As the chief clergyman of the Church of England, the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is an important public figure in Britain. Thus, when he chooses to write, or put his name to, an article in his nation’s leading paper a few days before Christmas, it’s because he believes a subject is especially important. Jake Wallis Simons comments on the archbishop’s current concerns:
Yesterday, Mr. Welby and Hosam Naoum, an Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, jointly penned an article in the Sunday Times titled: “Let us pray for the Christians being driven from the Holy Land.” In it, they drew readers’ attention to the “frequent and sustained attacks by fringe radical groups” in Israel, arguing that this was behind the sharp decline in the Christian population in Jerusalem. Nowhere else in the region. Only the Jewish state.
The archbishops took care to remind readers that the “first Christmas” had taken place “against the backdrop of the genocide of infants,” carried out by King Herod.
The archbishops were curiously silent on who these “fringe radical groups” are or what motivates them. Yet in the examples they pointed to, cases of arson and vandalism against church buildings, it is hardline Jews who have been blamed. These attacks must of course be condemned. But this does not detract from the fact that overall, Christians in Israel are flourishing.
Compare this to the routine anti-Christian carnage across the region, which the Foreign Office has described as “coming close to genocide.” A government report stated that “the inconvenient truth is that the overwhelming majority (80 percent) of persecuted religious believers are Christians.” This ranges from routine discrimination in education, the workplace, and wider society all the way to kidnap, assassination, and mass murder against Christian communities. It might not be the Holy Land, but surely such persecution deserves at least a mention by the archbishops.