Too Obvious to Ignore

Click photo to download. Caption: Dexter Van Zile.
Click photo to download. Caption: Dexter Van Zile.

In the middle part of the last decade, mainline (or liberal) Protestant churches in the United States attacked Israel hammer and tong. When Israel built a security barrier to stop suicide bombers from sneaking into Jerusalem from the West Bank, these churches screamed bloody murder.

One church—the United Church of Christ—passed a resolution calling on Israel to take down the barrier without demanding that the Palestinians stop the attacks that prompted its construction.

The General Assembly of another denomination—the Presbyterian Church (USA)—called on the denomination to initiate a process of divestment from companies that did business with Israel. The assembly even stated that the “occupation” was at the “root” of violence against innocents on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In other words, when Hamas killed Israeli women and children, it was Israel’s fault.

Given the outrage these churches expressed over the suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of the Jewish state, you’d think that they would be up in arms over the violence against Christians in Iraq and Egypt. You’d think that these churches would be screaming bloody murder about the misdeeds of Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has killed close to 5,000 of its own citizens in the past few months.


Mainline churches have offered nary a word of criticism of the extremists who have murdered Christians in the Middle East and they have remained nearly silent about events in Syria. There are a few articles on the website of these denominations about the anti-Christian violence, but not very many, and the articles themselves are written in the language of lament and concern. The perpetrators are simply not held to account. The churches that demonized Israel pass over the sins of Islamists with a very light touch.

This is simply astonishing, given what’s at stake.

Christians in Iraq are the target of a largely successful Islamist campaign of ethnic cleansing. In 2003, there were more than 1.5 million Christians in that country. Today, most estimates peg the Christian population in Iraq at less than 500,000. This drastic reduction is the result of attacks like the one that took place at a Church in Baghdad on Oct. 31, 2010 that resulted in the deaths of several dozen Christians. One of the killers told his victims that killing Christians was “hallal,” or sanctioned under Muslim law.

For some reason mainline Churches offered very little, if any, criticism of the extremists who perpetrated these attacks and the Iraqi and American officials who failed to prevent them.

Mainline churches have said nary a word about ongoing violence against Christians in Egypt—known as Copts—as well. Approximately two dozen Copts were murdered in a bomb attack in Alexandria on Jan. 1, 2011, and while the churches lamented the attack, the outrage, which was so evident in statements about Israel, was largely absent. And when two dozen Christians were murdered in the streets of Cairo on the night of Oct. 9, 2011, it was not mainline Protestants, but the American Jewish Committee that responded first, condemning the failure of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for its failure to keep Christians safe.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has condemned the Coptic Patriarch for anti-Semitic statements over the years, has also been vocal in its defense of Egypt’s Christians over the past year.

The conclusion is inescapable. Mainline churches in the U.S.—Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, and Episcopalians—care very little about suffering in the Middle East that cannot be blamed on Israel.

Dexter Van Zile is the Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

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