Thursday, December 24, 2009

Phyllis Chesler: Could Jesus Live Safely In Bethlehem Today?

Could Jesus Live Safely In Bethlehem Today?

Posted By Phyllis Chesler On December 24, 2009 @ 9:18 am

It is Christmas 2009, and instead of peace on earth and good will towards all, Muslims are busily blowing up churches and Christians all over the Islamic world.

This is an awful reality but it is neither recent nor unexpected. Perhaps what is even more awful is the world's silence and seeming passivity. We in the West who believe in religious tolerance have not stopped the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries. In the name of political correctness, we have also "tolerated" the often aggressive demands for mosques, public prayer, minarets, and loudspeakers on our own soil even though there is absolutely no reciprocity towards Christianity (or any other non-Muslim religion) in most Arab and Muslim countries.

For example, this year, in a church in Bellinzona (Ticino), in Switzerland, a Nativity scene [1] displays Jesus surrounded by minarets! "The unusual scene is supposed to make people reflect about brotherhood and human rights, after 57% of the Swiss (and 68% in Ticino) recently voted against minarets on mosques. On the crib are verses from the Bible and the Koran on the topic of water."

First they came for the Jews … and indeed, most Jews, all 800,000 of us, fled the Arab and Muslim world in the 1940s and 1950s. No one stopped this "silent exodus [2]" or really cared that it had happened. Individual Muslims and the Muslim governments happily, greedily, confiscated Jewish homes, factories, and farms; those Jews who were not slaughtered were allowed to leave with ten dollars in their pocket. Unlike the Palestinian refugees, the Jews and Israel took care of their own. Unfortunately, the Muslim world turned parasitically to the United Nations and to the world to fund the very Palestinians whom they would not allow to remain in their countries as refugees or citizens.

As to our Christian brothers and sisters:

Two days ago, in Mosul, Iraq, the Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Thomas [3], founded in 770 AD, was bombed — killing two civilians and wounding five others. This was the "sixth attack on Christians there in less than a month." Ironically, according to their identity cards, the two murder victims were actually Muslims. However, according to Father Abdul Massih Dalmay of this church, "Christians are being targeted during Christmas time." Father Dalmay feels that the government has not provided enough security for churches at this time and views this as "negligence on their part."

The Syrian Orthodox Parish of the Immaculate Virgin was attacked a week ago. An infant girl was killed and forty people were wounded. Father Faez Wadiha, of this church, says, with irony: "This is certainly a Christmas present for Mosul, a message of congratulations why we are celebrating a feast of love and peace. But we will pray in the streets, in homes, in shops. God is everywhere, not just in churches." The Syrian Catholic Church of the Annunciation , the (Chaldean) Church of St Ephrem, and the St. Theresa Church were all bombed in Mosul in the last month. According to another Christian Father: "These attacks are aimed at forcing Christians to leave the country."

Some might say: There is an unwanted (and perceived as) Christian-American military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. These bombings are in retaliation …well, not so fast. There are other Muslim countries where there is no (unwanted) American military presence and where both Jews and Christians have lived long before Islam even came into being — countries in which Christians are now under siege. Let's look at what's happening to Christians who live in some Muslim countries today.


For years now, Islamist "gangs" have been forcibly converting Christian children [4] to Islam by drugging, kidnapping, gang-raping, photographing the rapes, blackmailing, and "marrying" the female child, as young as twelve, to Muslim men. The Egyptian police have been unwilling to stop this criminal activity. Recently, a Christian television channel broadcast a program about this in Arabic. Many Egyptians were shocked. Here is one of the kidnappers' tactics:

"The latest fraud mentioned on the TV program is that Muslim gangs who dress as Coptic priests, offer a car lift to Christian girls and then abduct them. `The Coptic Church has warned its congregation against letting any unknown person dressed as a priest into their homes or accepting a lift.'" (My thanks to John Peter Maher for this information).

A substantial Christian population has always lived in Egypt. They have increasingly been bombed, tortured and murdered. For example, the Monastery of Abu Fana [5] in Upper Egypt has existed since the 5th century — which clearly predates Islam by two centuries. Last year, Bedouin Muslims attacked the monastery, "destroying a small church and burning the monastery's farm. Nine monks and monastery employees were wounded and four others were abducted." Jeff Jacoby writes:

"One of the [abducted] monks had his arm and legs broken," the Egyptian lawyer and human-rights activist Nagib Gabriel later testified. "The other two were tied together with ropes, suspended from a tree, and severely beaten with hoses and sticks. Afterwards, they were placed — upside down and still tied together — on the back of a donkey and shoved off. The monks were further commanded to spit on the cross and proclaim the shahada [the Muslim credo that "there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet"], beaten every time they refused, and even threatened with death."


For a long time now, Christians have been persecuted in Pakistan. Their female children have been kidnapped, forced to convert and forcibly married to Muslims; both priests and believers have been attacked, and often murdered. Earlier this month, in Sargodha, Pakistan (in or near the Punjab), a mob of Muslim villagers, armed with clubs, spades, and axes attacked a showing of a film on Jesus [6], injuring three part-time evangelists very seriously as well as four Christians in attendance. The mob destroyed their appliances and absconded with funds. The mob also turned on Christian villagers who tried to intervene. Apparently, the mob climbed "trees to get a clearer view of the screen. The eyewitnesses said that as soon as the Muslim attackers watched the resurrection and ascension of Christ, they became enraged because their version of Islam forbids portraying an image of a living thing and especially that of a prophet. " As usual, the police refused to register a complaint.


Last month, Turkish authorities uncovered a detailed plot [7] by Turkish naval officers to commit violence against their country's non-Muslims in an effort to unseat Turkey's Islamist government. "Entitled the `Operation Cage Action Plan,' the plot outlines a plethora of planned threat campaigns, bomb attacks, kidnappings and assassinations targeting the nation's tiny religious minority communities. …The scheme ultimately called for bombings of homes and buildings owned by non-Muslims, setting fire to homes, vehicles and businesses of Christian and Jewish citizens, and murdering prominent leaders among the religious minorities." Nine hundred and thirty nine Turkish non-Muslims were specifically marked as targets.

And, on December 15, 2009, in Istanbul, in response to a Swiss vote banning the construction of new mosque minarets, a group of Muslims went into a church building in eastern Turkey and threatened to kill a priest [8] unless he tore down its bell tower. Specifically, on December 4, 2009, three Muslims entered the Meryem Ana Church, a Syriac Orthodox church in Diyarbakir, and confronted the Rev. Yusuf Akbulut. They told him that unless the bell tower was destroyed in one week, they would kill him. … Akbulut has been the target of threats, harassment before."


In the rapidly Islamifying Indonesia, in Jakarta, "hundreds of Muslims celebrated the eve of the Islamic New Year last Thursday (Dec. 17) by attacking a Catholic church building [9] under construction in Bekasi, West Java. A crowd of approximately 1,000 men, women and children from the Bebalan and Taruma Jaha areas of Bekasi walking in a New Year's Eve procession stopped at the 60 percent-completed Santo Albertus Catholic Church building, where many ransacked and set fires to it, church leaders said. Damage was said to be extensive, but no one was injured."


"Islamic extremists controlling part of the Somali capital of Mogadishu this month executed a young Christian [10] whom they accused of trying to convert a 15-year-old Muslim to Christianity. Members of the Islamic extremist group al Shabaab had taken 23-year-old Mumin Abdikarim Yusuf into custody on Oct. 28 after the 15-year-old boy reported him to the militants. Yusuf's body was found on Nov. 14 on an empty residential street in Mogadishu, with sources saying the convert from Islam was shot to death, probably some hours before dawn."

Thus, Christians and other non-Muslims have been continuously attacked and persecuted in Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, and Somalia.

Christmas approaches. What about the Holy Land? What kind of Christmas may we expect there?

The Jewish King David was born in Bethlehem [11], as was Jesus. Nevertheless, fewer and fewer Christians (and no Jews) live there year-round; pilgrims come to visit at this time of year but that's about it. According to Benny Avni, writing in the New York Post [12], "fifty years ago, Christians made up 70 percent of Bethlehem's population; today, about 15 percent…Practically the only place where the Christian population is growing [12] is in Israel."

As to the Church of the Nativity, it was treated abominably by Palestinian terrorists [13] who, in 2002, held priests hostage there and treated it as a combination garbage dump and toilet. Israeli forces had to rescue the priests and arrange a cease-fire and surrender.

In the West Bank, churches, Christian cemeteries, and Christian-owned businesses have been attacked and defaced. Christians have been leaving in droves. According to Benny Avni, the current "West Bank Christian population (not counting Jerusalem)…is now less than 8 percent of the population."

In today's Wall Street Journal [14], Daniel Schwammenthal focuses on the persecution of Arab Christians in Bethlehem and especially on how the Western media has refused to cover this fact. When we read about the persecution of Palestinians it is only ascribed to Israel, never to Hamas, Hezbollah, or to the Palestinian Authority. The firebombing of Christian homes and of the only Christian bookstore in Bethlehem, the mass Islamic prayers in Manger Square, the intimidation of students at a Christian Bible college by Muslims who stand outside and loudly chant from the Qu'ran — are all daily realities for Christians in Bethlehem. A Christian spokesman in Bethlehem says: "We have never suffered as we are now suffering."

Only the Jewish government of Israel guards and cherishes the holy places of all religions over which it has sovereignty. Only the Jewish Israeli government has offered permanent asylum to the Baha'i who fled Iran and temporary asylum to the black African Muslims and Christians who fled persecution and genocide at the hands of ethnic Arab Muslims in Sudan.

What in God's name, are we to conclude from all this? Nina Shea, in National Review [15], draws some of the necessary conclusions:

"The disappearance of living Christian communities would signal the disappearance of religious pluralism and a moderating influence from the heart of the Muslim world. Within our lifetime, the Middle East could be wholly Islamicized for the first time in history. Without the experience of living alongside Christians and other non-Muslims at home, what would prepare it to peacefully coexist with the West? This religious polarization would undoubtedly have geopolitical significance. So far, official Washington has not taken this under consideration."

As I've said: What happens to the Jews, at least under Islam, is bound to happen to Christians next. And so it has.

Of course, Muslims persecuted, colonized, and genocidally exterminated other non-Muslim groups too. Let's not forget the Hindus in India who were under genocidal attack for 700 years; the Zoroastrians and Baha'i who were under attack in Iran; and the Armenians who were genocidally exterminated by Turkish Muslims. Armenians are a Christian ethnic group whose members belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church. To this day, the Turks still refuse to admit their responsibility.

So, on the one hand we have a relatively passive Christian West which has chosen not to actively stop the persecution of Christians in Muslim lands. On the other hand, we have allegedly "peaceful" Muslims who look the other way as Christians are persecuted and who are, understandably, also unwilling to … die to save Christians. For that matter, they are simply trying to live their lives and they are also unwilling to risk their lives to save other Muslims as well. "Peaceful" Muslims do not necessarily feel responsible for what is happening. Culturally and psychologically, they have been well trained to blame others, never themselves and to never act alone, as individuals, and/or against the family, clan, tribe, or ummah.

For example, the other day, I engaged my taxi driver in conversation. He was a young man from Turkey. He told me that he was a religious Muslim, that his wife wore hijab — and that he was committed to peace.

"Do you understand the Islamic jihadists who massacre innocent civilians in the name of Islam"?

Calmly, he answered. "Madame, they are not real Muslims. No real Muslim would do anything like that. I don't know any Muslims like that." He was very definite about this.

Said I: "But don't you want to stop such criminals from committing atrocities in the name of your religion?"

He remained silent. Perhaps my question embarrassed him or made him sad; perhaps he was angry and could not afford to show it. Perhaps my question even threatened him because it assumed, even demanded, that he should be "doing" something. However, this soft-spoken man expressed no sorrow, no sense of responsibility, no guilt. His practice of Islam rendered him superior to it all; thus, evil had nothing to do with him, he had disassociated himself from it entirely.

As the world celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace — originally a Jewish rabbi from Bethlehem–let's be clear: In these times, Jesus would not be safe in the city where he was born, neither as a Jew nor as a Christian.

I hope that all Christians who live in a Muslim country are allowed to celebrate this day safely, in tranquility and joy. Merry Christmas.

(Thanks again to Esther [16] for bringing some of this information to my attention.)

Article printed from Chesler Chronicles:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:

[1] Nativity scene:

[2] silent exodus:

[3] Church of St. Thomas:

[4] forcibly converting Christian children:

[5] Monastery of Abu Fana:

[6] attacked a showing of a film on Jesus:

[7] uncovered a detailed plot:

[8] threatened to kill a priest:

[9] attacking a Catholic church building:

[10] a young Christian:

[11] born in Bethlehem:

[12] New York Post:

[13] treated abominably by Palestinian terrorists:,2933,52445,00.html

[14] Wall Street Journal:

[15] National Review:

[16] Esther: