As Easter approaches, Israel’s UN ambassador warns of “the Middle East war on Christians,” rising persecution in Islamic countries. Notes that Israel’s Christian population is growing.

crossAs Jews celebrate Passover and Christians celebrate Easter this week, Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, has written an excellent op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on the intense persecution followers of Jesus Christ are facing in Islamic countries.

He notes that there is an “exodus” of Christians leaving the Middle East today, just as Jews had to flee many Arab countries in the 20th century. That said, he also points out that Israel “is the only country in the Middle East with a growing Christian population. Its Christian community has increased from 34,000 in 1948 to 140,000 today, in large measure because of the freedoms Christians are afforded.”

I commend the article to your attention, and encourage you to share it with others.

THE MIDDLE EAST WAR ON CHRISTIANS

Muslim-majority nations are doing to followers of Jesus what they did to the Jews.

By Amb. Ron Prosor, Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2014

This week, as Jews celebrate the Passover holiday, they are commemorating the Bible’s Exodus story describing a series of plagues inflicted on ancient Egypt that freed the Israelites, allowing them to make their way to the Holy Land. But over the past century, another exodus, driven by a plague of persecution, has swept across the Middle East and is emptying the region of its Christian population. The persecution is especially virulent today.

The Middle East may be the birthplace of three monotheistic religions, but some Arab nations appear bent on making it the burial ground for one of them. For 2,000 years, Christian communities dotted the region, enriching the Arab world with literature, culture and commerce. At the turn of the 20th century, Christians made up 26% of the Middle East’s population. Today, that figure has dwindled to less than 10%. Intolerant and extremist governments are driving away the Christian communities that have lived in the Middle East since their faith was born.

In the rubble of Syrian cities like Aleppo and Damascus, Christians who refused to convert to Islam have been kidnapped, shot and beheaded by Islamist opposition fighters. In Egypt, mobs of Muslim Brotherhood members burn Coptic Christian churches in the same way they once obliterated Jewish synagogues. And in Iraq, terrorists deliberately target Christian worshippers. This past Christmas, 26 people were killed when a bomb ripped through a crowd of worshipers leaving a church in Baghdad’s southern Dora neighborhood.

Christians are losing their lives, liberties, businesses and their houses of worship across the Middle East. It is little wonder that native Christians have sought refuge in neighboring countries—yet in many cases they find themselves equally unwelcome. Over the past 10 years, nearly two-thirds of Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians have been driven from their homes. Many settled in Syria before once again becoming victims of unrelenting persecution. Syria’s Christian population has dropped from 30% in the 1920s to less than 10% today.

In January, a report by the nondenominational Christian nonprofit organization Open Doors documented the 10 most oppressive countries for Christians; nine were Muslim-majority states noted for Islamic extremism, and the 10th was North Korea. These tyrannical regimes uphold archaic blasphemy and defamation-of-religion laws under the guise of protecting religious expression. In truth, these measures amount to systematic repression of non-Islamic groups.

Last year in Saudi Arabia, two men were prosecuted for the “crime” of converting a woman to Christianity and helping her flee the Islamic kingdom. According to the Saudi Gazette, one of the men, a Lebanese, was sentenced to six years in prison and 300 lashes, and the other man, a Saudi, was sentenced to two years and 200 lashes. Those are relatively mild sentences in Saudi Arabia, where conversion to another religion is punishable by death.

The “justice system” in other Islamic nations is not particularly just for Arab citizens, but it is uniquely oppressive for Christians. Radical Islamists in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa are using an ancient law called the “dhimmi pact” to extort local Christians. The community is faced with a grim choice: pay a tax and submit to a list of religious restrictions or “face the sword.”

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressions of political dissent are regarded as acts of blasphemy. Last summer, three Iranian Christians caught selling Bibles were found guilty of “crimes against state security” and sentenced to 10 years in prison. They were relatively lucky. The regime has executed dozens of people for the so-called crimes of “waging war against God” and “spreading corruption on Earth.”

The scene unfolding in the Middle East is ominously familiar. At the end of World War II, almost one million Jews lived in Arab lands. The creation of Israel in 1948 precipitated an invasion of five Arab armies. When they were unable to annihilate the newborn state militarily, Arab leaders launched a campaign of terror and expulsion that decimated their ancient Jewish communities. They succeeded in purging 800,000 Jews from their lands.

Today, Israel, which I represent at the United Nations, is the only country in the Middle East with a growing Christian population. Its Christian community has increased from 34,000 in 1948 to 140,000 today, in large measure because of the freedoms Christians are afforded.

From courtrooms to classrooms and from the chambers of Parliament to chambers of commerce, Israeli Christians are leaders in every field and discipline. Salim Joubran, a Christian Arab Israeli, has served as a Supreme Court justice since 2003 and Makram Khoury is one of the best-known actors in Israel and the youngest artist to win the Israel Prize, our highest civic honor.

Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest living in Israel, recently told me: “Human rights are not something to be taken for granted. Christians in much of the Middle East have been slaughtered and persecuted for their faith, but here in Israel they are protected.”

Nations that trample on the rights of their people sow the seeds of instability and violence. The uprisings that have erupted across the Middle East are evidence that the region’s Holy Grail has become the pursuit of freedom, democracy and equality. Let us hope that this quest bears fruit before it is too late for the region’s remaining Christians.

Mr. Prosor is Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.

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>> Report on my meeting with Jordan’s Ambassador to the U.S.

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Must read: “More Christians died for the faith in the twentieth century than in the previous nineteen centuries of Christian history combined.”

Jesus-onthecrossRead a sobering yet fascinating article this morning about the magnitude of Christian persecution in our age. It was written by George Weigel, the distinguished senior fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Weigel is Catholic and writes from this vantage point in an on-line magazine called, First Things.

Regardless of whether you’re Catholic or Protestant, however, it is worth noting what Weigel is saying, especially in light of Christ’s warning in Matthew 24 that persecution will increase in the last days before His return.

Let us be praying faithfully for persecuted Christians in the Middle East, and around the world.

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Excerpts from article by George Weigel:

We have been living, and we’re living now, in the greatest era of persecution in Christian history.

More Christians died for the faith in the twentieth century than in the previous nineteen centuries of Christian history combined.

And while the character of the persecutors has changed, from the lethal heyday of the twentieth-century totalitarianisms to the first decades of the twenty-first century, the assault on the Christian faithful today is ongoing, extensive, and heart-rending.

Solidarity with the persecuted Church is an obligation of Christian faith. Reflecting on how well each of us has lived that obligation is a worthy point on which to examine one’s conscience during Lent. And that brings me to a suggestion….spend ten minutes a day reading John Allen’s new book, The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution.

 The longtime Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and CNN’s senior Vatican analyst, Allen has recently moved to the Boston Globe as associate editor, where he (and we) will see if talent and resources can combine to deepen a mainstream media outlet’s coverage of all things Catholic, both in print and on the Web.

Meanwhile, Allen will continue the Roman work that has made him the best Anglophone Vatican reporter ever—work that has given him a unique perspective on the world Church, and indeed on world Christianity.

His extensive experience across the globe, and his contacts with everyone who’s anyone in the field of international religious freedom issues, makes him an ideal witness to what he calls, without exaggeration, a global war on Christian believers.

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Who is investing in you? Whom are you investing in? Every Christian needs to be able to answer these two simple questions.

investedlife-smallAs we head deeper into the new year, how are you investing your life?

According to the Scriptures, every Christian needs to be able to answer two simple questions:

1) Who is investing in you? and

2) In whom are you investing?

In the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20, our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to go and “make disciples of all nations.”

Jesus made disciples. Then He told His disciples to go make disciples.

The Apostle Paul then followed Christ’s model.

Are we obeying the Great Commission? Are we, like Paul, following Christ’s model?

We each need an “Apostle Paul,” an older, wiser believer to invests in us, teaches us, encourages us, corrects us, and helps us truly grow to maturity in our faith in Jesus Christ. We also need a “Timothy,” a younger believer in whom we can invest, someone we can teach, encourage, correct and help to truly grow in the faith.

Sadly, the American Church is experiencing an epic failure of discipleship. Most older believers are not spiritually investing in the lives of younger believers. We are failing to model and transmit Biblical truth and Christ-like character and a passion for evangelism and discipleship to the next generations. Thus the American Church is weak and failing and in desperate need of revival.

The good news is that the Lord is stirring the hearts of many around the country to rediscover the centrality of the Great Commission, and to begin engaging in making disciples here in our nation, and making disciples of all nations.

How about you? Are you living the invested life?

If so, wonderful!

If not, here are some resources you might find helpful:


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Why is Canada’s evangelical Christian Prime Minister heading to Israel?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) in Ottawa, Canada. March 02, 2012. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO/ Flash90/Times of Israel)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) in Ottawa, Canada. March 02, 2012. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO/ Flash90/Times of Israel)

“It took seven years, but one of Israel’s staunchest allies among world leaders will be making his maiden voyage to the Jewish state on Sunday,” reports the Times of Israel and the JTA. “In announcing the trip last month at a Jewish National Fund dinner, where he was being honored, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Israel “a light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness” and pledged that the Jewish state ‘will always have Canada as a friend.’”

Excerpts from the article:

  • Since his election in 2006, the Conservative prime minister has been full throated, unapologetic and seemingly indifferent to consequence in his support for Israel.
  • Harper was the first Western leader to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority following Hamas’ 2006 seizure of power in Gaza and the first to withdraw from the second U.N. World Conference Against Racism, known as Durban II, saying the event would “scapegoat the Jewish people.”
  • Canada has sided openly with Israel in every one of its military operations since 2006. Harper’s Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, calls him Stephen, and the two speak regularly.
  • Earlier this month, Harper appointed Vivian Bercovici, a Toronto lawyer and an outspoken Israel supporter, as Canada’s ambassador to Israel.
  • Harper has backed Israel with such fervor that some scholars and diplomats “rank it as the most dramatic shift in the history of postwar Canadian foreign policy,” according to journalist Marci McDonald’s 2011 book, “The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada.”
  • The jolting change has left many of Canada’s 375,000 Jews swooning following decades in which Ottawa sought a more neutral posture toward Israel. And they have repaid the good will: Polls showed that for the first time, more than half of Canadian Jews (52 percent) voted for Harper’s Tories in the 2011 election, a historic departure from their traditional base in the Liberal Party.
  • Observers agree that Harper, an evangelical Christian, stands to gain little by supporting Israel and in fact may be paying a price. Canada failed in its 2010 bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council for the first time, a result some attributed to its foreign policy in general and support for Israel in particular.
  • Politically, Harper also has little to gain and much to lose. The shift in Jewish voting has helped Conservatives only in about 10 of Canada’s 308 electoral districts, though Jewish voters in three key Toronto-area districts helped replace Liberal members of parliament with Conservatives, two of whom are Jewish themselves. Among Muslims, a community roughly triple the size of Jews in Canada, Harper won a meager 12 percent in the last election.
  • “I do think his support for Israel is a principled one because he will stand to lose more non-Jewish votes than gain Jewish ones by his forthright defense of the country,” said Henry Srebrnik, who got to know Harper when he taught at the University of Calgary in the early 1990s and Harper represented the city in the House of Commons. “I doubt there was any sudden epiphany when it comes to Israel, but more likely a growing, and probably somewhat religiously based, admiration for the Jewish state.”
  • Harper is Canada’s first evangelical prime minister in 50 years, and most observers accept that his faith plays some role in his support for Israel. Toronto Rabbi Philip Scheim, who will accompany Harper to Israel, dismissed the notion that Harper’s support for Israel is part of an “end-of-days, apocalyptic scenario.”
  • “I sense that he sees Israel as a manifestation of justice and a righting of historical wrongs, especially in light of the Holocaust,” Scheim said.

To read the rest of the article, please click here.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

2013 was a record year for tourism to Israel, and 53% of visitors were Christian.

mountofolives“Tourism Ministry figures point to a new record in tourist entries to Israel in 2013 with more than 3.5 million visitors, a 0.5% increase from 2012,” reports Ynet News.

What I found most interesting in the story was that most tourists (53% were Christians), while only 28% were Jews.

Here are some interesting excerpts from the article:

Who were the tourists and why did they go to Israel?

  • Fifty-three percent of tourists were Christian, about half of them Catholics
  • 28% were Jewish, and the rest were members of other religions or people with no religious affiliation. 
  • Fifty-four percent of the tourists visited Israel for the first time in 2013; 46% had already been here before. 
  • Twenty-two percent defined the goal of their visit to Israel as a pilgrimage
  • 27% arrived for sightseeing and travel
  • 9% came for a vacation.
  • In total, 58% defined the goal of their visit as touristic, 26% arrived to see relatives and friends, and 8% came for businesses purposes and conferences.

What countries do they come from?

  1. The United States – 623,000 Americans, who make up 18% of Israel’s incoming tourism (a 1% increase from 2012).
  2. Russia — 603,000 tourists (a 3% increase from 2012)
  3. France – 315,000 tourists (a 5% increase from 2012).
  4. Germany – 254,000 visitors
  5. The United Kingdom – 217,000 visitors
  6. Italy — 173,000 visitors
  7. Ukraine – 134,000 visitors
  8. Poland – 89,000 visitors.
  9. Canada – 71,000 tourists
  10. Holland – 57,000.

Tourism Minister Dr. Uzi Landau said, “The year 2013 is a record year for tourism and we are proud of that. Despite Operation Pillar of Defense and the security situation in the region, tourists voted with their feet….The Tourism Ministry will continue to invest in maintaining the numbers of tourists arriving in Israel, by opening new markets and actively marketing the tourism product around the world. I wish all tourists a happy 2014.”


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog