An op-ed published at The Sunday Times on Dec. 19th by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Hosam Naoum, an Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, falsely blames Israel for driving out Christians from the region.
The piece reminds readers that the first Christmas took place against “the backdrop of the genocide of infants”, evoking toxic libels about the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Palestinians – or, possibly, something even darker. It then notes that “Christmas is a time when we think about the land of the Bible” before citing complaints by Jerusalem church leaders that radical (Israeli) groups are, through vandalism of and physical attacks, engaged “in a systematic attempt to drive the Christian community out of Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land”.
Strangely, though, the authors later acknowledge – consistent with Freedom House reports each year – that “Christians in Israel enjoy democratic and religious freedoms that are a beacon in the region”, and that “the overall number of Christians” in Israel “has risen”. In fact, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the Christian community grew 1.4% in 2020.
So, how can they claim that Christians are being “driven from the Holy Land” whilst also acknowledging and that the number of Christians in Israel “has risen” and that the Jewish state is a “beacon in the region” for “religious freedom”?
Most of their argument seems based on unsubstantiated claims of Jerusalem “church leaders” who described “countless incidents” of “physical and verbal assaults against priests and other clergy, and attacks on Christian churches”. Yet, while there have been a some incidents of vandalism in recent years, the authors fail to cite even one actual example of physical violence – nor are are any statistics provided.
But, the dearth of real evidence that Christians are under siege and being ‘driven from Israel’ doesn’t prevent them from citing an ominous, though anonymous and anecdotal, remark like this:
…when you speak to Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem today, you will often hear this cry: “In 15 years’ time, there’ll be none of us left!”
Interestingly, the article often speaks of the threat to Christianity in the “Holy Land”, a term which elides the fact that the area of greatest concern for Christians in the region is not within Israel, but in the Palestinian territories.
Whilst annual reports by Open Doors, which fights the persecution of Christians around the world, shows that Israel is one of the few Mid-East countries where Christians are NOT endangered, a 2019 Open Doors report put “the Palestinian Territories” on its World Watch List of countries where the persecution of Christians was especially problematic. The report cited “Islamic oppression” as the main source of persecution.
The education figures alone tell their own story. More Christian Arabs leave school with grades that will get them into university than any other group in the country (71.2 per cent). More Christian women attend higher education than from any other background, excelling particularly in medicine, engineering, architecture and law.
Moreover, according to data from Israel’s CBS, surveys shows that “84% of Christians are satisfied with their life: 24% answered ‘very satisfied’ and 60% were ‘satisfied’.” Far from being “driven out” of Israel, the Christian community in the world’s only Jewish state is growing, well-educated, successful and thriving.