Apparently, ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State has declared war on Christians. The latest cover of their propaganda magazine Dabiq shows the black jihadi flag flying above St Peter’s in Rome. It is photoshopped, of course. And their declarations are the customary rhetoric of war: “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted,” they boast. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”
But before Rome comes Jerusalem, which must be cleansed of Jews and all infidels. Christians throughout the Middle East are suffering appalling oppression and persecution.
Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox Priest in Yafia, near Nazareth, appealed to the UN Human Rights Council last month, urging them to end their “witch hunt” on Israel: “In the Middle East today, there is one country where Christianity is not only not persecuted, but affectionately granted freedom of expression, freedom of worship and security,” he testified. “It is Israel, the Jewish state. Israel is the only place where Christians in the Middle East are safe.”
And he testified further, confirming that some 120,000 Christians have been killed in the Middle East every year for the past decade: “That means that every five minutes a Christian is killed because of his faith,” he said. “Those who can escape persecution at the hands of Muslim extremists have fled. Those who remain, exist as second – if not third-class citizens to their Muslim rulers.” And he warned: “It is time the world woke up to the fact that those who want to destroy the Jewish state are signing the death warrant on the last free Christians in the Holy Land.”
Not to worry.
The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church are debating homosexuality and same-sex relations, trying to find forms of words which might best express immutable doctrine in the context of mutable pastoral praxis. A non sequitur? Surely the Church can concern itself with more than one thing at a time?
Indeed, of course it can. But one wonders what the Greek Orthodox priest in Israel thinks of the cardinals of Rome and the bishops of England meeting to discuss issues of gender and sexuality while their brothers are being crucified and beheaded, and their sisters are being raped, tortured and sold into slavery. Is it better to have one’s eyes gouged out for bearing witness to a living faith in Jesus, or to sit in a visionless synod, groping around in the dead doctrinal darkness, utterly blind to the surrounding media narrative which makes the Church of Christ look foolish, out of touch and utterly redundant?