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.
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.