Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Priest tells UN: Israel is the "only safe place" for Christians in the Middle East

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Today Christians are the most persecuted religious minority in the world, according to a new report by Catholic charity "Aid to the Church in Need". At the launch of the report, Prince Charles commented in a video message, "It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East, an area where Christians have lived for 2,000 years and across which Islam spread in 700 AD, with people of different faiths living together peaceably for centuries."

At this time of suffering and persecution of Christian communities throughout the Middle East, Israel is the only country in the region where the Christian population is safe and growing. This important point was recently made in a powerful speech in Arabic to the UN Human Rights Council by Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth.

Father Gabriel Naddaf told the UN Human Rights Council:

"Mr. President, I am speaking to you on behalf of UN Watch.
Standing before you is Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Christian citizen from Nazareth, the city in which Christ was raised and where he proselytized.
Dear Sirs, while I stand before you today, the earth of the Middle East is soaked with the blood of Christians being killed daily.
Do you know that at the start of the 20th century, Christians comprised 20% of the population of the Middle East?
Today they comprise only 4%.
Do you know that over the past years some 100,000 Christians have been killed annually? And why? Not for a crime they've committed, but only for believing in Christ.
In Iraq alone, more than 77% of the Christians have fled during the year 2000, in addition to thousands killed and expelled.
Some 2 million Christians lived in Syria, but today, they are less than 250,000.
Christians in these countries are treated as second-class citizens; facing racial, religious, economic and social discrimination.
Why is this happening? Only due to their religion, a religion that advocates love and peace between mankind.
Christians in the Middle East are marginalized; their rights denied, their property stolen, their honor violated, their men killed, and their children displaced.
Where will they go? Who will defend them? And who will guard their property?
If we look at the Middle East, Mr. President, we realize there's only one safe place where Christians are not persecuted.
One place where they are protected, enjoying freedom of worship and expression, living in peace and not subjected to killing and genocide.
It is Israel, the country I live in. The Jewish state is the only safe place where the Christians of the Holy Land live in safety.
Christians and Jews live in Israel not only because Christ was originally Jewish, born in Jewish Bethlehem, but because they share a common destiny, and a true hope to coexist in peace.
Does the world acknowledge Israel for protecting its Christians? Many in the international community have chosen to criticize Israel.
This, in my mind, is a double crime: because by doing so, the international community helps those striving to annihilate the Jews, the Christians, the Druze and the Yazidis for political ends.
By doing so, the international community unfortunately contributes to exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.
It causes Christians to leave the land of Christ searching for a safe haven across the world.
It is time for the world to awaken and realize the truth of those striving to destroy the Jewish state.
They are hastening the death sentence of Christians in the Middle East and the Holy Land, the land which witnessed the birth and life of our Lord Jesus Christ. If they leave, who will remain in it?
I, Father Gabrial Naddaf of Nazareth, stand before you and plead: O world leaders and supporters of peace, stop those who want to destroy the only free Jewish state in the region.
It is the only refuge welcoming and protecting all of its citizens. It is the only place that does not attempt to push out Christians, forcing them to leave their land in search of security.
I implore you from the bottom of my heart to hear the cry of the Christians of the Middle East before it is too late, and you may read about them only in the history books.
Thank you, Mr. President."

The UN Human Rights Council is known for its biased and one-sided condemnations of Israel. Father Gabriel Naddaf's address at this forum was significant in not only providing a counterpoint to the usual delegitmisation of Israel that takes place there, but also for drawing the international community's attention to the serious issue of Christian persecution in the Middle East.

He also importantly placed this issue in a larger context. The Middle East has been increasingly intolerant in recent decades of religious and ethnic minorities of all types - a reality driven in large part first by the rise of Arab Nationalism and more recently of Islamism. This includes not only Christians, but Yazidis, Kurds, Shi'ites in Sunni-majority regions and vice-versa, Druze, Alawis, Berbers and of course Jews. A lot of the relentless and even openly racist hostility to Israel across the region should be understood in this context. More on this larger trend can read in this older article from Israeli academic Mordecai Nisan, and this recent opinion piece by American researcher Benjamin Kweskin. 

To watch Father Gabriel Naddaf's powerful speech click here.

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