Times of London places Israel in story on international persecution of Christians

“Christians represent the most persecuted people on earth in the 21st century,” argued Anglican Bishop Nick Baines in a Christmas Eve op-ed at Times of London  

Baines, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative on the Board of the Centre for Inter-Religious Dialogue in Vienna, didn’t mince words:

We are talking about men, women and children being singled out because of their Christian faith or identity and put to an unimaginably cruel death. Or being driven out of home, away from livelihood, deprived of identity and dignity. Or, for women and girls, being forced into sexual slavery and subjected to rape-at-will.

Baines also lamented that politicians and media commentators find it difficult to name anti-Christian persecution for what is.

Indeed, Bishop Baines doesn’t need to look any further than the very news site where his heartfelt plea on behalf of Christians appeared to find “media commentators” who can’t clearly explain the problem.

A separate article at Times of London citing the Bishop’s op-ed was published the same day titled ‘Faith leaders unite against persecution of Christians‘. The authors of the report (Oliver Moody, Jerome Starkey, Hannah Lucinda Smith, and Philip Willan) not only cited Baines’ complaints, but also added more concrete examples of anti-Christian persecution:

Brunei threatened yesterday to imprison for up to five years anyone who celebrates the Christian festival in public. The former British colony’s new penal code could also hand out $20,000 fines for any ceremony contrary to Sharia, including singing religious songs, sending festive greetings or putting up Christmas trees, crosses or candles.

Somalia’s leading clerics issued a similar edict in 2013, which they reiterated yesterday. Sheikh Mohamed Khayrow, the religious affairs minister, said that “all events related to Christmas and new year celebrations are contrary to Islamic culture”. They could “damage the faith of the Muslim community” and risk attracting terrorist attacks from Al Shabaab, he added.

In China, which has 70 million Christians and is set to overtake America as the world’s largest Christian country within a decade, large outdoor crosses on hundreds of churches have been dismantled by officials from the atheist Communist party. Some churches have been demolished in the eastern city of Wenzhou, dubbed the “Jerusalem of China”.

After a year in which Christians have seen their churches burnt, homes razed and worshippers beaten, murdered and jailed,

They also noted the “sexual slavery” and mass rape of Christians by ISIS as another shocking example of “the brutal atrocities committed against [Christian] communities”.

Then, inexplicably, the authors threw in the following:

In Israel, Ben-Zion Gopstein, a rabbi, called Christians vampires this week and said that “Christmas has no place in the Holy Land”. Mr Gopstein, who is the head of Lehava, a group that opposes the integration of Jews and non-Jews wrote: “Missionary work must not be given a foothold. Let’s throw the vampires out of our land before they drink our blood again.”

That’s right: Christians face ethnic cleansing by ISIS; churches are being razed and worshippers beaten, murdered and jailed: Christian women are sold in into sexual slavery…

Yet, the journalists at Times of London find it important to tell readers that, in Israel, one marginal rabbi representing an extremist group went on an anti-Christian rant in an obscure publication. In fact, Gopstein’s is so reviled by Israelis from across the political spectrum that the nation’s Defense Minister has attempted to have his group categorized as a terrorist organization.

Israel is the only Middle East country which fiercely protects the rights of Christians (and all religious minorities), and one of the few countries in the region where the indigenous Christian population is growing.  

To add one isolated incident in Israel in a report on countries which engage in systematic anti-Christian persecution represents an egregious failure to properly contextualize the extremely serious global threat facing adherents of one of the world’s major faiths.

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