Sadly, this Christmas, many Christian leaders must enter into a period of theological soul-searching.
Christian diplomats from once proudly Christian nations, failed to oppose the United Nations General Assembly resolution that designated the central holy sites of Jerusalem to be exclusively Islamic property, thereby exorcizing both Jewish and Christian history and biblical heritage of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
And, following this recent fraud that Israel will never accept, Christian pastors and bishops are now preaching blasphemy against Israelis and the Jewish State.
This Christmas, the Archbishop of Canterbury colluded with the Archbishop of Jerusalem in suggesting that the fate of Christians in the Holy Land is being challenged, not by those who have been threatening Christian existence in once Christian majority towns, but by Israel.
This is nothing short of a barefaced lie. It more than hints of disgraceful replacement theology, a medieval blasphemy against Jews that, sadly, continues by misguided church leaders to this day.
The Archbishops, in an inaccurate and biased article published in the anti-Israel Times newspaper under the dramatic title, “Let us pray for the Christians being driven out of the Holy Land,” more than hinted that Jews were the ones driving Christians out of the Holy Land.
They even prophesied that Christianity will be absent from the Holy Land in fifteen years’ time.
They may be religious leaders. They are certainly not statisticians.
They admit that the Christian population in Israel has grown. Indeed, there are now more Christians in Israel than Druze. Christians have been free to follow their faith and various churches have taken root in Israel including Roman, Armenian, Syriac, Maronite, Chaldeans, Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, as well as Anglican and Protestants.
Israel protects the only significant population of Samaritans in the world. It is where the Baha’i faith is centered (in Haifa) after being persecuted in Islamic countries, particularly Iran.
And yet, the Archbishop of Canterbury and his colleague in Jerusalem have forged an alliance that picks on the Jews for the persecution of local Christians when, if they were to be truly honest, they would admit that the real danger to Christianity lies in the locations that Israel handed over to the Palestinians to administer, and Bethlehem is a prime example.
When Israel was established in 1948, Christians composed 80% of the holy Christian town. This Christmas, Bethlehem Christians are a shrinking minority, less than ten thousand strong.
They pretend it’s because of Israeli checkpoints. At least this is what the replacement theologians behind the Kairos campaign allege.
Truth is, until Israel handed over control of Bethlehem to the Palestinian Authority the vast majority of local businesses were owned by middle class Christian families who were driven out by the Muslim population who did to the Christians what Arabs had done to the Jews in Arab lands.
In 2006, David Parsons of the International Christian Embassy wrote in a Jerusalem Post op-ed that Christians who remained in Bethlehem “suffer from the same Islamic hostility that is battering Israel, and which views both Jews and Christians as followers of “inferior” faiths naturally destined to be subjugated by Muslims.”
He was referring to the edict of Sheikh Yussef Salameh, the Palestinian Authority’s undersecretary for religious endowment, who promoted the idea, in 1999 after Israel had left Bethlehem, that Christians should become dhimmis, second-class citizens “protected” by a majority Muslim administration.
It’s an easy search to uncover multiple Christian tales of persecution by Muslims in Bethlehem.
Why should they treat Christians better than Jews? Bethlehem became a hot bed of Palestinian terror. Multiple deadly attacks were launched from Bethlehem against Jews in Jerusalem and Kiriat Araba. In 2002, when the IDF moved in to arrest the perpetrators of one particular deadly attack, the terrorists took over the St. Mary’s Church, held priests and nuns at gunpoint, and used the sanctuary of the church to open fire on the soldiers. The Israeli soldiers did not return fire and negotiated the safe release of the Christians.
By Christmas 2005, one Italian blogger wrote, “The Mayor of Bethlehem is Christian, but it is Hamas that’s in charge.”
Threats, physical attacks and extortion drove Christians out of their holy town. Their businesses and homes are now occupied by incoming Palestinians.
The Kairos lie alleges that Christians fled because of Israeli checkpoints, but these checkpoints didn’t prevent thousands of Arab Muslims entering the town to usurp the homes and businesses of departing Christians.
This is one fact that the two Archbishops failed to address this Christmas.
This Christian persecution has been repeated in the Gaza Strip ever since Hamas usurped power in Gaza during the Palestinian civil war between this Islamic terror group and Fatah. One result of the Hamas takeover has been that Arab Christians have fled the Gaza Strip, some finding shelter in Israel.
In short: Where Israel handed control over to the Palestinians, one direct result has been that Christians inevitably fled. Where Israel retained control, the Christian population increased, prospered and were protected.
This is the truth about Christianity in the Holy Land this Christmas.
Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.