Can Middle Eastern Christians Lead the Way in Combating Anti-Semitism?

Feb. 12 2020

Born and raised to a Christian family in Iraq, Bawai Soro eventually settled in Canada and pursued a career as a priest; since 2017, he has served as a bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Canada. Soro believes strongly in the importance of the theological links between Judaism and Christianity, and sees Abraham—born in the ancient city of Ur—as an “Iraqi-Mesopotamian” who is the spiritual progenitor of both religions. In an interview with Amanda Achtman, he discusses his hopes that his fellow Middle Eastern Christians will put aside their traditional anti-Semitism:

Abraham, the forefather of the Jewish people, came from Mesopotamia, which meant that somehow Mesopotamia was a “home” for [Jews] as well. After numerous exiles, which resulted in the Jews’ . . . establishing a home in Mesopotamia for more than a millennium, they enjoyed life in large numbers within large territory under circumstances [often] much better than [those experienced by] their fellow Jews in Palestine or elsewhere.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the [average] Iraqi Christian shares the same understanding of history and theological nuances. Two reasons come to mind: lack of religious [education] and living for a long time in a culture that is characterized by tendencies to anti-Semitism. . . . And so, the duty of the church is to explain the history of Christianity and to teach its theology [more properly].

I myself was raised in Iraq in the 1950s and 60s to be a person critical and fearful of the state of Israel. Such political doctrine was instilled in the minds of schoolboys and girls since childhood. Plus, the anti-Jewish material in church literature and liturgical texts made the case for loving Judaism and the Jewish people, if not impossible, then surely very difficult.

I think it is very possible, [however], that Middle Eastern Christian clergy and laity will help combat anti-Semitism and cultivate a greater reverence for the Jewish sources of Christianity in their respective traditions as well as for the Jewish people in modern communities everywhere.

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Read more at Providence

More about: Abraham, Arab anti-Semitism, Jewish-Christian relations, Middle East Christianity, Philo-Semitism

 

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion