Christian Life 

The Middle East and Christian Politics

The recent Greenbelt Festival illustrates the extent to which 'Christian' humanitarian aid groups are being led more by media headlines than the Bible in interpreting the days in which we live.

Ed foreword: The following article from an Irish parish magazine ilustrates the naivety and bias of Christian aid agencies with respect to the politics of the Middle East and the impact of Islam. The article is taken from the  parish magazine of Clonallon-Warrenpoint with Kilbroney churches in the Diocese of Down and Dromore, and is published with permission.


The Perils of Christian Politics

by Rev. Colin McCormack (Sept. 2013)

greenbeltGREENBELT is the name of a festival held around the end of August each year in England whose central aim is to explore from a contemporary Christian perspective the issues of faith, art and justice. Not unsurprisingly, majoring on justice inevitably leads into the realm of politics. In this area, the organizers of Greenbelt claim to "listen to and be in dialogue with" those who disagree with their points of view.

The evidence for this, however, specifically in relation to their outlook on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would appear to contradict this claim to impartiality, given that the speakers on the topic at this year's festival are exclusively pro-Palestinian - hardly a recipe for open-ended enquiry!

Ignorance and bias

In common with other organizations operating along similar lines, there exist two common threads pinpointing the political thinking behind such groups.

First, they either play down or simply ignore the historical narrative of the region between the fall of the Ottoman empire in 1917 and the formation of the state of Israel in 1948 – a period that is crucial in our understanding of the present log jam.
And secondly, they play down or ignore the political and military posturing of countries and movements surrounding Israel; in particular groups such as Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon whose avowed intent is the destruction of the Jewish state.

Egyptian church destroyed and anti-semitism on display
Middle East violence

Christian Aid is a relief organization that is familiar to many in our churches. What is less well known is that Christian Aid, along with mission organizations such as US (formerly USPG) shares a similar political philosophy regarding Israel in particular and the Middle East in general. And this is highlighted by the fact that in its promotional literature, Greenbelt describes Christian Aid as one of its "partners" (alongside the Church Times - the leading Church of England Newspaper)! And this brings me to my major point.

In a recent report published by Christian Aid concerning the appalling political developments in Egypt, there is no reference to the specific causes and, more generally, no attempt to relate this to what is happening in the rest of the Middle East. The article ('Egypt crisis: call for an end to violence') speaks of the removal from power of "elected" President Morsi but fails to mention that the Muslim Brotherhood has as its goal the establishment of Sharia law and to that end had implemented undemocratic changes to the constitution .

The result has been the wholesale persecution of (among others) Egyptian Christians and the destruction of many churches. Indeed, throughout the whole of the Middle East, we are witnessing the decimation of the Christian population through persecution and even death - a dispersion rivalling that of the Jews in the first century AD. And Christian Aid chooses to ignore all of this. Why?

"Movements such as Christian Aid and Greenbelt need to face up to the consequences of their political chicanery."
Surely the evidence is startlingly clear! Although the "Arab Spring" may have started out as a genuine attempt to introduce democracy, it has now degenerated into an outpouring of venom and blood-letting reflecting the deep-rooted religious divisions and political aspirations existing within the world-wide Islamic community.

Movements such as Christian Aid and Greenbelt need to face up to the consequences of their political chicanery. Why do they vent all their spleen against Israel while studiously ignoring the blood-thirsty machinations of Hamas (an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood) and Hezbollah (a puppet of President Assad - not to mention the Iranian regime)?

And finally, when will these organizations emerge from the nether gloom and show a greater measure of support for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, instead of offering bland, nebulous generalisations that only provide sustenance to those who are utterly opposed to the Christian Gospel?

Ed footnotes:

1. Rev. Nick Gray is a Pentecostal minister of nearly 30 years standing. Previously, he was an Army Officer and served three tours in Northern Ireland. He travels frequently to Israel and the disputed territories and writes for several online publications on Middle East issues. He has recently written:

"This year’s August Bank Holiday in England saw the Greenbelt Christian festival's launch of “Kairos Britain”, a new and avowedly pro-Palestinian Christian organisation.
Drawing its inspiration from a 2009 document produced by the Sabeel ecumenical movement of Palestinian churches, Kairos Britain joins a number of prominent Christian groups that have in recent years bought into the international boycott movement (Boycotts, Divestment & Sanctions, or “BDS”) calling for action against Israel."

Where some Christian groups working in the Middle East have added political activism to their existing projects and policies in the region, Kairos Britain has its very foundation in a pseudo-religious political movement (Sabeel) that is more anti-Israel than pro-Palestinian."

Evangelical clergyman Rev. Stephen Sizer is much involved in the 'Kairos Britain network of Churches' movement and has been reported to the Church of England as being anti-semitic. See article on 'Christian Palestinianism'

2. One of Greenbelt's high-profile patrons and performers is Rev. Garth Hewitt of Amos Trust. The clergyman/songsmith has two very different personas.  The Amos Trust is the 'facilitator' of the Kairos Britain network which grew out of the 'Iona Call' meeting in Iona in May 2012.

3. Christian Aid, World Vision, the World Council of Churches and the New Zealand branch of Tearfund and the Iona Community have all been implicated in the anti-Israel agenda sweeping through the churches.

Colin McCormack / Christians Together, 02/09/2013

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