and his Jewish friends attend each other’s birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals. Tim and Adam Shepherd are both supporters of the Bnai Zion Foundation, a century-old Jewish organization that funds Israeli humanitarian projects. Last month, Adam was among the Christian honorees at Bnai Zion’s Texas Region Spring Reception in Dallas. The event—a night to honor Jewish and Christian donors who have helped raise money to support the Ahava Village for Children and Youth in northern Israel, a Bnai Zion beneficiary—embodied an interfaith community of generosity and special kinship.
“When it comes to apartheid, Israel sucks.” It’s a key quote delivered by American comedian Brad Stine, a devout Christian and a featured personality in the new documentary film “Hating Israel: In Search of the Truth Behind BDS.” The premiere of the film produced by Laurie Cardoza-Moore—founder and president of the Christian Zionist organization Proclaiming Justice to the Nations—was held in Jerusalem on June 8. Stine shapes his opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while traveling throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories. He carries out a series of interviews with Jews, Christians, and Muslims to get their thoughts about what life is really like. The comedian is hopeful that his humorous interviews will be an effective tool to help the film's viewers digest a serious message. “Humor helps people ‘take the medicine’ of a documentary,” Stine tells JNS.org.
Half a world away from American suburbia, Christians and other Middle East minority populations are facing extinction from Islamic terror groups such as the Islamic State. At the same time, Israel, the world’s lone Jewish state, deals with the organized terrorism of Hamas and Hezbollah as well as so-called “lone wolf” Palestinian terrorists. While these events may seem too distant for most Americans, residents of the Boston suburb of Stoughton, Mass., got a crash course on global dangers as part of an inventive interfaith event at a local synagogue last week. The event featured Dr. Tricia Miller and Dexter Van Zile, Christian media analysts for the Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, who addressed an audience of Jews and Christians about the ongoing Middle East threats and efforts to undermine Christian support for Israel. Such events help equip people to “counter terror and propaganda with fact, and encourage them to take action when need be,” Miller told JNS.org.
“Just being in Israel, in the Holy Land, and walking where Jesus walked, is incredibly inspiring,” says Barbara Wright, president of the Senior Women’s Missionary Union of the National Baptist Convention of America (NBCA). “We identify with the people of Israel as God’s chosen people, and therefore we understand that those who bless Israel receive blessings and those who curse Israel are really fighting against our culture and faith,” says A.W. Mays, an African-American Christian leader from Austin, Texas. Wright and Mays were two of the 26 members of NBCA, a predominately black church, who were hand-picked for an educational mission to Israel from May 23-29. The International Fellowship of Christian of Jews (The Fellowship) sponsored the trip to help deepen black leaders’ bonds with Israel. “African-Americans are the Jewish people’s natural partners,” says Yael Eckstein, senior vice president of The Fellowship. “They know what it means to be suffering and reach freedom, to be slaves and come to enjoy the full benefits of American peoplehood.…We have not had positive ties throughout the years because no one ever put an effort into creating those ties.”
As support for Israel erodes in many Western countries, especially among liberals and the millennial generation, American-Christian backing for the Jewish state is considered one of the bulwarks against such trends. But not all Christians feel warmly about Israel. During the past several years, a number of leading mainline Protestant churches have considered resolutions supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In May, at the United Methodist Church’s (UMC) general conference, UMC committees rejected four resolutions that called for divestment from companies doing business in Israel. While the UMC’s rejection of BDS and a similar rejection by the Episcopal Church in 2015 mark positive developments for pro-Israel advocates, there remains a broader challenge to win over more support from other mainline Protestant churches. Presbyterian Church USA and the United Church of Christ voted to divest from companies doing business in Israel in 2014 and 2015, respectively. “I think the average Presbyterian in the pews has little understanding of the vote to divest from Caterpillar, HP, or Motorola. In general, Presbyterians are driven by concern for social justice, and the plight of Palestinians certainly appeals to them,” said Michael Gizzi, a professor of criminal justice at Illinois State University who serves as a ruling elder in Presbyterian Church USA.
Earlier this month, Ben Rhodes, a national security official in the Obama administration, admitted in a New York Times profile that he used non-governmental groups to create an “echo chamber” to garner cover for the nuclear deal with Iran. Rhodes stated that his efforts to manipulate media coverage of the deal were made easier by the youth and ignorance of journalists who cover foreign policy. But Journalists are not the only people who were implicated as a result of Rhodes’s stunning admission. Christian churches and para-church organizations were an important part of the echo chamber that Rhodes created. By behaving in such a manner, these institutions did harm to the civil society in which they operate and to their own reputations, writes Dexter Van Zile, a Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).