Middle East intervention

Pope Benedict xvi

Pope benedict

The Pope has caused a diplomatic storm by criticising the safe-guarding of Christians in the Middle-East by regimes there. Egypt has criticised the Pope for intervening in Egypt’s internal affairs, and recalled its ambassador from the Vatican. Even Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayyib who is head of the most prestigious Al-Azhar (the leading Sunni University) has waded in against the Pope.

So what has the Pope said? Well the Guardian reports that he said:

the pope said the Alexandria bombing, coming after a string of attacks in Iraq, showed “the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities”.Quoting from a message agreed by a synod of bishops last year that discussed the situation of Christians in the Middle East, the pope said they were loyal citizens who were entitled to “enjoy all the rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience, freedom of worship and freedom in education, teaching and the use of the mass media”. He also praised European countries who had asked for action by the European Union to protect Middle Eastern Christians.

Well on this issue all I can say is well done Pope Benedict.

Car fire caused by bombing of coptic church

Bombing of Coptic Church

The issue of Christians in the Middle East is of a minority that has been harshly dealt with by regime after regime there. Even places such as Turkey, which have been trying to gain accession to the EU have a very dodgy history in this area. The genocide of the Armenians, the confiscation of church property, the demand that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople be an ethnic Greek but Turkish by birth – difficult when so many greeks were expelled, the murders in 2006 & 7 of Christians in the country.

If you then see on top of this the murders in Egypt and Iraq. The non-allowance to even practise the Christian faith in most of the Gulf states (of course this applies to other non-Islamic religions as well), the persecution in Iran.

The only relatively safe place to be a middle-eastern Christian is in Syria. A dictatorship. Bizarre.

But therefore it is right of the Pope to raise this matter. It is right to demand of states that human rights are respected. That people of all faiths should have their rights protected. What is depressing is that the Egyptian government has reacted so strongly against words and said that it is an internal issue. So why do they criticise Israel? Now I think that they were right and are right to do so. So, by the same token they also should be ready to allow thoughtful criticism of their actions (and inactions).

Its a shame they don’t react more against the treating of Christians as second class citizens and the persecution that they face. I’ve blogged about this before and no doubt I will again

The Pope got it right on this one. The Middle-eastern governments need to have the pressure kept on them before we see more and more flee from the Middle-East as we have seen in Iraq.

So what can we do? We can ask our politicians to keep up the pressure. We can support agencies such as Open Doors (as does our youth), Barnabus Fund or CSW. All doing great work in advocacy and in supporting the after effects of these tragic incidents.

If you have selected the story to read then the heading is Christians touching a blood-spattered wall on which is an icon of Christ. Very symbolic and moving.

4 comments on “Middle East intervention

  1. Esther Somerson
    January 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    Dear Minister
    Your blogs are interesting. Perhaps you are coming closer in your Faith to one day joining the only Christian church that can trace its history to the apostles?
    The Pope is in many ways a good man and unafraid of speaking out. In this case it has been needed for a long time. We hope that he can also make changes with other issues in his own Church to add to the popularity that he has gained since his visit to England. The Church hides behind ancient Canon Law to provide a safe haven in the Vatican for paedophile priests and there is interesting research about the crimes committed. The pope reportedly also said, prior to his visit, that for women to become priests would be ‘a big sin’. Nonetheless it is a mark in his favour to have spoken out.

  2. Esther Somerson
    January 14, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

    I do apologise if this comment does not appear in the correct place but it is regarding the advertisment of ‘ Just Christian Dating’. It is important to also offer alternative assistance to those who feel that this site is not what they need or would want due to the risks encumbent. There appears to be less reading by women of your blog and a significant number of women are in your membership – not unusual in churches, I am aware. There are many very good ‘Christian Woman’ web sites including a web site with Christian and secular sections – ‘Hidden Hurt’. This offers anonymous research should married women or women who have been married wish to contribute. The site looks at the ways in which men – christian or otherwise and the church historically has used Biblical text to abuse women. Sadly there is only anecdotal UK information on the site at present but there is an American study elsewhere on the net that suggests 1 in 4 women are abused. Women in marriage are afraid to report abuse, often for the sake of their children and what might happen should they be discovered. They need to be aware that libraries have free internet sessions and no one need know who they are or what they have read. Those women who have survived continue to pray for those who are still living the suffering.Very often the most difficult people to disclose to are other Christians as they are judgemental or are in the same situation themselves. There is information for where to get help should women have the courage to ask.
    Some men are also abused in marriage but again they get little support and afraid to come forward incase they are seen as less than masculine that a woman is abusing them.
    Studies on the issue of abused men are patchy and tokenistic.

    • Will Cookson
      January 14, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

      Amused to hear that there is an advert for “Just Christian Dating” on the website! Please remember that no adverts on this blog are in any way put there by me or do I endorse – they are just placed there by WordPress who’s system I use to blog with!!
      Not sure why you say that there are fewer women readers of my blog or how you can tell – presumably an assumption. In fact those who are subscribed to it are split 50/50

      On other things. The Church of England does indeed trace its history to the apostles. We believe that we can trace it through the laying on of hands in the same way as the RC church does. Having said that I’m not sure that I care over much. Was the Apostle Paul called by the Apostles? No he was called by God and it was only much later that he met with them. But as one of our Bishops said recently

      Perhaps we have given too much uncritical emphasis on the church as steward of the inheritance from the past, and too little on the church as an anticipation of the future.

      One of the things that the RC needs to learn is to be more open. Paedophiles and abusers operate in secrecy. When the Archbishop of Canterbury recently suggested that the Roman Catholic in Ireland should be more open he was howled down by the church there – a bad move. We, as a church, have strong policies and procedures that we can (and have) activated where we are worried that abuse is happening. We also have clear people that someone can go to (including a woman) to ensure that any complaint is taken seriously and investigated well. I also believe that women can and should be priests.


  1. Should Christians abandon the Middle East? | Will Cookson's Blog - January 21, 2011

    […] point to the dreadful killings and persecutions there such as the one in Alexandra in Egypt which caused the death of so […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s