In response to the recent vote in the General Synod of the Church of England to support closer ties with EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel), I was involved in writing this response on behalf of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region which was subsequently sent to Christian magazines as an open letter:
The Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region expresses its great disappointment at the result of the vote in the General Synod to support EAPPI (the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel).
Whereas it is perfectly legitimate for any Church or religious body to question or criticise the actions of the UK government or any foreign government for that matter, as a question of conscience, it is alarming in the extreme to see the established Church of England support an organisation which itself associates with individuals and organisations whose motivation is not that of human rights or religious conscience, but of demonization and deligitimisation of the State of Israel.
This was reflected in the tone and content of some of the speeches made at the Synod. The debate at Synod was littered with references to ‘powerful lobbies’, the money expended by the Jewish community, ‘Jewish sounding names’ and the actions of the community ‘bringing shame on the memory of victims of the Holocaust’.
This is deeply offensive and raises serious questions about the motivation of those behind the motion.
The content of the EAPPI website itself is rife with uncontextualised allegations, witness and declaration whilst giving but lip service to balance, historical perspectives and disputed legalities.
The Church of England would do well, if not better, to concentrate its efforts, and lead on the parlous situation of Christian communities in the Palestinian Arab Territories and throughout the Middle East where they are subject to attack, abuse, dispossession, forced conversions, expulsion and murder not at the hands of Jews but of Muslims.
It should be noted that Israel is the only country in the Middle East whose Christian community is growing.
Our Council which only last week joined in the celebrations connected with the establishment of the Council of Christians and Jews 70 years ago will continue its interfaith work with the Church of England in Manchester with whom it has strong and highly valued ties; but this relationship has been severely damaged by this vote.
We especially thank the Bishop of Manchester Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch for his opposition to the motion and for his deep understanding of the real issues.
I have emphasised the area under discussion but I believe this topic merits more than one blog post.
I read today in YnetNews
The Orthodox Christian Church in the Gaza Strip is claiming that a group of armed Islamists kidnapped five Christian Palestinians, a young man and a mother and her three daughters, to force them to convert to Islam.
In a statement, the church said that “the dangerous Islamist movement is trying to convince Christian men and women to convert to Islam, destroying Christian families and the Christian presence in the Gaza Strip.”
The church refused to divulge the name of the Islamist group it accused of these attempts.
The head of the Gaza church claimed that one of the Christians was abducted on Saturday after he had been heavily pressured to convert to Islam and had been prevented from seeing his family. According to the leader, the young man’s parents filed a police complaint, but the police did nothing after learning that the person behind the alleged kidnappers was a senior cleric identified with Hamas.
This reinforces my emphasised text above written before this story. All over the Arab world and within the Palestinian Authority Christians are under attack. In Bethlehem they are leaving or being forced out not by Israelis but by Muslims who intimidate them and appropriate property; in Egypt the Copts have been under attack. In Syria; in Iraq the Christian population is all but gone after centuries. Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post reviewed the situation last year.
So where is the EAPPI equivalent in these countries? Where are the Synod resolutions? What is the Church doing about it? Which governments are they protesting to? Which NGO’s have they set up to investigate?
As usual, it’s only Israel and the Jews who are subject to a level of scrutiny Israel alone in the Middle East would tolerate.
Meanwhile the in Israel the Christian community is the only one in the Middle East that is growing and the only one that feels safe and whose religious rights and practices are protected not just by law but in fact.